Canadian election: May 2

Canadians go to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether to grant a third term to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, who have been in minority government since 2006. The Conservatives currently have 143 of the parliament’s 308 seats, with their main rivals the Liberals on 77, the separatist Bloc Quebecois on 47 out of the 75 seats in Quebec, and the leftist New Democratic Party on 36. The current election campaign has produced a major astonishment in the polls, which after pointing to a roughly status quo result at the start of the campaign have had the NDP rocketing into second place at the expense of the withering Liberals. Localised polls also show the NDP taking the lead over BQ in Quebec. The precise impact of such shifts in terms of seats would require an expertise on matters Canadian which I cannot claim. Nonetheless, there is serious discussion of the prospect of an NDP-led coalition with the Liberals, granting the prime ministership to the party’s leader Jack Layton rather than Liberal Opposition Leader, Michael Ignatieff (a circumstance with many precedents at provincial level, but not federally). Failing that, they might at least displace the Liberals as the official opposition. The latter result would seem to my untrained eye to be a lot more likely: surely any split in the left-centre vote will prove a boon to the Conservatives, who monopolise the right. It is also tempting to recall that the Liberal Democrats went into last year’s British election with expectations nearly as lofty as those of the NDP, only to be disappointed on polling day.

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.

69 comments on “Canadian election: May 2”

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  1. Should be an inteesting result. With FPTP it could be a Tory minority. With our sytem the Tories would certainly get less seats. The BQ looks like being decimated by the NDP but will the Liberals be prepared to go into coalition with the NDP and allow Layton to be PM? That will be the real question after the vote. One thing for sure is that their horse trading will be similar to ours but on a larger scale with the Liberals needing to get something from Layton eg deputy PM, Finance minister etc to stay in the game. I should declare that I have an interest as my wife’s cousin is a Liberal MP.

  2. The fact that Canada still uses plurality voting is a major problem. As Robert mentions above, the Tories still have a chance because the progressive vote (NDP, Liberals, Bloc) can easily end up being split in specific ridings.

    Of course, if the momentum remains with the NDP the voters may decide to engage in a sort of preferential voting in their own right…

  3. Haven’t the Canadian’s learnt the importance of spin over substance, announce a teacher bonus scheme to start in 2014.

  4. Just looking at the opinion poll summaries, EKOS seems to give a consistently lower result for the Cons than other polls by around 2-4%, so 33.9% might be at the very low end of expectations.

    Two other polls out today have Cons on 36-37% which is basically right on the average trendline.

  5. Can someone please tell me what the equivalent parties are in Australia for the Canadian ones?

    Are the Canadian Liberals really liberal/democratic or are they like our conservative’s Liberal Party, which lies even in its name

  6. The position of the parties is fundamentally different from the UK last year. The NDP are neither in the middle (like the LibDems) nor dragging the weight of 10 years of government behind them (like Labour). The Liberals have provided some support to the Conservatives since Ignatieff replaced Dion after Parliament was controversially prorogued to avoid a no confidence motion followed by a Coalition Government (Unlike Labour and unlike the LibDems before the UK election).

  7. Puff,
    Only lived in Canada for 2 years but it was enough to get the basics.

    Conservatives – true tories/populist, though perhaps more Liberal (Aus party) wet then dry
    Liberal – Centerish, think perhaps NSW right
    NDP – quite left economically (though less then Green), socially progressive
    Bloc – Socialist seperatists

  8. Very interesting election. Results should come in around mid day. My guess would be the NDPs showing in the polls might just be enough to get the Conservatives a majority.

  9. Thank you Cromwell,
    Where are their right-wing nutter tea-party types? Or did they all move to the USA. 😆

  10. The Conservatives are a merger of a number of smaller parties, some of which were more ‘right-wing’ than others.

  11. For a rough rule-of-thumb international comparison:
    The Conservative Party of Canada is affiliated to the International Democrat Union, other members of which include America’s Republicans, Germany’s Christian Democrats (Merkel’s party), Britain’s Conservatives, France’s UMP (Sarkozy’s party), and Australia’s Liberals.
    The Liberal Party of Canada is affiliated to the Liberal International, other members of which include Germany’s Free Democrats and Britain’s Liberal Democrats.
    The New Democratic Party is affiliated to the Socialist International, other members of which include Japan’s Social Democrats, Germany’s Social Democrats, Britain’s Labour Party, France’s Socialists, and Australia’s Labor Party.

  12. I just went into the CBC website to see if any early results have come in. It apperas that the Candians have a rule that results cannot be broadcast or communicated from one part of the country until all booths have closed in all time zones. In our context, that would mean the results from Eastern Aust could not be broadcast or communicated until WA had closed.

  13. What a stupid way to run an election. Nothing until very late at night and then 3/4 of the final results are released together. Conservatives have the plurality and may get a majority, NDP second, Liberals reduced to a rump and BQ in single figures.

  14. On early figures two Conservative Cabinet ministers with seats in Quebec are behind in their seats, as is BQ leader, Gilles Duceppe. On early figures, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is trailing in his seat to the Conservative challenger due to vote splitting with the NDP.

  15. Foreign Affairs Minister, Lawrence Cannon looks like he will lose his seat. For the first time since 1980, the seat will be not be held by the party in Government.

  16. Will be fascinating to see how the NDP manage the next term. It’s certainly a very good win for the Conservatives and puts them into a good position for the next election.

  17. [Will be fascinating to see how the NDP manage the next term. It’s certainly a very good win for the Conservatives and puts them into a good position for the next election.]
    Not if they become unpopular or something untoward happens.

  18. [Seats – CON 165 (+19), NDP 105 (+69), LIB 30 (-44), BQ 4 (-44), GRN 1 (+1)]

    From twitter.

    What a thumping and the death of two parties. Canadian Parties are no where near as resilient as ours.

  19. Fantastic to see a genuinely left of centre party come from obscurity to replace a worn out centrist “liberal” party.

    If only something like that would happen in Australia…

    If Harper wins a majority expect a rampage of US corporate driven trade and IP laws in Canada. They’ve already tried to do this but were scared off by their position in the minority.

  20. [What a thumping and the death of two parties.]
    Death? A little over dramatic isn’t it. Death is final. How do you know those parties will not make a comeback in the future? Just askin.

  21. [Paul_Ausvotes Paul Taylor
    BQ now down to leading in just 2 seats. Will it be a total wipeout? #canadavotes]

    OK Gary, fair call.

  22. bg

    the nature of cannuck politics is that of a fluidity

    the main protaginists will survive

    the death of BQ may be a factor of simple attrition of the ol;der seperatists

    the left vote was split and as psephos? said a few wavers voted for the conservatives

  23. Sad to see the demise of the Canadian Liberals, a genuinely liberal party which has given Canada three great PMs (W L Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau).

  24. The Conservatives winning a majority in this election is due to FPTP.

    NDP/Liberal/Green vote splitting would be a much smaller under optional preferential and virtually non-existent under compulsory preferential which would take enough seats off the Conservatives to deny them a majority.

    Under any reasonable PR system the Conservatives would get even fewer seats than under preferential voting.

    I predict that next time the Conservatives are out the NDP and Liberals will go for electoral reform.

    I predict that the Liberals will loose even more votes and seats at the next election.

  25. The Green Party leader, Elizabeth May won her seat, defeating Conservative Cabinet Minister Gary Lunn who has held the seat for the past 12 years.

  26. [poor mans zizek
    Posted Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Voter turnout estimated to be at 56%. Pathetic]

    No way!

  27. [I predict that the Liberals will loose even more votes and seats at the next election.]

    It’s a bit too hard to predict at this stage. A lot will depend on who the next leader is, how the NDP manage with a large group of new MPs who really weren’t expecting to be elected, and whether any significantly unpopular decisions are taken by the Conservatives.

  28. Yep, another shining exampe of how lousy first past the post is. 34% of Candian voted for the Right, at least 58% voted letft of centre – and its a Tory majority.

    I mean, seriously Poms- FPP is a JOKE!

  29. I reckon that the implications for this in Australia are that the ALP will have to run get-out-the-vote/don’t vote informal campaigns (despite compulsory voting).

  30. 44

    Voluntary voting gives them that option. Compulsory voting and whether or not preferences are allowed are separate issues.

  31. Two leaders lose their seats, not just one (the BQ leader to the NDP and the Liberal leader to the Conservative). An interesting point to the Australian observer: here, losing his seat would be automatically expected to deprive Ignatieff of the leadership, but in Canada it doesn’t work quite the same way.

    The new NDP parliamentary group is going to have a clear majority of members from Quebec, where it had only ever had one before. Big question mark about what effect that will have on the party, and on its image and reputation in other parts of the country (and in Quebec, for that matter).

  32. Hard to believe that from 1993 – 1997 the Bloc were the official opposition.
    NDP runs the risk of becoming to be seen as a Quebec party thereby reducing their popularity in Ontario and BC.

  33. Waddeva.

    The NDP’s victory is mainly based on their sweep of Quebec, which may turn into a problem for them. They are now the Quebec majority party, and Quebec voters are notoriously fickle. Quebec has been in turn solidly Liberal, Conservative, BQ and now NDP. They have no real loyalty to any party, and could easily turn to someone else next time. The next Liberal leader will be a francophone (they take it in turns), so the Liberals will try to base a comeback on regaining Quebec.

    In the rest of country the NDP surge has served mainly to hand seats to the Tories.

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