Canadian election minus four days

In the interests of Anglosphere outreach (with apologies to our friends in Quebec), here is a thread for discussion of Tuesday’s Canadian election. Conservative leader Stephen Harper has headed a minority government in Canada since the defeat of Paul Martin’s Liberal government at the January 2006 election, and has called an early election in the hope of securing a majority. However, recent polling suggests his party’s vote has softened from the high to the low thirties, slightly lower than where it was at the 2006 election. The Conservatives currently have 127 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons (lower house) against 95 for the opposition Liberal Party, led by Stéphane Dion. On the cross-benches are Bloc Québécois (48 seats), the New Democratic Party (30 seats), the Green Party (one seat) and three independents. Canada has a single-member electoral system, but lacks the even geographical spread of party support that enshrines the two-party system in Australia. In particular, the separatist Bloc Québécois usually polls over 40 per cent of the vote in its home province, and holds a majority of its 75 seats. Canada also has a Senate, but it is unelected and has only residual powers.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

120 comments on “Canadian election minus four days”

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  1. Actually there’s one other electoral system (of sorts) which is even worse than first past the post, and that’s to appoint people rather than elect them. Unfortunately Canada has that for its Senate, so its got about as bad a system as possible. A non-elected Senate and first past the post for the lower house.

    From my understanding, the government appoints the Senators too, so its not even some sort of semi-independent or slightly less partisan group involved in selecting the appointees, which is slightly less horrendous, although still hard to fit within the description of a democracy.

  2. What a cushy job. Is it as easy as becoming a a Lord in the UK? Ie give the Queen a bunch of cash and away you go – lawmaker for life.

  3. Before we totally rip apart canad’as political structure a few points may enlighten some
    who post here
    1.Canada is bi-lingual witha large native peoples population
    2.the hangover from england of its old electoral system was originally to ensure the ruling class kept the reins of power,today we are seeing a 19th C idea being used in the 21st C.This leads to some interesting bedfellows and at times electoral extremities cf Kim Campbell and the devastation of 1993.
    3.The social makeup of canada also creates some very weird ridings.As others have said the quebocais issue also stirs the electoral mix
    4.Last but certainly not least is big brother over the border-each fed election has had an element of what is happening over the border confusing the local electoral scene.

  4. Swing Lowe @ no. 39

    Action démocratique du Québec is a provincial-only party, it is not standing candidates at this federal election.

    By the way, what is it with Elections Canada and their stupid multi-hyphenated electorate names? I can just imagine the Speaker of the House of Commons saying “The honourable member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea-to-Sky Country will resume his seat.” Or “The honourable member for Madawaska—Restigouche has the call.”

    Or the Canadian equivalent of Antony Green on CBC’s election night coverage saying “Yes, a very tight contest in Montmagny—L’Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, a six per cent swing to the Conservatives but certainly nowhere near enough to upset the sitting Bloc Québécois member, Paul Crête will certainly retain this seat.”

    It’s just not right. Even the US system of numbering congressional districts is less cumbersome.

  5. Adam in Canberra says: “PR with no threshold gives us Israel (weak government dominated by extremist minorities) or Belgium (no government at all).”

    Actually the problem in Belgium is created by huge, irreconcilible differences between the voters of Flanders and Walloon, and is not due to the presence of small parties as such. It would be happening regardless of what electoral system is in place.

    That said, PR without a threshold is a poor system, as most notably the NSW Uppoer House shows. But some form of PR with a threshold would be a different matter.

  6. The NSW Upper House is actually rather stable now. There’s only three minor parties in the Upper House, all of which have more than one MP. Effectively you have four blocks: Labor, Coalition, Greens, and CDP/Shooters. Since they got rid of ticket voting it has become much more stable and gotten rid of people with practically no electoral support.

  7. It’s a shame the ADQ aren’t contesting the general elections in Quebec.

    If they had, there would have been seats with 5 major political parties running (Tories, Liberals, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and the ADQ). That said, the prospect of ridings with 4 major parties running in a FFP election seems deliciously volatile!!!

  8. Catatonia @ 56

    Canada is just following the UK precedent of constituency names like ‘Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey’, ‘Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’, ‘Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East’, ‘Dorset Mid and Poole North’, ‘Arundel and South Downs’, and ‘Regent’s Park and Kensington North’, with the minor innovation of hyphenation.

  9. Both in the UK and Canada constuituency names are ridiculously long. They’ve got much longer in the UK over the last 20 years. Inverness used to be just Inverness, now it’s Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. I don’t know why.

    But in UK Commons they don’t use constituency names as terms of address they way we do in Australia. In the UK Commons the Speaker calls on “Mr Smith”, not “the Hon Member for Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh.” Members usually refer to each other as “The Hon Gentleman” or “My Hon Friend” rather than by constituency name.

  10. The Commons used to have an elaborate set of naming conventions.
    An MP who a lawyer was “The Hon and Learned Gentleman”
    An MP who or had been an officer was “The Hon and Gallant Gentleman”
    An MP who a clergyman was “The Hon and Reverend Gentleman”
    An MP who the son of a peer or an Irish peer was “The Hon and Noble Gentleman”

    Sadly these have never taken off here, although Whitlam and Killen used to refer to each other as “The Hon and Learned Member” as a sort of private joke.

  11. Swing Lowe @ 60

    Sometimes in Scotland there are four-way contests where Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish Nationalists are all serious contenders, and a candidate can win with about one-third of the vote.

  12. Harpers conservative Party came into being as a merger of the Canadian Alliance(Formerly Reform Party) and the old Progressive Conservative Party. Harper was from the Reform Party that was based Strongly in the Priarie provinces of Canada himself from Alberta. The Priarie Provinces are similiar to Queensland with strong rural and mining activities being the backbone of its economy.

    I hope Harpers success in securing a majority in Canada House of commons the first for his new look Conservative Party rubs off on Queenslands new look LNP in their election next year.

  13. As the other JC is supposed to have said: ” There is a tide in the affairs of men when, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

    I wonder if this is the finest moment for Hon Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, member for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath and son of the manse.

    Could the wheel of fortune be turning in his favour?

  14. Paul Nash,

    Harper isn’t going to win the majority government, primarily because he’s p*ssed off too many Ontarians and Quebecois. He needs to pick up seats in those two provinces to have a realistic chance of winning a majority government.

    My pick is that the Tories won’t lose too many seats, but they won’t pick up too many either. The Liberals may lose seats to the NDP or Greens, but ultimately, we’ll prob end up with another Tory minority government.

    For evidence of my prediction, I note that Intrade is saying that there will be a 89.5% chance of the next Canadian government being a minority one…

  15. It looks like no-one will win the Canadian election:

    “Strategic Counsel, in a national poll conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV, had Stephen Harper’s Conservatives at 33 per cent (down three points from their 2006 popular vote) and the Liberals at 28 per cent (down two points). The New Democrats were at 18 per cent, the same as their vote in 2006, and the Greens were at 11 per cent, up six points. The Bloc Québécois were at 10 (42 per cent in Quebec, unchanged from 2006). ‘The leitmotif of this campaign has been failure for the two major parties,’ said Peter Donolo, partner of Strategic Counsel. ‘It’s been the failure of the Conservatives to hold onto the support they had and a failure of the Liberals to hold onto the anti-Harper vote’.”

  16. Canadians have re-elected Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, but it is still unclear whether the party will gain enough seats across the country to form a majority government, CBC News projects.

    The Tories’ fortunes were buoyed early in the evening by surprising gains in Atlantic Canada, especially in New Brunswick, despite the party being shut out in Newfoundland and Labrador.

    CBC projects Conservative government

  17. They gained about 20 seats and are currently 11 short of a majority.

    The early results were heavily biased towards the Liberals because those areas where they poll well closed up early.

    Interesting fact – In most of the ridings I’ve randomly had a look at, the Conservatives won outright, in some cases with 55-60% of the vote. Even when all 4 opposition parties were contesting.

  18. Oz
    the washup of this election will be interesting as perhaps the demographics havent been fully pulled apart
    ie older rural vs progressive riding

  19. I hate to say it but i told you so.

    Harps is on his way to 142-5 seats and a majority government in the next election for he will need only around 10 seats.

    Dion will get bumped aswell.

    Tories still alive and well.

  20. Seems the Liberals have done worse than expected then. Andrew Bolt posted a clip the other day showing Stephane Dion struggling disastrously with his English during a television interview. Could that have been a factor? (The interview I mean, not Bolt’s posting of it).

  21. He had 4 bites at an interview stopping each time because he didnt understand a question saying what would you be doing if you were Prime Minister now about the current economic crisis he didnt understand what now meant lol.

  22. actually harper deserve a bit of respect for holding tight during his campaign.I think that projection of calm definitely helped interms of voters trust.

  23. William – It wasn’t just that one interview. He’s had an image of being someone with a poor grasp of English for some time. However I don’t know what kind of impact that would have had on its own, unless spun into the narrative that Dion wouldn’t be a “decisive leader”.

  24. The only reason he didnt win a majority was Quebec, plain and simple but their vote basically held up there.

    Funny the Tories are on their way to win Nunavut in Arctic Canada. Tories also doing well in B.C.

  25. Adam

    While it’s bad news for your theory, it’s even worse for the “incumbent” theory. Incumbents everywhere are doing well out of the crash.
    Brown, Berlusconi, Clarke, Sarkozy, Harper and Rudd are all travelling as well or better than before. Funnily enough, George W hasn’t felt that effect! 😉

  26. Hmmmm me thinks the Canadian Civil Service has been watching Yes Minister as their seems to be a Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs lol!

  27. In terms of vote shares, it looks like up 1 percentage point up for the Tories, down 3 points for the Grits, down 1 for BQ, up 1 for the NDP, and up 2 for the Greens.

  28. Bush is an outcumbent.

    They have a Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs because they have a much looser federation than we do, following the Trudeau era decentralisation. In many respects the provinces are virtually independent, and the federal government has to negotiate with them accordingly.

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