Saturday, October 15, 2016

Nova Scotia municipal elections today

Today is election day across Nova Scotia's 51 municipalities, as voters go to the polls to elect new mayors, councils and members of the province's eight school boards.

Since the last election held in 2012, the province has reduced the number of municipalities from 54 to 51. This is because on April 1 2015, three municipalities were annexed by their surrounding municipalities. Bridgetown was annexed by the County of Annapolis, Springhill was annexed by the County of Cumberland and Hantsport was annexed by the District of West Hants. The topic of amalgamations and annexations of municipalities in the province continues to be a heated debate as municipalities must wrestle between shrinking tax bases and providing adequate services. A flashpoint in this debate came earlier this year when voters in Pictou County rejected the idea of amalgamating the county's municipalities in a plebiscite by a 66%-34% margin.

Map of Nova Scotia's 51 municipalities


Nova Scotia's municipalities can be divided into three types: Regional Municipalities, Towns and Municipal Districts/Counties. Nova Scotia hasn't had any incorporated cities since a series of amalgamations in the 1990s. There are three Regional Municipalities in the province, including the two largest municipalities, Halifax and Cape Breton. These are unlike the Regional Municipalities in Ontario, for example, in that there are are no lower levels of government in those areas. They are quite large in size, having been created out of the former counties that existed in their place. Each of the three regional municipalities are headed by a mayor, elected at-large and have a number of councillors elected from “districts” (usually called wards in other provinces).

The second form of municipalities are towns, which are very small in geographic size compared to the regional municipalities and the counties and municipal districts. There are 27 towns in Nova Scotia. Each are headed by mayors, elected at-large and have a number of councillors.

The final form of municipalities are the counties and municipal districts. The only difference between counties and municipal districts are that the municipal districts are generally smaller than the counties, having been created out of counties themselves. However, their form of government is much the same. There are nine county municipalities in Nova Scotia and 12 municipal districts. All but two of these jurisdictions are headed by wardens, while the remaining two (Lunenburg District and Colchester County) are headed by mayors, elected at large. In this election, Kings County will elect its mayor for the first time, ditching the old warden-council system. Municipalities with the warden-council system have the wardens elected from among the elected councillors by the councillors themselves. Each county and municipal district are divided into a number of districts from which their councillors are elected.

 Elections in major municipalities



Mayoral candidates
 In the Halifax Regional Municipalty (recently re-branded as just “Halifax”), Atlantic Canada's largest city, the result of today's mayoral election is a foregone conclusion. Mayor Mike Savage, the former Liberal MP for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour (2004-2011) has finished his first term as mayor of the city, and will likely enjoy being re-elected into a second term in the same fashion that most mayors are re-elected in Canada for their second terms, that is in a large landslide. He is only being challenged by one opponent, businesswoman Lil MacPherson who is challenging the centrist mayor from his left. She is the owner of a local organic restaurant. Only one poll of the race was conducted, back in the summer, showing Savage had a commanding 85%-15% lead over MacPherson.

 Savage won the 2012 race in a much more crowded field, but still by a decent margin, winning 58% of the vote, ahead of challengers Tom Martin (20%) and Fred Connors (18%). Three other candidates ran as well, each winning about 1% of the vote. Savage won all 16 districts in the city, doing the best in his native Dartmouth, while doing worse in the more rural parts of the city and in the inner-city. His strongest district was Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East (District 6) where he won 69% of the vote, while his worst district was Spryfield-Sambro-Prospect Road (District 11) on the Chebucto Peninsula, where win won 45% of the vote. This was retired police officer Tom Martin's strongest district, where he won 27% of the vote. Activist and businessman Fred Connors' strongest district was Peninsula North (District 8) in the inner-city, where he won 27% of the vote.

Map of Halifax's 16 council districts

On regional council, four of the city's 16 districts have open races, that is the incumbent in those seats have decided to retire instead of running for re-election. The four districts are District 1 (Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley), District 5 (Dartmouth Centre), District 8 (Peninsula North) and District 12 (Timberlea-Beechville-Clayton Park West-Wedgewood). There will be no elections in District 3 (Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage), District 4 (Cole Harbour-Westphal), District 15 (Lower Sackville) and District 16 (Bedford-Wentworth) as the incumbents there have been acclaimed.

Cape Breton 

Mayoral candidates
The mayoral race in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality will be a re-match of the 2012 election between Cecil Clarke and Rankin MacSween. Clarke served as the MLA for Cape Breton North from 2001 to 2011 for the Progressive Conservative Party before being elected mayor in 2012. MacSween is the head of a community economic development agency.

In 2012, Clarke defeated MacSween by a 59%-38% margin with three minor candidates winning the remaining 3%. I was lucky to be sent the results by district by the region's elections office, though the results by district may be a bit misleading, as over half of all voters voted in advance and did not have their votes recorded by district. Nonetheless, of those voting on election day, Clarke won all but one district in the region. He was especially strong in the Sydney Mines and North Sydney areas (Districts 1 and 2), which cover the provincial riding he represented. The one district he lost was District 11, which covers the New Waterford area. MacSween won the district by just 0.7% of the vote. The New Waterford area has historically been a very strong region for the NDP in provincial elections.

Cape Breton's 12 council districts

Cape Breton has a 12 seat municipal council, which only saw a minor boundary change since the last election. Every seat in the region will see a contested race, and four districts will have open races, including District 10 where disgraced former Liberal MLA Dave Wilson is running.

Kings County

Main mayoral candidates
The third largest municipality in Nova Scotia is actually Kings County, located on the Bay of Fundy in the Annapolis Valley. It includes the communities of Greenwood, Kingston and New Minas just to name a few. The county is seeing its first ever mayoral election, as it has switched from having a warden-council system to a mayor-council system. County warden Diana Brothers has opted to run for re-election in District 5 instead of running for mayor. Running for mayor of the county are four candidates: Rick Ackland, Dick Killam, Peter Muttart and Laurie Porter. Muttart is a county councillor representing the Port Williams area. Killam has also sat on council in the past, as has his wife. Rick Ackland is a retired lawyer who ran for a council seat in 2012, but had his candidacy disqualified. Porter does not appear to have an active campaign.

King County's 9 council districts (new map for 2016)

In addition to ditching the position of warden, the county has also reduced the number of council districts from 12 to nine, reducing the size of council from 13 members to ten. Due to a number of retirements on council however, no district is seeing more than one councillor run against each other.

Colchester County

Mayoral candidates
 The province's fourth largest municipality is Colchester County, which is in the northern part of the province, stretching from the Bay of Fundy to Northumberland Strait and completely surrounding the Town of Truro. Among other communities, it includes the villages of Bible Hill and Tatamagouche. Bob Taylor has been the county's mayor since 2008 and was re-elected by acclamation in 2012. Taylor is a Liberal, having run for that party in the 2006 provincial election in the riding of Colchester North. Unlike in 2012, Taylor is not running unopposed for the mayoralty this time. Councillor Christine Blair has entered the race against Taylor. She represents District 1 on council, which covers the Bible Hill and Brookside communities.

Colchester County's 11 council districts

Colchester County has 11 districts on council, most of which will not be seeing elections as their incumbents have been acclaimed, or in one case (District 1), a non-incumbent was the only candidate to offer. Elections will only occur in two districts: District 2 and District 11.

Those are the four biggest municipalities, but there are other races being held right across the province of course. Polls close at 7pm Atlantic time (6pm Eastern).

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Scarborough--Rouge River by-election today

Another provincial by-election is being held this week, this time in Ontario, in the suburban Toronto riding of Scarborough—Rouge River, to fill a vacancy created last March when its provincial member of parliament, Bas Balkissoon unexpectedly resigned for mysterious reasons. Balkissoon, a member of the governing Liberal Party, had represented the riding since a by-election in 2005. The riding has a long history of voting for the Liberals; it has voted Liberal in every provincial election since 1985. However, recent election races in the riding have been fairly close, and the expectation is that this by-election will be too.

Scarborough—Rouge River is located in the northeast corner of Toronto, covering a number of very diverse neighbourhoods like Malvern and Agincourt North. It is named for the Rouge River, which runs through the east end of the riding. East of the Rouge River is Rouge Park, which covers about a quarter of the riding's area and surrounds the famous Toronto Zoo. The urban area of the riding is divided into two clusters, Malvern/Morningside Heights in the east and Agincourt/Millken in the west. These urban areas are further divided into sub-neighbourhoods.

Map of Scarborough--Rouge River's neighbourhoods


Scarborough—Rouge River is noteworthy for its huge immigrant population. A full two-thirds of residents are immigrants, over half of which have immigrated to Canada since 1981. China and Sri Lanka are the biggest source of immigrants to the riding, but many immigrants have come from the Philippines, India and Hong Kong too. Only 5% of the residents are third or more generation Canadians.

While the riding is very diverse as whole, it is not just one big mixed bag; the two urban clusters have attracted immigrants from different sources. The western half of the riding (west of Markham Road) is heavily Chinese, while the eastern half of the riding is more diverse, but is dominated by a large South Asian population. All together, the riding is 33% South Asian, 31% Chinese, 11% Black and only 8% White – making it one of the least Caucasian ridings in the country. Another 8% of the riding is Filipino. English is still the mother tongue of a plurality of residents (40%), while Chinese is the first language of 27% and Tamil of 12%. 39% of the riding is Christian, with about half of that being Catholic. 21% of the riding is Hindu, the largest concentration of Hindus in any riding in the province. 9% of the riding is Muslim.

The riding is a bit poorer than the province as a whole. The median household income in the riding is $62,000 (provincial median is $66,000) while the median individual income is $21,000 (provincial median is $31,000). The largest industries are manufacturing, retail trade and health care and social assistance.


For most of its post-confederation history, this part of Scarborough was mostly farmland, and Malvern was but a village with a post office. From Confederation until 1955, all of Scarborough was located in the provincial riding of York East. At that point all of Scarborough became the riding of York—Scarborough until Scarborough's post war population growth necessitated that the riding be split up into small ridings in 1963. At that time, everything in Scarborough east of Markham Road became the riding of Scarborough East and everything west of Markham Road and north of Lawrence Avenue became Scarborough North. Over the next few decades, the north end of Scarborough began to grow, with development only finally slowing down in the 2000s.

Beginning at the 1975 election, all of the north end of Scarborough was united within a newly-shaped Scarborough North riding. Population growth made the riding smaller over the course of its history until the area became Scarborough—Rouge River in 1999 when provincial riding boundaries were made to match their federal counterparts. This means that in the next provincial election, most of the riding will be transferred to the new riding of Scarborough North, while the eastern half of Malvern will be moved to the new riding of Scarborough—Rouge Park. (On a side note, the arbitrary division of the Malvern community is quite unfortunate, considering that a better boundary could have been Markham Road, would have made not only a better “natural” border, but also marks the border of the two major ethnic communities in Scarborough's north end.) 

Scarborough--Rouge River MPP list

Scarborough North and Scarborough—Rouge River have been continuously represented by Liberals since 1985, with Alvin Curling representing the area until Balkissoon's by-election win in 2005. Before 1985, the area was a safe Tory seat, but the increasing number of immigrants moving into the area helped the Liberals take it and made it into a safe Liberal seat. The riding would remain a safe Liberal seat until both the NDP and Progressive Conservatives began making inroads into the minority communities. In 2011, NDP candidate and school trustee Neethan Shan, an immigrant from Sri Lanka, gave Balkissoon (himself an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago) a run for his money, losing by just over 2000 votes. The 2014 election would become a three-way race with city councillor Raymond Cho (a Korean immigrant) running for the Tories against Balkissoon and Shan, who ran again. Fewer than 5,000 votes separated the first place Balkissoon and the third place Cho. With the Liberals moving to the left in their rhetoric in that election, it is possible many socially conservative immigrants were turned off of by the Liberals as the riding was only one of a few in the province that saw a swing from the Liberals to the PCs.

Political geography

Following the recent collapse of the Ontario Liberal Party's (and to a lesser extent, the federal Liberal Party) support among all immigrant groups in this riding, the Chinese western half and the South Asian eastern half of the riding have begun voting differently. Whether this has something to do with the party platforms or their respective candidates remains to be seen. However, patterns have emerged since 2011 showing that the Chinese population is increasingly voting for Conservative candidates, while the South Asian population has been increasingly voting NDP. The Liberals have still been able to get enough votes from both communities, and from the other minority groups in the riding (such as Filipinos and Caribbean Blacks) to still win the seat. In 2014, the only neighbourhood in the riding to vote PC (Port Royal) also happens to be the most Chinese neighbourhood in the riding, with 76% of the population there being of Chinese ancestry. Meanwhile, the neighbourhoods that voted NDP (Brookside, Dean Park, Morningside Heights) have the highest South Asian populations in the riding. The rest of the riding voted Liberal in 2014, to varying degrees, and is home to a more diverse population than the aforementioned neighbourhoods.

Partisan index map by neighbourhood
Just like in my Halifax Needham post from Tuesday, I also did a partisan voting index map for Scarborough--Rouge River. In each neighbourhood, I calculated the average difference in support between each of the three parties in the last two elections from the provincial average. This is slightly different than the calculations I did last time, as I had compared the Liberals to the NDP only (with the index showing the difference from an even two-way race), but this time I used three parties, so I couldn't do that, but it amounts to pretty much the same thing. Anyways, the map shows the NDP has done much better across the riding (especially in the east) compared to their province-wide numbers, while the Liberals are about even, while the Tories tend to under-perform throughout the riding. 

These ethnic voting patterns have been evident in recent federal elections as well. In the 2011 federal election, the western half of the riding went Conservative, while the eastern half overwhelmingly backed the NDP's Rathika Sitsabaiesan, a Sri Lankan Tamil, who ended up winning the seat with 41% of the vote. With the riding's South Asian community split into two ridings in 2015, Sitsabaiesan was forced to run in the more Chinese-dominated Scarborough North seat, where she finished in a distant third behind the Liberal's Shaun Chen and the Conservative's Ravinder Malhi. The rest of the riding became part of the new riding Scarborough—Rouge Park which the Liberals easily won with their candidate, another Sri Lankan Tamil, Gary Anandasangaree. Did the 2015 election show that immigrants had come back to the Liberal fold? Perhaps, but only time will tell. What is clear is that South Asians appear more receptive to the Liberal Party than Chinese Canadians who are more divided in their voting allegiances. 

Results by neighbourhood in the 2011 and 2014 provincial elections


While the federal Liberals remain hugely popular in Ontario, their provincial counterparts are polling very poorly, and are well behind the leading Tories. The Liberals have now been in power for 13 years, and have endured scandal after scandal after scandal. While poor inter-election poll results is nothing new for the Liberals, they are especially at a low point – the most recent Forum Research poll from August indicating they are now 13 points behind the Tories. And one issue that is hurting them, especially with socially conservative immigrant voters is the liberalization of the province's sex ed curriculum. Popular among progressives in the province, it has been more religious, especially immigrant voters who have been the most opposed to it. One would think that this would help the Tories, considering their new leader, Patrick Brown was elected with the backing socially conservative immigrant groups. Earlier in the year he vowed to overturn the new curriculum if elected as Premier, but he has since backpedalled and has now indicated that he won't be overturning the law, a move that will not help him win a riding that is overwhelmingly immigrant.

Two polls released on the eve of the election from Mainstreet Research and Forum Research have shown that we are indeed headed for a close race. Mainstreet's poll shows the Tories have a 5 point lead over the Liberals, while Forum's poll shows a tie between the two parties. Perhaps unexpectedly, both polls show the NDP well behind in third place, despite the party finishing second in both of the last provincial candidates. One thing to keep in mind is that it is incredibly difficult to poll ridings with a large immigrant population. I saw this constantly in my polling work at EKOS in the last election, and Scarborough North (the new federal riding overlapping Scarborough—Rouge River) was no exception. Impressively, Mainstreet's poll was conducted in Cantonese, Mandarin and Tamil (in addition to English), and was even weighted by ethnic group. The details of the Forum poll were not published, but I personally doubt they went to the extent Mainstreet did. As a pollster, I am particularly curious to see how well Mainstreet's poll does, considering the methodology they used. Will the data be more accurate, or was it all an exercise in futility in an impossible-to-poll riding?

Two names on the ballot will be the same as in the 2014 election. City councillor Raymond Cho will once again be the PC candidate. Cho actually represents the eastern half of the riding on city council, and has been involved in municipal politics since 1991. Cho was once a New Democrat, having run for the NDP in the 1988 federal election. Cho later became a Liberal, and ran as an “Independent Liberal” in the 2004 federal election, which upset the party. He then joined the Progressive Conservatives and ran in 2014. The NDP candidate is once again Neethan Shan, who was recently elected to represent the riding as a school trustee for the Toronto District School Board. This will be his third attempt to win the seat, after having come second in 2011 and 2014. This election will be Shan's 10th electoral contest of his life. He was first elected as a school trustee in Markham in 2006 after losing in his first attempt in 2003. He then ran for the NDP in Scarborough—Guildwood in 2007, then for Toronto city council in 2010 and 2014, losing both times to Cho. Fast forward to last January when Shan was elected as a trustee in an unnecessary, low turnout by-election (as all school board elections are!). One thing that might be hurting his poll numbers is that he may be seen as an opportunist- and who wants to vote in another school board by-election if he wins? As for the Liberals, their candidate is Piragal Thiru who is described as a “Liberal activist”, and is a refugee from Sri Lanka. He won the Liberal nomination by defeating the riding's former MP, Rathika Sitsabaiesan who had switched parties from the NDP. With two Sri Lankans in the race, it is entirely possible their vote will be split enough to allow the Tories to win the seat, which I believe is the most likely scenario (but, hey- I was wrong about Tuesday's race in Halifax!).

There are five other candidates in the race. The Greens, who never do very well here, are running administrator Priyan De Silva. There are also Freedom and Libertarian Party candidates, a “None of the Above” candidate who is running as “Above Znoneofthe” (presumably to ensure they are last on the ballot) and an independent candidate, Queenie Yu, who running almost exclusively to repeal the changes made to the Sex Ed curriculum.

We'll see if I'm right about the Tories picking this seat up when polls close at 9:00pm.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Halifax Needham provincial by-election today

As summer comes to a close, the Fall election season in Canada begins today, with a provincial by-election in Nova Scotia. Voters in the north-end Halifax riding of Halifax Needham are heading to the polls to elect a new member of the provincial legislature, to replace longtime NDP MLA Maureen MacDonald who resigned last Spring due to health issues. She had represented the riding since the 1998 election, when the NDP tied the Liberals for most seats, but had to settle for the opposition. She was re-elected in every subsequent election, even in 2013, when the party was decimated at the polls after an unpopular term in government.

Neighbourhood map

Halifax Needham covers most of what is known as the “North End” of the Halifax Peninsula, as well as part of the West End. In the south, the riding begins at Citadel Hill on the north edge of the city's downtown, and from there, covers all of the northeast part of the peninsula. Its western border is Connaught Avenue and Bayers Road in the northwest and Robie Street in the southwest. The riding contains the site of Africville, an historically Black neighbourhood whose inhabitants were cruelly evicted by the city in the 1960s. The riding also includes CFB Halifax and the Halifax Shipyard and was the site of the famous Halifax Explosion in 1917. The riding is named for Fort Needham, a park which contains memorial bells recovered from a church destroyed in the explosion.

Average income in Halifax Needham (2010)


The north end of Halifax is historically the more working class part of the city, and is home to a large student population. This has made the riding one of the strongest NDP ridings in the province, and is likely why the party won the seat in 2013, one of only two seats the New Democrats won in the Halifax Metro area.
Despite the riding's working class history, the NDP only became competitive in the 1980s. Prior to MacDonald's win in 1998, the riding swung between the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives. After losing in the 1984 and 1988 elections, MacDonald finally defeated Liberal MLA Gerry O'Malley in the 1998 election, by a large margin. She handily won the next 5 elections, cementing the riding as one of the safest NDP seats in the province. However, the 2013 election was much closer, with MacDonald defeating her Liberal opponent by under 300 votes. 

List of MLAs since 1933

Political geography

When it comes to the riding's political geography, income is a pretty good indicator of how the area will vote. The northern part of the riding (Convoy Place) was the strongest neighbourhood for the Liberals in the 2013 provincial election, and is also the wealthiest neighbourhood in the riding. The southern part of the riding (North End) is least affluent neighbourhood in the riding and was the strongest NDP neighbourhood in 2013. This division was apparent in the 2015 federal election as well; the southern neighbourhoods of the riding voted NDP while the northern neighbourhoods voted Liberal. 

Results by neighbourhood in 2009 and 2013

Something new that I have done for this by-election analysis (and something I hope to continue) is to calculate the partisan voting index (based on the Cook Partisan Voting Index used in the US) for each neighbourhood in the riding. This calculation compares how each neighbourhood voted to the province as a whole, using the average vote share in the last two elections. For Halifax Needham, I compared the Liberals and the NDP as those two parties were the strongest in both of the last two elections in the riding. The index calculation shows that every neighbourhood in the riding is more NDP-friendly than the province as a whole, compared to the Liberals. According to the index, the North End is the NDP's best neighbourhood (with an index score of +19), while the West End (which was in a different riding in the 2009 election) is the Liberal's best neighbourhood (NDP +7).

NEW! Partisan Voting Index by neighbourhood


Since winning the 2013 provincial election, the governing Liberals have enjoyed a considerable amount of popularity in public opinion polls, while both the NDP and the Tories are well behind. Most polls over the course of the year have had the Liberals hovering at around 60% of the vote, about 40 points ahead of the other two parties. The massive Liberal lead in the polls is fuelling speculation that Premier Stephen McNeil might call an early provincial election, even as early as this Fall, though such a move has often been disastrous in Canadian politics.

The lone electoral test the Liberals have had since the last general election was a series of by-elections held last summer, which paradoxically saw the Grits pick up two seats previously held by the NDP, while the NDP won a seat which was held by the Liberals. The two seats the NDP lost were in the industrial heartland of Cape Breton, while the NDP's win came in more suburban Dartmouth, signalling a potential demographic shift in support for the party. The NDP had been leaderless at the time (Maureen MacDonald served as interim leader), but have since elected a new leader in Gary Burrill, known as being a strong leftist. The move is a departure from the centrist policies of former leader and Premier Darrell Dexter, which many have criticized as having hurt the party while in government.
The only two parties that have a chance to win today's by-election is the Liberals and the NDP. The Tories have not been competitive here since they last won the seat in 1984, though they have subsequently finished in second in both 1999 and 2006. Federally, the Tories have not placed second in Halifax since 1997.

The Liberal candidate in the riding is Rod Wilson, a family doctor and executive director of the North End Community Health Centre. Hoping to keep the riding orange is Lisa Roberts, a former CBC journalist originally from Newfoundland. The PC candidate is businessman Andy Arsenault, while the Greens (who nearly de-registered as a party this summer) are running computer scientist Thomas Trappenberg, who was also the federal candidate in Halifax.

If the polls are to be believed, the Liberals should be able to win this seat, which they had only lost by a few hundred votes in 2013, as they are polling much better than in 2013, when they narrowly lost this seat. However, if the recent Dartmouth South by-election is any indication, the NDP could still hold on to this Metro seat, as it suggested that the NDP may still be strong in the region. In the federal election, the Liberals narrowly defeated the NDP in Halifax Needham (by about 300 votes) despite getting 62% of the vote province-wide, not too far off where the provincial Liberals are at in the polls right now. So my prediction is a narrow Liberal win (the Liberals could be helped by the fact that it's a summer by-election, and that means the high student population in the riding might not show up), but an NDP victory would not be a surprise. What would be a surprise to me would be either party winning by more than 1000 votes. 

A loss for the NDP in one of its safest seats would be a minor disaster for the party, which has seen its caucus shrink from seven seats down to five since the last election. With a provincial general election around the corner, it will make it harder for the party to win more seats if it is only defending five of them. It is far more important for the NDP to win this seat than the Liberals, though it would still be a pretty big boost for the Grits if they win it. Polls close at 8pm Atlantic Time (7pm Eastern).

Monday, May 9, 2016

New Brunswick municipal elections today

Map of New Brunswick's municipalities and wards
Voters in New Brunswick are heading to the polls today in municipal elections. Not only will voters be electing new mayors and councils across the province's 107 municipalities, they will also be voting for district education councils and regional health authorities. One municipality, Oromocto will also be holding a plebiscite to see if voters want bi-weekly recycle collection.

Since the last municipal elections in 2012 the province gained two new municipalities: the rural communities of Cocagne and Hanwell, bringing the total number of municipalities in the province up from 105 to 107. Furthermore, the Town of Tracadie-Sheila amalgamated with surrounding local service districts to become the new regional municipality of Tracadie.

Voters in the municipalities of Alma, Baker-Brook, Bath, Bertrand, Cambridge Narrows, Campobello Island, Clair, Hartland, Maisonnette, Meductic, Millville, Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska, Saint-Isidore, Saint-Louis-de-Kent, Saint-Quentin, Shippagan and Stanley will not be voting in council or mayoral elections, as all candidates running were acclaimed, that is they were elected to their positions without opposition.

The municipalities of Aroostook, Balmoral, Beresford, Blacks Harbour, Bouctouche, Canterbury, Cap-Pelé, Caraquet, Dorchester, Florenceville-Bristol, Gagetown, Hampton, Harvey, Hillsborough, New Maryaland, Nigadoo, Norton, Petitcodiac, Petit-Rocher, Pointe-Verte, Port Elgin, Richibucto, Sainte-Marie-Saint-Raphaël, Saint-Léonard, Shediac, St. Hilaire, Sussex, Sussex Corner, Tide Head, Tracy and Woodstock will not be holding mayoral elections, as candidates for that position were also acclaimed.

And, there will only be races for mayor in Charlo, Drummond, Saint Andrews, St. Martins and Upper Miramichi as the rest of council was acclaimed.

Let's take a look at the races in New Brunswick's three largest cities:



The race for mayor of Fredericton is between long-time mayor Brad Woodside and Ward 3 councillor Michael O'Brien.

Woodside has been involved in Fredericton politics for a long time. He was first elected as mayor in 1986, but was first elected to council in 1981. He resigned as mayor in 1999, but was re-elected in 2004 and has served as mayor ever since. He resigned in 1999 to run for the Liberals in the provincial election that year in the riding of Fredericton North, losing to the Progressive Conservatives in a close race.

Woodside won re-election in 2012, defeating left-leaning professor Matthew Hayes 63% to 37%. Woodside won 10 of the city's 12 wards, while Hayes won the two downtown wards, an area that is now held by the Green Party in the provincial legislature. Woodside saw his strongest support on the more suburban north side of the Saint John River.

This election is expected to be much closer than in 2012, as Woodside's opponent is more credible in city councillor Michael O'Brien, who has been a councillor since 2001. O'Brien was previously an engineer and worked for NB Liquor for 30 years. He is known for promoting affordable housing and social causes.

Candidates for mayor

Fredericton's 12 wards saw a re-drawing of their boundaries, and so this year's council election will be fought on a new electoral map. Each ward elects one member to city council, which means there are 13 council members including the mayor. Wards 1, 4 and 5 will not have elections as the candidates in those wards were elected with no opposition. In Ward 4, a non incumbent was acclaimed, Eric Price, as its current councillor, Eric Megarity decided to run in Ward 6 instead, against sitting councillor Marilyn Kerton. New ward boundaries have meant one other sitting councillor has had to run in a different seat. In addition to Megarity's move, Ward 2 councillor Bruce Grandy is running in Ward 3, leaving that ward as an open seat. There will be two other open races as Ward 7 councillor Scott McConaghy and Ward 12 councillor Randy Dickinson are not running for re-election.
Fredericton's new ward map



Two-term incumbent mayor George LeBlanc will not be running for re-election, leaving the mayoral race in the Hub City wide open. LeBlanc's decision to not run has come after a failed bid to win the federal Liberal Party nomination in Moncton's riding in last year's federal election.  LeBlanc easily won re-election as mayor of the city in 2012, defeating former NDP candidate Carl Bainrbidge 87% to 13%. LeBlanc won all four wards in the city by over 85% of the vote.

The race to replace LeBlanc is between two sitting city councillors, at large city councillor Dawn Arnold and Ward 3 city councillor Brian Hicks. Hicks is a Liberal, having run in the 2014 provincial election in Moncton Northwest, losing to the PCs in a close race. He has served on city council since 1999, and was previously a businessman, having managed two inter-provincial trucking companies. Arnold was first elected to city council in the 2012 election, managing to top the poll in the race for at-large city councillor. Previously, she was the chair of the local “Frye Festival”, a local bilingual literary festival.

Candidates for mayor

In addition to the mayoral race, there are 10 seats up for grabs on Moncton's city council. Each of Moncton's four wards will elect two city councillors while the remaining two city councillors are elected city-wide on an at-large basis. With Arnold running for mayor, there will only be one incumbent (Pierre Boudreau) running for re-election as Moncton's at-large councillor. In addition to Boudreau, there are seven candidates running for the two at-large positions. With Brian Hicks running for mayor, and Ward 3's other councillor, Daniel Bourgeois not running for re-election, there will be an open race for that ward's two council seats. The incumbents in the remaining three wards in the city are all running for re-election.

Saint John


Saint John will also see an open race for mayor, as the city's current head, Mel Norton is retiring and will be running for leader of the province's Progressive Conservative Party. Norton had only been mayor of the city for one term, being first elected in the 2012 election, when he defeated the previous mayor, Ivan Court in a landslide, 76% to 15%. Norton easily won all four wards in the city, three of which with over three quarters of the vote. The only ward he did not break 75% was Ward 3, which covers the central part of the city, despite this being the ward he had previously represented on city council.

With Norton not running for re-election, five candidates have stepped up to replace him, Deputy Mayor Shelley Rinehart, councillor Bill Faren, former city councillor Patty Higgins, businessman Don Darling and fringe candidate Howard Yeomans.

The three main candidates for mayor
Rinehart was first elected to Saint John's city council in 2012, topping the polls for one of two at-large positions, becoming deputy mayor in the process. Prior to her election, she served as a business professor. She ran for the provincial Liberals in the 2014 Saint John East by-election, going down to defeat against the Progressive Conservative candidate, despite the Liberals having just won the seat two months earlier in the provincial election.  Farren is one of the two city councillors representing Ward 1, and was first elected to council in 2004.  Farren ran for the NDP in the 1999 provincial election in the riding of Saint John Lancaster, finishing third. Higgins sat on Saint John's council from 2008 to 2012, when she lost her Ward 2 seat by a narrow margin. While sitting as a city councillor, Higgins ran for the Green Party in the 2010 provincial election in the riding of Saint John Harbour, coming in last place. Darling is a local consultant and owns a small construction business, while Yeomans is a retiree who considers himself an “average citizen”.

Saint John's city council is elected the same way as Moncton's. There are four wards, which elect two councillors each, plus two councillors are elected at-large. The at-large councillor with the most votes becomes deputy mayor.

With Rinehart running for mayor, only one incumbent is running for re-election in the at-large race, Shirley McAlary. She is running against five other candidates for the two positions. Both incumbents from Wards 3 and 4 will be running for re-election as well. Meanwhile in Wards 1 and 2, only one incumbent is running for re-election. In Ward 1 only Greg Norton is running for re-election, as its other councillor, Bill Faren is running for mayor. In Ward 2 only John MacKenzie is running for re-election as Susan Fullerton is retiring.

Polls close at 8pm, Atlantic time or 7pm Eastern. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Manitoba election prediction: PC landslide

Seat prediction map
Manitobans are heading to the polls today in what will be an historic provincial election. If all the polls are correct, then voters are set to elect a Progressive Conservative government in a landslide election, kicking out the governing NDP, which has run the province since 1999, winning four straight majority governments in the process.

Polls are suggesting the PCs are hovering around 50% in the popular vote, which would be their highest vote share since 1910. If they get a few points higher than that, it would be their highest vote share in the province's history. This means that the Tories will be winning seats they have never won before, some of them quite easily, like Brandon East, Interlake and Selkirk. The NDP meanwhile is polling in the mid-20s, which would be their worst result since 1988. The Liberals on the other hand are just looking to gain back relevancy. After winning just one seat and 8% of the vote in 2011, they are now polling in the mid-teens, and could see their best result since 1995. The Greens are also polling well, averaging at 8%, which would be their best result ever.

This has been an election of awful leaders. NDP Premier Greg Selinger is coming off of last year's controversial leadership election, which followed a caucus revolt. Selinger won the election by a narrow result, thanks in part to the backing of major unions in the province. Not only that, Selinger is carrying 17 years of governing baggage behind him. The man who will become Premier, PC leader Brian Pallister is carrying baggage of his own. Many see him as being too right wing for the province, and is currently embroiled in a scandal in where it was discovered he had been to Costa Rica 15 times since 2012, and had lied about his travels. As for Liberal leader Rana Bokhari, she has run a lacklustre campaign which included an awful debate performance. At the beginning of the campaign, the Liberals had been polling ahead of the NDP for second place, but have now fallen considerably behind. The only leader that seems to be popular is Green Party head, James Beddome, who will definitely benefit from a high protest vote this election.



For my riding predictions, I have come up with a “rating” for each riding (safe, likely, lean or toss up), which rates how comfortable I am in my predictions for each seat. I've made these ratings by using recent regional poll numbers and comparing them to the last provincial election as well as an average result of the last provincial and federal elections (see maps below). In taking a look at both elections, I feel I have a way to identify any abnormal riding results, and account for this in my predictions. Where my numbers contradict each other in a riding, or where they show a close race, I've declared the seat a “toss up” and offered my gut prediction in that riding, based on its history and its candidates. I've also taken into consideration a couple of riding polls that have come out over the course of the campaign.

Overall, I am predicting a landslide Progressive Conservative victory, with the Tories winning 43 of the 57 seats in the legislature. This would be their biggest electoral win in the province's history. I am predicting that the governing NDP will be reduced to just 11 seats, which would be their worst election since 1966. And ss for the Liberals, I am predicting they will win three seats, their best total since 1995.

Polls are suggesting the Tories are winning about two-thirds of the vote in rural Manitoba, which means they will likely sweep all of rural southern Manitoba (including Brandon), leaving the NDP to their northern stronghold (though they could close Flin Flon to the Liberals). In Winnipeg, polls indicate that the Tories have at least a 15 point lead over the NDP, which will see the PCs win back their former suburban strongholds in the south and west ends, and eat into traditional NDP territory in the north and east of the city. This will reduce the NDP to their stronghold in the central and north central parts of the city. Meanwhile the Liberals should hold on to their lone seat of River Heights, and maybe pick up one or two more seats thanks to vote splits. The Greens may also win a seat or two. 

Here are my seat by seat ratings. Ridings are coloured in by how they voted in 2011. 

Seat by seat rating.

Ridings to watch

I've identified ten ridings as “toss ups” - ridings where my numbers have shown a close race. For each of these ridings I went with my gut (with detailed reasoning) as to how I believe they will go:

Concordia: This north Winnipeg riding is being defended by incumbent NDP MLA Matt Wiebe, who has represented the seat since 2009, when he took over the riding from its predecessor, former Premier Gary Doer. The seat has voted NDP in every election since it was created in 1981. Wiebe won the seat in 2011 by 35 points, and it is one of only five provincial ridings to go NDP in the last federal election. On paper it is a safe NDP seat, but with the amount of swing the polls are predicting, this riding could be in play. I'm still predicting the NDP to hold on though.

Elmwood: Right next door to Concordia is Elmwood, which is being defended by long-time NDP MLA Jim Maloway, who has held this seat from 1986 to 2008 and since 2011. This riding has also voted NDP (and its predecessor, the CCF) in every election since it was created in 1958. The result in the last election in this seat was relatively close though, with Maloway defeating his Tory opponent by 21 points. One glimmer of hope for the NDP is that they did win the transposed federal result here. However, my numbers show the PCs winning this seat in a close result, which is why I am predicting they will win it.

Flin Flon: This riding, located in northwestern Manitoba will see an interesting race, as its defending MLA Clarence Pettersen is running as an independent, after he lost the NDP nomination. Flin Flon has been an NDP seat since 1969, but Pettersen's candidacy is expected to split the NDP vote. In the federal election, the NDP won Flin Flon over the Liberals by a slim margin, suggesting the Liberals could be the party that has the best chance at benefiting from the split. The provincial Liberals are also polling better than the NDP in rural Manitoba. This is why I think they will win the seat.

Fort Garry-Riverview: The NDP won this central Winnipeg seat in 2011, but this should be a Green-PC race. Green Party leader James Beddome is running in this riding, and of the four party leaders, he has the highest approval ratings. The Greens are polling quite high in the city (around 10%) which is enough to put this riding in play. Without riding polling, Green Party targets are hard to predict, so it is hard to say whether Beddome will win this seat. I'd prefer to hedge my bets though, and go with the PCs here, who could come up the middle against a divided progressive vote.

Fort Rouge: This central Winnipeg seat is the riding where Liberal leader Rana Bokhari has chosen to run. A riding poll from the beginning of the campaign showed a three-way race with Bokhari ahead of the PC candidate by just two points. At that point in the campaign the Liberals were doing much better in province-wide and city-wide polling, but now they are doing much more poorly. It is entirely possible that this drop in Liberal fortunes has happened in Fort Rouge as well. The NDP is running a star candidate in First Nations musician Wab Kinew, and I predict that this split in the non-PC vote could cause the Tories to come up the middle and win this seat for the first time since 1969.

St. Johns: My numbers suggest a tight NDP win in this north-end riding, but what will make it hard for the New Democrats to keep this seat is the fact that incumbent MLA Gord Mackintosh has decided to retire, making this an open seat. This seat has been won by the NDP, and its predecessor the CCF in every election since it was created in 1958, and Mackintosh won the riding in 2011 by an impressive 44 point margin. Because of these factors, I believe the NDP will manage to hang on to this seat.

The Maples: This ethnically diverse riding in the northwest corner of Winnipeg has had a history of electing Liberals to the provincial government, but none since 1995. A rebound in Liberal fortunes suggests that they will be competitive there, but will it be enough for them to win? The NDP, which holds this riding, is hoping for a split in the anti-NDP vote in order to hold on to the riding. However, I believe the surging Tories will pick this up, thanks to a split in the anti-PC vote, winning this riding for the first time ever.

Thompson: Way up in the north of the province is the riding of Thompson, which has been held by the NDP's Steve Ashton (who had challenged NDP leader Greg Selinger in last year's leadership election, following a caucus revolt) since 1981. The riding has only voted for the Tories once in its existence, in 1977. However, my numbers suggest that this riding may be in play. It is hard to fathom the PCs winning this seat though, considering Ashton won it by 40 points in 2011, and his daughter, Nikki won Thompson in last year's federal election. Because of this, I think the NDP will hold on to the riding.

Tyndall Park: The Liberals came a close second in this northwest Winnipeg seat in the last election, losing to the NDP's Ted Marcelino by a 10 point margin. Because of this, my numbers are suggesting a narrow Liberal win here. Though, with their faltering campaign, it is not a given, and either the NDP or the PCs might be able to win it as a result. Though, I think I will trust my numbers and predict a Liberal win here.

Wolseley: This central Winnipeg seat saw the Green's best result in 2011, when their leader, James Beddome won 20% of the vote, coming in second place. Beddome chose to run in Fort Garry-Riverview though, but the Greens are still running a star candidate in environmentalist David Nickarz in this riding. NDP MLA Rob Altemeyer defeated Beddome by a 40 point margin in 2011, a difference that will be very hard for Nickarz to overcome. It is hard to predict insurgent Green campaigns, and so I will play it safe and predict an NDP hold here.


While losing will obviously be bad news for the NDP, it will mean finally getting rid of Selinger, and replacing him with a stronger leader. Also, beating out the Liberals for second place would be a minor victory, as we know from the results of the federal election, Manitobans would be quite willing to vote Liberal with the right leader, and a third place finish for the NDP would be a disaster for them.

As for the Tories, many people are suggesting it could be a “one and done” government for the party, due to weaknesses of Brian Pallister. He is being likened to former PC Premier Stirling Lyon who only lasted one term, before voters ditched his government in 1981. But, we may be getting ahead of ourselves here.

For the Liberals, they would be wise to ditch Bokhari as leader, though she will want to hang on if they make any seat gains. However, she will probably have to keep her seat first!

For those who want to follow the results, the polls close at 8pm Central Time, which is 9pm Eastern.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chicoutimi by-election charts and maps

Today, there is a provincial by-election in the riding of Chicoutimi in Quebec. The riding has been vacant since last October when PQ MNA Stéphane Bédard resigned his seat.

The riding of Chicoutimi, located in northeastern Quebec has been a PQ stronghold since 1973. It consists of the former city of Chicoutimi, which is now part of the city of Saguenay. The riding is one of the most nationalist in Quebec, voting yes in both the 1980 and 1995 referendums by large margins.

I have been quite busy lately, so I haven't had the chance to do my usual by-election profile. The riding should be an easy PQ hold though, so it shouldn't be that interesting of a race.  The PQ is running businesswoman Mireille Jean as their candidate. Polls show her as the clear front runner.

Despite not having the time to do a write up, I have made plenty of charts and a map...

As you can see, the PQ won most of the riding in 2014, though the Liberals were strong in the southern and eastern suburbs. The CAQ won one poll as did Saguenay councillor Marc Pettersen, who ran as an independent.

Here are the results by city council district for the last provincial and federal elections:

2014 provincial election in Chicoutimi - results by municipal district

2015 federal election in Chicoutimi - results by municipal district

The following chart shows the vote progression of the riding since 1989. The boundaries have not shifted since then.

Chicoutimi vote progression

And finally here is a list of the MNAs who have represented Chicoutimi since confederation:

Polls close at 8pm.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Swingometer based prediction of the Saskatchewan election

Overall prediction. Green = Saskatchewan Party; Orange = NDP
Voters in Saskatchewan are heading to the polls today in the 28th general election in the province's history. The governing conservative “Saskatchewan Party” (Sask Party for short), buoyed by the province's continued economic boom hopes to maintain their massive majority in the province's Legislative Assembly. The Sask Party, under the leadership of Premier Brad Wall has led the province since 2007, when they ousted the New Democratic Party (NDP), who had in turn ruled the province prior to that since 1991.


The last provincial election in 2011 saw the Saskatchewan Party win a landslide majority, winning 49 seats to the NDP's nine. The large thumping was largest landslide since 1982, and the Sask Party's 64% share of the popular vote was the highest in the province's history. The province had fallen in love with Brad Wall, and were enjoying the province's new found economic prosperity. Since then, Wall has become the poster boy of conservatism in Canada, especially since the defeat of Prime Minister Harper last fall, and the defeat of countless conservative provincial governments across the country. Every other province is now led by either a Liberal or an NDP Premier (though the Liberals in BC are notably right-of-centre).

Wall's popularity has made it difficult for the NDP to gain any traction in opposition. Their defeat in 2011 forced its leader, Dwain Lingenfelter to resign, which was helped by the fact that he lost his Regina Doulgas Park seat. Lingenfelter would be replaced as leader by Saskatoon Massey Place MLA Cam Broten, who has tried to renew the party, perhaps exemplified by a new swanky retro looking logo. However, the party has lingered in the polls in the mid 30s for much of the last four years, nowhere close to the Sask Party which has not dipped under 50% since the last election. All the polls now show the Sask Party to be leading the NDP at around 60% to 30%.

Since 2003, the province has only elected members of either the right wing Saskatchewan Party and the left wing NDP. The provincial Liberals have been nearly dead in the water since last winning a few seats in 1999. In the least election, the Liberals ran just nine candidates in the 58 seat legislature, and won a grand total of 0.6% of the vote. The Greens were the third party in that election. They ran a full slate of candidates, winning nearly 3% of the province wide vote. But for the Greens, Saskatchewan's brand of prairie populism is an anathema to the party.

While the Liberal brand is on the rise across the country, thanks to the federal Liberals still enjoying a honeymoon period, the provincial Liberals in Saskatchewan have failed to really capitalize on this. The party is running a full slate in this election, but most polls show them in mid-single digits, often behind the Greens. It is unlikely the Liberals will win a seat, though their leader, Darrin Lamoureux is running in a brand new riding and is not facing any incumbents. In all likelihood though, this election will see all of its seats go to either the Sask Party or the NDP. 

The Swingometer! Click to enlarge.

The Swingometer

Considering Saskatchewan is basically a two-party province, a fun way to make a rough prediction of the election outcome is to use what is called a “swingometrer”, something that viewers of British elections might be familiar with. A swingometer shows the uniform swing needed for a particular party to win a seat. My swingometer shows the two-party swing needed from the result of the 2011 election. The two-party swing is calculated as the average percentage point change each of the two parties has to shift in a particular seat for the opposing party to win it.

As fun as swingometers are, this election will likely not be all that fun to use it. All four polls that have come out just before the election show a very small swing in the NDP's favour from the result of the last election. The most NDP friendly of these polls was conducted by Mainstreet Research, which showed a 1.6% swing from the last election (it gave the NDP 31%, down 1% from the last election and the Saskatchewan Party 60%, down 4.3% from the 64.3% they won in 2011 – giving a swing to the NDP of 1.6%). This swing would net the NDP just one extra seat (Saskatoon Fairview), albeit just barely. The other three polls are less favourable to the NDP, showing even smaller swings in their direction. Insights West's poll showed the smallest swing, just 0.1% to the NDP. Except for the Mainstreet poll, none of the other pollsters show a swing that would be large enough for the NDP to gain any seats. Average the four polls, and the swingometer tells us that this election will produce an exact status quo result. Due to the recent seat redistribution, this would give the Saskatchewan Party two extra seats from their 2011 result (51 seats) and the NDP one extra seat (for a total of ten).

To win a majority government, the NDP would need a 17.4% uniform swing in their favour, which would give them the 31st riding on the swingometer, Saskatchewan Rivers. The NDP would need a 22.2% swing to win the riding of Yorkton, which is the province's best bellwether, which has voted for the winning party since 1964. For Brad Wall to go down in defeat, the NDP would need a uniform swing of 31.6% to claim his riding of Swift Current. All this is a moot though, as the NDP is not going to come close to winning a majority.

So, are we headed for the status quo? Maybe. But, the pollsters are showing different regional swings, which might put some seats in play. Also keeping in mind that the swingometer is a measure of uniform swing, and we all know that in reality, ridings do not swing in tandem. If we take a look at the regional breakdowns in the recent polls, we see that most of the swing in the NDP's favour is coming from Regina. An average of three regional polls suggests a 3.7% swing to the NDP in the province's capital. This would be enough to claim the riding of Regina Douglas Park (2.5% swing needed), the seat that former NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter lost to the Sask Party's Russ Marchuk in 2011. Marchuk will not be running for re-election, and redistribution has made the seat much more NDP friendly, so a win there would not be unexpected for the New Democrats.

Seats to watch

Outside of Regina Douglas Park, none of the regional polls suggest any other seats will change hands using the swingometer. Of course, that's not to say that none will. Here are my picks for seats that could change hands (other than Regina Douglas Park):

- Moose Jaw Wakamow: This riding was won by the Saskatchewan Party in 2011, but boundary changes have made it a notional NDP seat. The Sask Party has the incumbency advantage, and the NDP is not running the same candidate as they did in 2011, so this is a possible “pick-up” for the governing party, albeit just a notional one. The Saskatchewan Party only needs a 0.7% swing to win this seat.

- Saskatoon Fairview: Using the swingometer, this is the NDP's #1 target. They would only need a 1.6% swing to claim the seat. However, regional polls in Saskatoon suggest the New Democrats may not even see a swing in their favour in the city. Making it harder for the NDP is they are up against Jennifer Campeau, the minister of Central Services, who is the incumbent.

- Prince Albert Northcote: On the swingometer, this is the next seat on the NDP's target list after Saskatoon Fairview. The Sask Party won it in a close race in 2011. The NDP is not running the same candidate however, so it might be hard to defeat the Sask Party incumbent. The NDP needs a swing of 1.8% to win it.

- Regina Coronation Park: Two of the three regional polls in Regina give the NDP a large enough swing to pick up this seat, which the New Democrats would need 4.8% swing to pick up. They would have to defeat cabinet minister Mark Docherty to claim it though.

Wild card: Regina Pasqua: This brand new riding in the southwest corner of Regina is, on paper a somewhat safe Saskatchewan Party seat. The Sask Party would have won it with 56% of the vote in 2011 had the riding existed then. However as it is a new seat, they have no incumbent in the race. And this is the riding where Liberal leader Darrin Lamoureux is running. Considering the Liberals are polling in the upper lower digits in Regina though, it is unlikely that they will win it.


Using my swingometer, and looking at the regional swings in recent polls, I predict that the Saskatchewan Party will win a landslide majority, winning 50 seats to the NDP's 11. My swingometer-based prediction is that the NDP will win one more seat than they would have in 2011 on the new boundaries (Regina Douglas Park).

If the polls are correct, then we are looking at a very boring election, with very few – if any – ridings changing hands. Brad Wall, the most popular premier in the country is destined for his third straight majority. Polls close at 8pm Central Standard Time (10pm Eastern Daylight Time).

Seat by seat prediction (ridings coloured by how they would have voted in 2011 on the new boundaries):