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 Bowing to modern realities, Canada has repealed a law that banned reporting of results on provinces where voting was still under way, so the count will fold in a manner broadly familiar in Australia, with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”

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  1. Abbott and Harper were, arguably, the two biggest obstacles from the West to progress at the Paris Climate Change Conference. With Abbott gone and Harper on the brink today may be a good day for the future.

  2. Seriously though I was listening to the BBC on Sunday & they were interviewing some Canadian who said the country was concerned about the change in international perceptions of Canada under a Harper regime. Reminds me of Abbott & Australia. Backward, racist, war mongering environmental vandals.

  3. Progressives doing very well so far – this is what would most likely have happened in Australia with Abbott if he had stayed on. Pity poor us.

  4. The Canadian Press has currently assigned 28 seats to the Liberals, and 0 seats to anyone else.

    I take it this is some quirk of when the results come in (Eastern time zones and cities being more left wing than the Western time zones and sparsely populated areas where counting is slower?)

  5. The Libs are smashing everyone else in the Atlantic states, but Ontario is things will be decided whether the Libs will rule as a majority or minority government.

  6. @ Scott Bales – 9
    It would be like if Tasmania was called two hours before any where else. As well, it was expected to show a very strong Liberal showing, that is their best area. NDP look like the losers there.

  7. NDP will need to have a strong result in Quebec, similar to the last election to command and power when dealing with the Liberals in governemnt.
    Trudeau will want a minority government so he can control the bills and cabinet agenda although the NDP will want a coalition.

  8. 9

    The polling hours are not the same across Canada. Eastern Provinces vote earlier in the day than provinces further west. This is to compress the release of results so that little of the result is known before BC polls close.

    It is partly because they have voluntary voting, so having results announced could depress turnout in loosing parties and change the result. The lack of preferential voting also means that western voters would gain advantage in strategic voting if the polls closed at the same clock time in each timezone, like in Australia. Canada is also spread over 4.5 hours of timezone compared to 2.5-3.5 hours (the extra hour being daylight savings) in Australia (although effectively it is only 2-3 because Lord Howe Island has only one small polling booth). SA also stops voting before much of the NSW, Vic and Tasmanian (also the ACT, but they rarely vote not ALP) results are obvious and the NT polls close before Queensland and the whole eastern seaboard votes at the same time in winter elections.

  9. Early Ontario results would suggest that it’s all over bar the shouting.

    It’s a great result for those of us who are concerned about climate change more than anyone else.

  10. Trudeau’s win will be one of the epic election victories if he takes his party from 35 seats to victory. I know first-past-the-post is more volatile. But that’s truly spectacular. He will certainly have a lot of very, very, very happy new MPs who know exactly where the sun shines.

  11. Working interstate with a Canadian who cares less about the election than me! Though they were impressed that I knew all ten provinces and three territories.

    So it seems possible Trudeau and the Liberals could get a majority. I really can’t fathom why the NDP “tanked” over the last few weeks in the polls – maybe as the election got closer people just reverted to the two “traditional” parties.

    Work to Rule 2 – absolutely. And weren’t they like peas in a pod in so many ways. If you have been following this you would have heard Harper use the term “Old Stock Canadians” in his anti-immigrant dog-whistling. Which of course prompted many Native and Inuit Canadian memes along the lines of “Yes, we ARE old stock Canadians, unlike you”.

  12. [ I really can’t fathom why the NDP “tanked” over the last few weeks in the polls]

    Anti-Harper voters deciding to make damn sure of it?

  13. Looks like first past the post is for the chop in the next parliament. Probably in favour of preferential voting, since the Liberals seem to be heading for a majority, rather than proportional representation likely if the NDP and/or Greens are required.

  14. Congratulations Monsieur Trudeau! Now, one of the first orders of business for the next government (whether majority or with NDP – it’s in their interest too) is to change their voting system – ideally a preferential one, so that out-of-touch Tories cannot exploit the FPTP system again.

  15. Yep, when the Tories are complaining they can’t win because the Union backed party didn’t do well you know the system is distorting the will of the people.

    [The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Vieira hears what Guy Giorno, Stephen Harper’s campaign chairman, makes so far of what happened to his man’s push for re-election.

    Paul Vieira ✔ @paulvieira
    Conservative’s Guy Giorno: The NDP underperformed and that hurt us.]

  16. [It looks like the polling in Canada got the size of trudeau’s vote spectacularly wrong, didn’t it?]

    Maybe. They seem to have the Conservatives right enough and the Lib/NDC total vote right enough and have shown late movement from NDC to Lib. So maybe it’s just that the mood to get rid of Harper was overwhelming and the tactical voting required under FPTP to not give him a sniff meant the ‘left’ vote made the assessment over the campaign that Trudeau was the better bet.

    In that circumstance the movement picked up may have become a landslide in the last few days as NDC voters saw that switching to the Libs made sure of getting rid of Harper. Not hard to understand why the pollsters would miss the magnitude of this late wave even if they picked up the direction.

  17. The really sad thing for Canada from a national unity point of view is that the Conservative vote remained very solid on the prairies. I don’t think that, as of now, the Libs have gained a single seat between Ontario and the Rockies.

    There has been a long-term trend for the culture of this region to become more attuned to that of the US, and for the political culture to become dominated by politicians of the same mindset as the US Republicans. Harper was a strong representative of this culture: starting from further to the right than even the right-wing of the defunct Progressive Conservative Party and coming to the fore with the steady demise of the celebrated Canadian “Red Tories”. It would be wonderful if the next leader of the Conservatives were to come from somewhere other than Alberta.

    The Conservatives will need to do something different because, if Trudeau can keep his nose clean and the Libs can bring in preferential voting, they could be set for another one of their periodic prolonged spells in office.

  18. Harper & the Conservatives have been defeated in Canada. Abbott and Harper were two major stumbling blocks to effective international climate action, ousted within weeks of each other.

    Pressure will be right on the Australian LNP and Turnbull to ante up.

  19. ratsak – Agree. I suppose that first Trudeau had to get his neck in front in the polls, and then he would reap the gains from tactical voting.

  20. Another Abbott-style leader bites the dust.

    The prairie provinces are to Canada as is the National Party heartland in Oz – rural socialists.

  21. K17

    Yes. I didn’t follow the campaign but it seems that Trudeau was in a head to head with Mulcair to see who looked the most like a PM to the voters of the ‘left’ that wanted Harper gone no matter what. Obviously over the 11 weeks Trudeau has won that battle and so a good third or so of the NDP vote at the start have swung in behind him to get the job done.

    I’d speculate that under preferential voting the movement from NDP – Lib would have been much much less because those voters could stick with their first pref and still kick Harper with their 2nd if needed.

  22. Tom the first and best@20

    Looks like first past the post is for the chop in the next parliament. Probably in favour of preferential voting, since the Liberals seem to be heading for a majority, rather than proportional representation likely if the NDP and/or Greens are required.

    My understanding is that the NDP is the one who’s favouring proportional or at least an electoral reform. The Libs might not be too keen on changing from FPTP. Looking at some Canadian analysts, some of them favour Australia’s preferential voting, which maintains single member seats.

  23. Charles Richardson (Crikey) was one person who predicted that the NDP to Liberal “rush” would continue on –

    But the consolidation on the centre-left that’s driving the poll movements is likely to continue once people reach the voting booths, so the Liberals could well win a majority in their own right. If not, they are likely to form a minority government with NDP support.

    Bad for the NDP, good for Canada (to get rid of Harper)

  24. 33

    The Conservatives are the ones who oppose scrapping FPTP, because they are much more likely to win under FPTP. The Liberals do best under single member preferential voting, because they are in the middle. The NDP and the Greens are most likely to achieve power under proportional representation.

  25. Tom the first and best@37


    The Conservatives are the ones who oppose scrapping FPTP, because they are much more likely to win under FPTP. The Liberals do best under single member preferential voting, because they are in the middle. The NDP and the Greens are most likely to achieve power under proportional representation.

    Fair enough. And the last two parties would benefit most from PR too, though NDP might benefit somewhat from preferential voting.

  26. Trudeau’s victory speech:

    [The Liberal Party is projected to form a majority government after a red tide swept key ridings in the GTA, Quebec and the East Coast.
    “Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways!” said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in his victory speech. “This, my friends, is what positive politics can do.”

    Trudeau thanks his wife and volunteers, applauding the campaigns “positive” message.

    “A positive, optimistic, hopeful vision of public life isn’t a naive dream – it can be a powerful force for change,” he said to cheers.
    Trudeau graciously thanked Harper, and promised to work with the Conservative Party in the future.

    “Conservatives are not our enemies, they are our neighbours,” he said.]

  27. 38

    The NDP would benefit from preferential voting in Quebec because they get would likely the most BQ preferences. They would also benefit in much of Western Canada, where they have many seats where they are ahead of the Liberals but behind the Conservatives but the Conservatives lack a majority. However preferential voting would likely help the Liberals against the NDP were they beat the NDP.

  28. The situation in the west is a bit tricky.

    Traditionally the state parties often see the Conservatives and the Liberals working together against the NDP.

  29. It seems in the last moment, the NDP grabbed one seat off the Conservatives, bringing the total number of seats for the Conservatives to 99.

  30. Kevin @ 5: I gather Antony has been right there in the CBC studio all night, largely at his own personal expense (an absolute disgrace, Mr Scott).

  31. A great result in Canada.

    The NDP are looking a little silly now — they could have done a ridings deal with the Liberals, but their 2nd party “official opposition” status went to their heads it seems!

    Centre and left voters learnt not to split their votes this time, and flocked back to the Liberals — Tory majority rule was only possible thanks to the NDP’s surge at the last election.

    The NDP have got their just desserts — a return to third party irrelevancy and impotence.

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