Canadian election thread

Stephen Harper’s three-term Conservative government faces defeat in today’s Canadian election, if the polls are accurate – although in Canada, that’s often not the case.

Canada’s national election takes place today, and it appears Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has the odds stacked against it as it seeks a fourth term in the face of a resurgent Liberal Party. Polls will close progressively from the east of the country to the west between 10am and 1pm Sydney and Melbourne time. Bowing to modern realities, Canada has repealed a law that banned reporting of results on provinces where voting was still under way, so the count will fold in a manner broadly familiar in Australia, with the earliest results to be reported from the eastern provinces and the thickest flow coming about an hour or two later on.

The opinion poll industry in Canada hasn’t been in particularly good form in recent years, having seriously underestimated the Conservative vote at the last federal election in 2011, and badly miscalled provincial elections in British Columbia in 2013 and Alberta in 2012. For what it’s worth though, poll aggregators suggest the most likely outcome is that Harper will make way for a minority government under Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who bears the most famous name in Canadian politics as the son of Pierre Trudeau, the longest-serving prime minister of the modern era. The Liberals are of the left to the extent that they are the traditional party of government that’s not the Conservatives, but they also have to reckon with the rivalry of the trade union-backed New Democratic Party, whose breakthrough performance in 2011 reduced the Liberals to third place. The picture has also been complicated in recent decades by the notional separatists of the Bloc Québécois, although they appear not to have recovered from the drubbing they copped on their home turf of Quebec at the hands of the NDP in 2011.

The projections of CBC News and the Toronto Star suggest the Liberals stand to win around 145 seats, leaving them about 20 short of an absolute majority in a chamber that is growing from 308 to 338 seats. The Conservatives are well behind on around 120, while the NDP appears set to return to its traditional third party status with about 70 seats. So far as vote shares go, the Conservatives have spent the two-month campaign stuck in the low thirties, putting them well below the 39.6% that secured them a bare majority in 2011. The big story has been the consolidation of the anti-Conservative vote behind the Liberal Party – a remarkable achievement, given that they started about 10% behind the NDP. The Liberals gained steadily from the beginning of the official campaign period in August and moved ahead of the NDP around the time of the final debate on October 2, which triggered a snowball effect as tactical voters sided with the party best placed to defeat the Conservatives.

This points to the fact that Canada retains a British-style single-member first-past-the-post electoral system, tailored to fit a two-party system that neither country still possesses. In the absence of preferential voting, the hopes of the struggling Conservatives rest on Liberal-NDP vote-splitting enabling them to secure victories from a low share of the vote. Not surprisingly, the Liberals are making an issue out of electoral reform, promising an all-party committee to review alternatives to first-past-the-post. Prominently featured in the discussion are the alternative vote, otherwise known as optional preferential voting, and proportional representation by single transferable vote, the electoral system of choice for Australia’s upper houses.

Further Australian perspectives on the election are offered by Charles Richardson and Antony Green.

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.

57 comments on “Canadian election thread”

Comments Page 2 of 2
1 2
  1. Mulcair did not have the same charm that Layton had. However they were ahead in the polling two months ago – all seems to have collapsed a month into the campaigning.

    Interestingly, support for the conservatives too collapse in the final week of campaigning when they decided to play the xenophobic card.

  2. I’m not sure you can call a party that is currently in Government in two provinces and the main opposition in another two “irrelevant”.

    A lot of commentators seem to make a thing of Mulcair’s response to the niqab in citizenship ceremonies… but that’s usually stated without reference to Trudeau’s position (Harper’s was no mystery). I don’t really see how saying that it needs only be lifted for identification purposes was really that controversial.

  3. Some links worth a read on the Canada result. The first is very good, actually written before the result, about tactical voting. It explains a lot about why the NDP dipped, and then how people moved to the Liberals.
    [Harper wanted the niqab to divide and conquer – but that has backfired
    Special to The Globe and Mail
    Published Friday, Oct. 16, 2015 1:47PM EDT
    Last updated Friday, Oct. 16, 2015 5:28PM EDT

    By pressing the niqab issue, the Conservatives made an enormous strategic mistake. In fact, it was probably the single biggest blunder by any political party in this extraordinary election season. With one political gambit, they destroyed any hope of retaining power and handed the election to the Liberals. But the reasons why the move was such a blunder aren’t yet widely understood.]
    [Immigration minister Alexander defeated in Ajax by former MP Holland
    The Globe and Mail
    Published Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 12:18AM EDT
    Last updated Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 5:41AM EDT]
    [October 20, 2015
    Why Stephen Harper Stooped to Rob Ford’s Level—and Paid the Price
    The story behind an unlikely political alliance up north
    By Jeet Heer]
    [Lynton Crosby abandons Harper
    October 15, 2015

    The Australian dirty tricks strategist brought in last month to salvage Stephen Harper’s re-election campaign has abandoned the Conservatives, according to the spin doctor’s partner.]
    [Lynton Crosby ditches Harper’s flailing campaign
    By Fram Dinshaw in News, Politics | October 15th 2015]

  4. LL 53 – that is so funny about Lynton Crosby. It’s great that the “Australian master strategist” obviously decided to cut and run so he wouldn’t be tarred with Harper’s defeat. It reminds me of how all the brilliant strategic work by Crosby and Textor somehow never helped in the 20 or so consecutive State election losses around Australia in the early 2000s!

    So apparently it was Crosby who invented Harper’s phrase “Old Stock Canadians” (and they didn’t mean the Native Americans and Inuit!).

    But how tragic for the Conservatives that he left four days before the election – this is obviously why they lost.

  5. Wikipedia explains why the Canadian Liberals are called Grits:

    Clear Grits were reformers in the Canada West district of the Province of United Canada, a British colony that is now the Province of Ontario, Canada. Their name is said to have been given by David Christie, who said that only those were wanted in the party who were “all sand and no dirt, clear grit all the way through”.

    Their support was concentrated among southwestern Ontario farmers, who were frustrated and disillusioned by the 1849 Reform government of Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine’s lack of democratic enthusiasm. The Clear Grits advocated universal male suffrage, representation by population, democratic institutions, reductions in government expenditure, abolition of the Clergy Reserves, voluntarism, and free trade with the United States. Clear Grits from Upper Canada shared many ideas with Thomas Jefferson.

  6. With the Conservatives out of Government and the Liberals in, the NDP could be in a reasonable position to pick up seats at the next election. If it is preferential voting that is switched to, that is likely to help then in Quebec (where they get the Bloq`s preferences) and contests with the Conservatives but reduce their competitiveness against the Liberals.

Comments Page 2 of 2
1 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *