Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Final Alberta election projection: NDP majority

Well, it is election day in Alberta, and if the polls are to be believed, the NDP is set to win an historic majority government in the province. Not only would it be the first time the NDP forms government in the province, but it would be the first time that any party other than the Tories have won since they first came to power in 1971. Is Alberta an NDP province? We're about to find out.

My projection comes late in the day, because I wanted to make sure there were no sudden last minute shifts in the voting intentions of the electorate. Last election, Forum Research released polls on both the Sunday and the Monday before the election, and together, they showed an eight-point swing from the Wildrose to the PCs in just one day of polling. Fast forward to election day, and the polls swung another 12 points, propelling the Tories to a surprise victory.

Once again, Forum Research polled the electorate on the day before the election (yesterday), and this time no major shift in the electorate was detected. Yesterday's poll showed that NDP support has continued to increase, topping at 45%. Both the Tories and Wildrose have polled about even for the last little while, and so the anti-NDP vote has not been able to coalesce behind either conservative party. Forum Research did detect a small swing from Wildrose to the PCs, which I have decided to extrapolate in this final projection.

For my final projection, I used yesterday's Forum's poll, EKOS's last poll from the weekend, and Mainstreet Technologies' massive poll released Friday. All three polls showed the NDP in the 44-45% range, Wildrose between 23% and 26% and the PCs between 21% and 23%. In my projection, I have made a rather bold assumption that the Tories will see a modest last minute swing in the polls, and will get over 27% of the vote. This will mostly come from would-be Wildrose supporters, switching their votes at the last minute. The NDP however will likely not see a last minute move from their voters, so they should still get somewhere in the mid 40s.

Of course, an NDP majority is a hugely unprecedented outcome, so other than knowing that the NDP will likely nearly sweep all of the Edmonton area, it is difficult to make an assumption about what other areas the NDP will do well. All the polls now show the NDP is ahead in nearly every region of the province, but how this will translate into seats is still a guessing game.

In Calgary, the NDP has built enough of a lead that it will be able to win a lot of ridings where they have been historically very weak. A lot of three way races will see the NDP coming up the middle with a relatively low share of the vote. Any last ditch effort from the Tories to stop the NDP will come in Calgary, where PC Premier Jim Prentice is from.

In the rest of Alberta, an area not known for its progressivism, the NDP still leads. It is unlikely that many of the truly rural seats in southern and central Alberta will go NDP, but it is becoming increasingly likely that the NDP will win many of the mid-sized cities across the province. Lethbridge at this point is a given for the NDP, but they could also win Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Grande Prairie. The NDP could also win a handful of seats in Northern Alberta, which are less rural and more remote.

As always with my final projections, I made a number of tweaks so that my model is as accurate as possible. I focused mostly on Calgary, where the most close races will be. I assumed any open Tory seat was probably toast for the PCs, the same with the Liberals. I also concentrated on the Edmonton suburbs, trying to match some of the ridings with a poll published a few weeks ago by Pantheon
Research showing the results by community.

The final result of my projection is an NDP majority of 50 seats. The Wildrose Party would form the opposition with 19 seats, despite finishing behind the Tories in the popular vote. The Tories would be close behind with 17 seats, but come up short of official opposition due to an inefficient vote distribution. The Liberals would win one seat, that of their leader David Swann, in Calgary-Mountain View.

In the Calgary area, my model shows the NDP winning 14 seats, the Tories nine, the Wildrose three and the Liberals one. The NDP would win seats across the city, as their rising tide will lift NDP boats in all corners of the city. The nine seats my model shows the PCs winning are located in the suburban part of the city, perhaps the area of the city least likely to go NDP. My model shows Calgary's two exurban seats wgoing Wildrose, while also winning a suburban seat in the south end of the city. The Liberals would retain their leader's seat, while a recent drop in Alberta Party fortunes has meant that their leader, Greg Clark is unlikely to win the riding of Calgary-Elbow, where he is running.

In Edmonton, my model shows the NDP winning all but two seats, but in reality could sweep all 26 ridings. The Tories would win the remaining two seats, Edmonton-McClung and Edmonton-South West. These two seats area is the wealthy southwest corner of thecity, so on paper it makes sense that they would eschew the NDP. However, most polls shows the NDP paradoxically leading among wealthy voters, so these two seats could just as easily go NDP. Plus, a poll in neighbouring Edmonton-Whitemud showed the NDP well ahead there, so don't be surprised if they do end up sweeping the city.

In remote Northern Alberta, there will be many three-way races that could easily go for the NDP, Wildrose or PCs. My model shows the NDP winning four seats, the Wildrose six and the PCs one. Wildrose was supposed to win the region back in 2012, but ended up with just one seat. This could happen again this time, but the party is buoyed by their leader running in Fort McMurray.

In Alberta's conservative southern region, my model shows the NDP winning the three urban seats (two in Lethbridge and one in Medicine Hat). It shows Wildrose winning the rest of the region, except for Banff-Cochrane, which could end up being a three way race. My model shows the PCs ahead there, but any of the three parties could win it.

Finally, in central Alberta, my model shows the NDP winning five seats; both Red Deer ridings and three more rural ridings. My model shows Wildrose retaining four of the five ridings they won in 2012, while it shows the Tories with four seats as well.

No matter what happens, it will be an exciting election night tonight. We'll find out for sure what the results will be when the polls close at 8pm Mountain Time (10pm Eastern).

Here are the projected results for each riding. Ridings are shaded by how they voted in 2012:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Prince Edward Island election today: Final projection

Today is election day in Prince Edward Island, which means my second and final projection of the campaign. Unfortunately since my last projection, there has only been one public poll released, and it is now over one week old. The poll, conducted by Corporate Research Associates (CRA) was published on April 24. It showed the governing Liberals in the lead with 44%, nine points ahead of the opposition Progressive Conservatives who were at 35%. The poll showed a narrowing of the race from numbers published a few days earlier by Abingdon Research. The CRA poll also showed the NDP at 15% and the Greens at 6%.

The CRA poll was commissioned by Charlottetown's The Guardian newspaper, which did not publish any tables. However, the corresponding article in The Guardian mentioned that the Liberals were well out in front in Kings County (58% to 31%), the traditionally more Tory-friendly part of the province. In Queens County, which contains half of the province's population, the race was much closer. The Liberals led there 39% to 37%. Numbers from Prince County were not published, but we can extrapolate from the other two county results that the Liberals lead there 43% to 35%.

While there has been no province-wide polling conducted in the last week of the campaign, we did get to see a riding poll from Kellys Cross-Cumberland, where Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker is running. The Greens commissioned Oraclepoll Research to poll the riding, and the numbers showed that Bevan-Baker was in the lead, with 38% of the vote, to Liberal incumbent Valerie Docherty's 34%. If the Greens do with the riding, it would be only the second time in PEI history where a party other than the Liberals or Tories won a seat.

Both the CRA poll and the Oralacle Research poll in Kellys Cross-Cumberland have been used to form my final projection. But due to the lack of polling and PEI's quirky nature, I had to adjust the numbers in a few ridings, specifically three ridings that are open seats where the Tories are running strong candidates, and a fourth where a floor-crosser is running for re-election. The three open seats with strong Tory candidacies are Charlottetown-Brighton where PC leader Rob Lantz is running, Borden-Kinkora and Rustico-Emerald. In the latter two ridings, the Tory candidates also ran in the 2011 election where they increased the PC share of the vote considerably over the provincial average, despite both losing to Liberal incumbents. Now, those Liberal incumbents are not running again, meaning the PC candidates will probably get even more of a boost in the polls. I also gave a boost to Hal Perry, the Liberal incumbent in Tignish-Palmer Road. Perry was elected as a Tory in 2011, but crossed the floor to the Liberals. I assume he will retain the 6% swing he got for the Tories from his personal popularity.

There are so many different local factors that will effect the races in each of Prince Edward Island's 27 electoral districts. These factors will make any prediction or projection of today's election very difficult, if any accuracy is to be had. It is hard to speculate which ridings will swing which way; we can only make assumptions based on known candidacy strengths. Last election, some ridings swung strongly Liberal, while others strongly PC. While many of these swings can be explained in hindsight, it would have been near impossible to accurately speculate on those swings before the election. Who would have predicted the Liberals to get a 24% two-party swing in their favour in Evangeline-Miscouhe, while the Tories got a 12% swing in Stratford-Kinlock and an 11% swing in Rustico-Emerald? Overall, between 2007 and 2011 there was only an overall average swing of 0.2% across the entire province, yet the Tories gained four seats from the Liberals, and the Liberals gained one back.

The 2007 to 2011 trend map shows how local factors are a more important indicator of how a riding will vote.

If the huge Liberal numbers in Kings County turn out to be true, th
en they should be able to win the two Tory seats in the county: Souris-Elmira and Georgetown-St. Peters. The only other Liberal gain I am projecting is in the riding of Tignish-Palmer Road, where the Liberal incumbent was elected as a Tory in 2011. With the PCs doing well in Queens County, my model shows them gaining four seats there from the Liberals: Tracadie-Hillsborough Park, Charlottetown-Brighton, West Royalty-Springvale and Rustico-Emerald. Additionally, my model shows the Tories picking up Borden-Kinkora (in Prince County) from the Liberals. Finally, my model shows the Greens winning their first ever seat in Kellys Cross-Cumberland. In total, this gives the Liberals 19 seats, the Tories 7 and the Greens 1. Despite polling in third, the NDP would be shutout, although they have an outside shot at a couple of Charlottetown seats.

Here are the projected results for each riding. Ridings are shaded by how they voted in 2012:

Polls close at 7pm Atlantic Time (6pm Eastern).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Alberta 2015 election projection #2

There are now only six days left until the Alberta election, and so it is time for another projection. Since my last projection, polls have continued to show the NDP and the Wildrose Party in a neck and neck race across the province, with the governing Progressive Conservatives in a not-too-distant third place. The NDP has continued to poll well, thanks to a strong debate performance by their leader, Rachel Notley and despite the typical red-baiting one normally sees when ever the NDP does well somewhere. The New Democrats have even held firm in the polls after coming out against the Keystone XL pipeline, something that is supported by a majority of Albertans. For Wildrose, despite the poor debate performance by their leader Brian Jean, they continue to benefit from the unpopularity of the governing Tories, as centre-right voters are still parking their votes with them.

For today's projection, I have used the most recent Forum and Mainstreet polls which were both released on April 23rd. The Forum Research poll showed the NDP with a large lead (38% to 25%) over the Wildrose Party, while Mainstreet showed Wildrose ahead by one point (32% to 31%). The Tories were in third place in both polls; Forum had them at 20% while Mainstreet had them at a more respectable 26%. The Liberals and Alberta Party were in single digits in both polls. I have given more weight to the Mainstreet poll, as it had a much larger sample size. I have ignored recent polls conducted by Pantheon Research and 1ABVote, due to suspect methodologies (in the case of 1ABVote) or unknown regional subsample totals (Pantheon).

Riding polls

There have been a plethora of riding polls conducted over the last two weeks, which I have added into my projection model. These riding polls paint a dim picture for the Tories, who have only led in one of these polls, Calgary-Elbow. In fact, Calgary-Elbow has been polled twice, and the Tories were only ahead in one of them.

In Calgary, polls have shown a three way race between Wildrose, the NDP and the Tories, and this shows up in the riding polls as well. The poll conducted in Calgary-Fort confirms the strong candidacy of former city councillor Joe Ceci for the NDP. Outside of that riding it is difficult to tell where exactly the NDP might win, as the riding polls are contradictory. The NDP had a good result in Calgary-Klein in 2012, but a poll there showed Wildrose ahead. Meanwhile in Calgary-Shaw, the NDP is ahead, despite the Wildrose Party winning it in 2012. This may be due to anger over the riding's incumbent, Jeff Wilson crossing the floor to the PCs. One other interesting riding that was polled is Calgary-Elbow, where the Alberta Party is running their leader, Greg Clark. Two polls conducted in that riding confirm what I expected in my projection: that Clark has a chance at winning it.

In Edmonton, riding polls have confirmed that the NDP is going to sweep nearly every seat in the city. The NDP is even leading in Edmonton-Whitemud, which was the best seat in the entire province for the PCs in 2012. However, an earlier poll conducted in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview showed NDP incumbent Deron Bilous with only a 25-point lead in his riding, against city councillor Tony Caterina of the Progressive Conservatives. My model had been showing a larger lead for Bilous, and following me entering massive NDP leads in other ridings in the city, my model has forced this 25 point lead to narrow. I'd take that with a grain of salt at this point.

Outside the two major cities, there have been few riding polls conducted. A poll from Fort McMurray-Conklin confirmed Wildrose leader Brian Jean had the lead there, although by a much closer margin than expected. However, Fort McMurray, due to its transient population and low voter turnout is notoriously difficult to poll. A poll was also conducted in Highwood, which was the riding of former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. Despite Smith switching to the Tories, and losing their party's nomination, voters there continue to support Wildrose. The Wildrose Party continues to lead in rural Alberta, and without more riding polls outside Edmonton and Calgary, one can only speculate which seats the Tories will hang on to or the NDP might win.

Liberals, others not running full slates

One other factor I had to consider in my projection model was that the Liberals, and the more minor parties are not running full slates. The Liberals, which ran a full slate in 2012, are only running in 56 of the 87 ridings in the province, while the Alberta Party is running 36 (down from 38 in 2012) and the Greens are running 24 (down from 25). Most of the ridings without Liberal candidates can be found in rural Alberta. Entering Liberal poll numbers into rural Alberta had condensed their vote into only the handful of seats they were running in. The result of this was that my projection showed the Liberals ahead in Red Deer-North and a close second in Lethbridge-East. Both of these outcomes are unlikely, so I reduced the Liberal numbers in rural Alberta based on their proportion of the 2012 vote that they won in the ridings they have candidates versus the ridings they do not. I did the same for “Other”, as my model was also showing inflated vote totals in some ridings.

Projection seat changes

Since my last projection, the Tories are up a net of five seats, the Wildrose Party is down four, the NDP and Liberals have no net change in seats, while the Alberta Party is down one. The Tories have made most of these gains in Calgary, at the expense of Wildrose (in Calgary-Hawkwood, Calgary-Lougheed Calgary-Northern Hills and Calgary-West). Due to a riding poll, they're now ahead in Calgary-Elbow (from the Alberta Party in last projection). My model also now shows them ahead in Edmonton-Mill Creek (from NDP). Also due to riding polls, the Tories are now behind in Edmonton-Whitemud (to NDP) and Stony Plain (to Wildrose). Riding polls were also the reason that the NDP is now up in Calgary-Fort and Calgary-Shaw (both from Wildrose) but are no longer ahead in Calgary-Klein (from Wildrose).

Despite a lead in the polls, the NDP vote distribution is heavily concentrated in Edmonton, which means they do not have a very efficient vote. 15 of the 24 ridings my model shows going NDP are in Edmonton. This is benefiting the Wildrose Party, whose lead in rural Alberta and strong support in Calgary has meant that they continue to have the advantage in the most seats. However, my numbers show that they are now five seats short of a majority.

Calgary remains the main battleground of the province. The Wildrose Party, the Tories and the NDP are in an effective three-way tie there, which means nearly every seat in the city is a toss-up that could go to any of those three parties (or the Liberals or Alberta Party in some seats). While the NDP is sweeping Edmonton and the Wildrose Party is sweeping rural Alberta, whoever can win the most seats Calgary will win the election. 

Here are the projected results for each riding. Ridings are shaded by how they voted in 2012:


Friday, April 24, 2015

Meanwhile in PEI: 2015 election projection #1

While the Alberta election campaign continues to excite politicos, there is another province in the country holding an election: Prince Edward Island. Islanders head to the polls on May 4th, the day before the Alberta election. And unlike Alberta, most believe the election in P.E.I. is a foregone conclusion. However, with just one poll released during the campaign so far, we are still in the dark as to what exactly is happening there.

Presently, the Prince Edward Island Liberal Party is enjoying a great deal of support in the province. It has been in power since 2007, winning landslide majorities in both the 2007 and 2011 elections under the leadership of Robert Ghiz. Last November, Ghiz unexpectedly announced he'd be resigning as Premier, effective in February. Despite the large lead in the polls the Liberals have enjoyed, just one candidate ran to replace Ghiz. University of Prince Edward Island president Wade MacLauchlan threw his hat in the ring, and no one, not even a sitting MLA, ended up running against him, due to his wide support from caucus and from the federal Liberals' three Members of Parliament. MacLauchlan became Premier on February 23rd, and also became the first openly gay man to become a Premier in Canada.

Following MacLauchlan's ascension in February, the Liberals immediately received a large boost in the polls. A Corporate Research Associates (CRA) poll conducted at the time indicated that the Liberals were at 58%, the highest they have been at since the 2011 election, where they won 51% of the popular vote and 22 seats. The opposition Tories were at 26% in the poll, a 14-point drop since 2011, when they won five seats. The seat-less NDP polled at 12%, an increase nine points since 2011, but a significant drop from where they were polling at in the 2012-2013 period, where they peaked at 32%. The Greens were at 4% in the poll, which is what they won in 2011 (ahead of the NDP).

The only pollreleased during the campaign so far was conducted by Abingdon Research. Released Tuesday, it showed a drop in Liberal support (43%), and an increase in NDP (18%) and Green (12%) support. The Tories were at 27% in the poll, a one-point increase since the CRA poll in February. It was this poll that formed the basis of today's projection.

There were no regional breakdowns in the poll, so I just extrapolated the poll's numbers across the whole province, based on the a proportional swing from the 2011 election. The NDP is running a full slate of 27 candidates for the first time since 2000, so for the ridings where they did not run in 2011, I projected how it would have voted based on how the NDP did in those areas in the federal election. I did the same for the Green Party, which also did not run a full slate in 2011 (and is running in all but two seats this election). Additionally, I boosted the support of the four party leaders in their ridings, as none of them led their respective parties in 2011. Additionally, I removed some support for parties in ridings where their leaders ran in 2011, based on what result I believe an average candidate would have received there.

The result of my projection is that the Liberals would gain two seats at the expense of the Tories. Despite their strong polling numbers, neither the Greens nor the NDP would win any seats, according to my model. A huge caveat to remember is that elections in PEI are very localized, due to the small size of the ridings, and the province's political traditions. A proportional swing model alone cannot reflect the local races on the ground.
While the Liberals are polling below their 2011 levels, the drop in Tory support has my model showing them gaining both Souris-Elmira and Tignish-Palmer Road. Despite the fact that the Liberals are in landslide territory (which is typical for PEI elections), they would only win a majority of votes in five ridings, including York-Oyster Bed, the riding where Wade MacLauchlan is running in.

My model shows the Tories reduced to just three seats: Georgetown-St. Peters, Stratford-Kinlock and Morell-Mermaid. All three of those seats are traditionally safe Tory seats. The Liberals have only won one of those seats (Stratford-Kinlock in 2007) since their creations in 1996. New Tory leader Rob Lantz is looking to enter the legislature by running in Charlottetown-Brighton, but my model shows him in 4th! I admit this is probably too low for the former city councillor.

For the Greens, they are concentrating all of their resources in trying to elect their leader Peter Bevan-Baker in the riding of Kellys Cross-Cumberland. This sometimes successful strategy helped get federal Green leader Elizabeth May elected in her riding, as well as get New Brunswick Green leader David Coon elected in his riding in last year's provincial election there. This may prove successful; my model has him in a close race against the Liberals.

For the NDP, they have not won a seat on the island since 1996, when then-leader Herb Dickieson won the Prince County seat of West Point-Bloomfield. Their new leader Michael Redmond chose to run in Kings County's Montague-Kilmuir riding, a district that the NDP has not run in since 2003 (where they won just 30 votes). The NDP's best shot at a seat is in the capital, where my model has them in a close race in Charlottetown-Lewis Point, behind the Liberals.

Here are the projected results for each riding. Ridings are shaded by how they voted in 2011:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Pas, Manitoba provincial by-election today

While the Alberta and PEI provincial election campaigns are well under way, voters in the Manitoba riding of The Pas are heading to the polls today in a provincial by-election. The northern Manitoba riding has been vacant for over 11 months, following the resignation of New Democrat Frank Whitehead who resigned for health reasons. Whitehead himself was first elected in a by-election in 2009.

The Pas is considered a safe riding for the NDP. Whitehead won both of his elections (2009 by-election and 2011 provincial election) with three-quarters of the vote. The seat has also been held by the NDP continuously since 1969. NDP strength in the riding is helped by its large Aboriginal population, as about two-thirds of the riding's population is First Nations. Whitehead himself was chief of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation before being elected.

The Greg Selinger-led NDP government in Manitoba has had a habit of waiting as long as possible to call provincial by-elections. The last provincial by-elections held last year saw the riding of Morris also go vacant for over 11 months. Legally, the Premier is compelled to call by-elections within 12 months of a seat becoming vacant, and Selinger waited as long as possible for both Morris and now The Pas. The fact that The Pas is considered a safe seat did nothing to speed the process. To Selinger's credit, he was involved in a challenge to his leadership race for much of the last year, which concluded with him narrowly winning a leadership election last month.


The riding of The Pas is located in Northern Manitoba and is geographically immense. It runs from the Saskatchewan border in the west, almost to the Ontario border in the east. In the south, the riding extends to the northern shores of Lake Winnipeg, and in the north it goes as far as Cross Lake. The remote Town of The Pas (pronounced “Paw”) is the largest community in the riding, located close to the Saskatchewan border. Most of the population of the riding lives in the western part of the riding, located close to The Pas. Other communities in this area include Wanless, Cormorant, Moose Lake, Carrot Valley and the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. The eastern half of the riding includes the remote Aboriginal communities of Cross Lake and Norway House. About a quarter of the population lives within the Town of The Pas itself.


With about two thirds of the riding being First Nations, the riding is the second most Aboriginal riding in Manitoba, and most of the Aboriginal population is Cree. While the Town of The Pas and the surrounding area (Carrot Valley, Clearwater Lake area, Wanless) is a majority White, Aboriginals still make up a sizable percentage in the region. 47% of the Town of The Pas is Aboriginal, while the surrounding Rural Municipality of Kelsey is 44% Aboriginal. This part of the riding is the only area with a significant White population. The rest of the riding is dotted with Cree-majority communities. Much of the White population in the riding is of British Isles, French and Ukrainian ancestry. Catholicism and Anglicanism are the main religions. Despite the French pronunciation of the riding's name, French is not the first language of very many people in the riding. After English, Cree is the second most widely-spoken language.


The Pas has existed as a riding since Manitoba's northern boundary was extended northward in 1912. The NDP and its predecessor the CCF has held the riding for half of its history. In 1912, a by-election was held held in the newly annexed territory with Conservative Robert Orok becoming its first MLA. He held the riding until the Liberals swept into power in 1915. In 1922, the United Farmers of Manitoba won the provincial election, and the leader-less party asked the seat-less John Bracken to lead them in the legislature. At the time, due to its remoteness, The Pas held its elections weeks after the general election. This allowed Bracken to run for a seat in the Assembly and be Premier without having had to run in the general election. When Bracken resigned to enter federal politics in 1943, the CCF won the seat in a by-election. The Liberals took back the riding when they won the 1949 election, and the Tories won it back when they won in 1958. When the NDP won their first ever election in the province in 1969, they won The Pas and have held the riding ever since. Since then, the NDP nearly lost the seat in 1990 and in 1999, but have won the seat easily the rest of the time.


1) R.D. Orok, Cons. (1912-1915)
2) E. Brown, Liberal (1915-1922)
3) Jn. Bracken, Prog./Liberal-Prog. (1922-1943)
4) B. Richards, C.C.F./Ind. C.C.F. (1943-1949)
5) F.L. Jobin, Liberal-Prog. (1949-1958)
6) J.B. Carroll, Prog. Cons. (1958-1969)
7) S.R. McBryde, N.D.P. (1969-1977)
8) H.M. Harapiak, N.D.P. (1977-1990)
9) Oscar Lathlin, N.D.P. (1990-2008)
10) F. Whitehead, N.D.P. (2009-2014)

Source: Elections Manitoba

Political geography

In both federal and provincial elections, the main political cleavage in the riding is usually between Aboriginal voters and White voters. First Nations communities almost always vote NDP on the provincial level. Federally, some Aboriginal communities occasionally back the Liberals, as was the case in 1997, 2004 and 2006. The Town of The Pas usually always backs the NDP, but some of the surrounding communities are often prone to backing the Tories. In the 2011 provincial election, the Tories won just one poll (near Clearwater Lake), while every other poll was won by the NDP. In most First Nations communities the NDP won over 90% of the vote, while they performed more poorly in Whiter communities. Even in the White majority communities, the NDP still won a majority of the vote in every community except for the Clearwater Lake area. The best community for the NDP was Cross Lake, where they won 96% of the vote. The Liberals were a non factor in 2011 across the riding, not winning more than 4% of the vote in any community.

2011 provincial election results by community


The NDP has the biggest name of the ballot of the three candidates running. They are running Amanda Lathlin, the daughter of former MLA and cabinet minister Oscar Lathlin. She defeated former The Pas mayor Al McLaughlin for the NDP nomination that was decided by a coin toss after a tie vote (the disgruntled McLaughlin is considering backing another party in the race). The Tories are running former Moose Lake band councillor and social worker Jacob Nasekapow. The Liberals, who are still in the political wilderness in Manitoba (but seeing a small resurgence) are running Inez Vystrcil-Spence, the health director for Manitoba Keewatinkowi Okimakanak. She is being criticized as she is the only candidate who does not live in the riding. All three candidates have Cree ancestry. Candidate strength will play a large factor in who wins the race, as the riding does not always follow province wide voting trends.

The recent NDP leadership race in Manitoba was hugely divisive, and may have badly hurt the reputation of the New Democrats, which was already languishing in the polls. The party had a chance at renewal, but narrowly (re)-elected Selinger when his popularity among Manitobans was at an all time low. Could this hurt the NDP in one of its safest seats? The NDP has had some close calls here in the past. While the NDP won a majority government in 1999, it almost lost this seat to the Tories. If First Nations voters don't come out to vote for the NDP, or switch to the Tories, it could mean a surprise victory for the PCs, and a huge blow for the NDP. Having said that, the safe bet is to pick the NDP to win. Owing to the highly contested nomination race, the NDP has sold a lot of memberships in the riding, and it is now the riding with the most NDP members in the entire province (it had the most delegates in the NDP leadership race). While the riding backed one of Selinger's opponents in the leadership election, it would still be a huge surprise if the Tories won it. Another factor in the riding is it had the lowest voter turnout out of any riding in 2011 (meaning a lot of voters, especially First Nations voters did note vote). Despite this, the NDP still won the seat by a large margin. They can afford the kind of depressed turnout that comes with by-elections. While I still think the NDP will win, I believe it will be much closer than the landslide that happened in the provincial election. We'll know for sure when the polls close at 8:00pm tonight (9:00pm Eastern).

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2015 Alberta election projection #1 (What's going on in Alberta?)

What's going on in Alberta? This is the question asked by anyone who is paying attention to the provincial election campaign there. After just three years since the last election, Albertans will once again be heading to the polls, this time on May 5th. And just like last election, polls are suggesting the governing Progressive Conservative Party (which has ruled the province continuously since 1971) are in trouble of losing. However, the twist this time is, the Tories are now in third place in the polls, behind the right wing Wildrose Party and the left wing New Democratic Party. Yes, you read that correctly. The PC Party is behind the NDP. In Alberta. Alberta is easily Canada's most conservative province, or at least has that reputation, so the surge of the social democratic NDP has come as quite the surprise by anyone who follows Alberta politics.


In 2012, every single opinion poll conducted during the election campaign predicted a Wildrose victory. Most polls showed the Wildrose Party with a comfortable 5-10 point lead over the Progressive Conservatives during this time. However, it was the Tories that ended up winning the election by 10 points. Many blamed the polling industry for this blunder, but there is evidence to suggest that undecideds broke almost unanimously to the Tories at the last minute to stop the Wildrose Party, who many moderate voters considered to be too extreme. The PC Party, under leader Alison Redford was a safe bet for moderates, as she was considered to be a Red Tory. In the end, the Tories won a comfortable majority, winning 61 seats in the 87 seat legislature. Wildrose formed the official opposition, winning 17 seats.

Redford's Premiership was marred by scandal and controversy, and she would eventually resign. She would later be replaced as leader by former MP Jim Prentice, who was also perceived as a moderate. He became Premier in September, and quickly became quite popular in the province. The Tories had been trailing the Wildrose Party badly throughout the summer of 2014, but when Prentice became Premier, the Tories once again vaulted into first place in the polls. Many within the Wildrose Party began to ponder their existence, as opposing the Tories from the right began to be thought of as an exercise in futility. On December 17th, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and eight other MLAs crossed the floor to the join with the Progressive Conservatives. The now leaderless Wildrose Party was left with a rump of just five seats.

Over winter, the Wildrose Party fell to fourth place in public opinion polls, behind the surging Tories, the Liberals and the NDP. The time seemed right for Prentice to call an election, a year ahead of schedule, with his party looking seemingly invincible. Calling an early election is not always a popular decision, in Canadian politics. The best example of voter outrage over an early election was the 1990 Ontario election, which booted out the governing Liberal government, replacing them with the NDP after an unexpected surge in support. Sound familiar? Prentice wanted to call the election to give legitimacy to his unpopular austerity budget. If he was counting on the invincibility of his party, which has now ruled the province for 44 years, he may have taken his province's voters for granted.

With the Tory vote in Alberta now crumbling, left of centre voters have gone to the NDP, while right of centre voters have gone (back?) to supporting Wildrose. The NDP elected popular MLA Rachel Notley as leader in October. Notley is the daughter of long-time provincial NDP leader Grant Notley, who was briefly leader of the opposition in Alberta in the 1980s until his untimely death in 1984. The Wildrose Party elected Brian Jean as its leader in March. Jean is a former back bench Conservative MP, who represented the Fort McMurray area from 2004 until resigning his seat in January 2014. On the same day Jean was elected as leader, former leader Danielle Smith lost her bid to win the Tory nomination in her seat, ending what may have been a very promising political career for her.


And so with the election on the horizon, it is time for my first attempt at doing a seat projection for this race. I could not believe the first few polls that came out earlier this month, showing the surging NDP. So, I have had to wait until I could convince myself they were real, which has been helped by a succession of polls confirming that the “orange wave” is indeed true. For this first projection, I used two recent polls, one published by Forum Research and one by Mainstreet Technologies. Both polls show the Wildrose Party in a statistical tie with the NDP. Forum has Wildrose at 30% with the NDP at 28%, while Mainstreet has Wildrose at 31% and the NDP at 30%. Forum has the Tories at 27% while Mainstreet has them at just 24%. The Liberals, which may not even run in half of the ridings are still holding steady at 12% and 10% respectively, about what they won last election. 


For this projection, I used the regional numbers from both polls, and inputted them into my traditional proportional swing model to see how each seat would go based on the results of the 2012 election. I also made some tweaks in ridings where certain party leaders ran in 2012 and where certain party leaders are running this time. For example, I reduced Wildrose support in the riding of Highwood, where former leader Danielle Smith ran in 2012, while I increased their support in Fort McMurray-Conklin where their current leader Brian Jean is running. I did not do this where a current party leader ran in the same riding as 2012. I plan on making further individual riding tweaks over the next few weeks, depending on what ridings the parties are targeting where they may not have done as well in 2012 (one possible example is Calgary-Fort, where the NDP is running a former city councillor).

My current projection assumes a full slate of candidates for all four major parties. However, it has become evident that the Liberals will not be running a full slate of candidates, so expect different numbers for the Liberals in my next projection. Additionally, the centrist Alberta Party will be included in my charts if they end up running in more than 50% of the ridings.


While Wildrose and the NDP are in a statistical tie, the electoral map strongly favours Wildrose. The NDP vote is heavily concentrated in urban areas, especially in inner-city Edmonton, where my model shows them winning many seats with over 70% of the vote. Meanwhile, Wildrose support is evenly spread out across rural Alberta, but winning no seats with more than 60% of the vote.

My model currently shows Wildrose winning almost every seat in rural Alberta, as well as winning most seats in Calgary, due to heavy vote splitting between the other three parties. In Edmonton however, the strength of the NDP and residual PC strength has shutout the Wildrose Party. Overall my model has Wildrose winning 43 seats, one shy of a majority. In 2012, Wildrose had difficulty breaking through into urban areas, but may have more success this time due to vote splitting, even if they win a similar share of the vote (which is where they are at now).

For the NDP, my model has that party nearly sweeping Edmonton, as well as making inroads into other urban areas across the province. This includes three seats in Calgary, both Lethbridge seats and one Red Deer seat. Additionally, my model has them winning three rural ridings. However, take this with a grain of salt, as it is going to be a very difficult task guessing where the NDP can win in rural Alberta, if at all. As we have increasingly seen in the other Western Provinces, there is a huge urban-rural divide with NDP votes. This may be true in Alberta as well. Both Calgary and Edmonton have progressive leaning mayors, so it is not as hard to see the NDP win seats in either city, but winning seats in very conservative rural Alberta probably wont happen. In total, my model shows the NDP winning 24 seats.

The Tories have to hope for another last minute surge in support if they have any chance of salvaging this election. Being in third place will make the choice for those undecided voters harder, though. It is one thing to vote for a second place party to stop the first place party, but how will these last minute undecided voters react if the Tories are in third? There are surely many moderates who will hold their noses and vote PC to stop Wildrose and NDP, but there will likely be other moderates who will vote NDP to stop Wildrose and vice versa. For the Tories, my model shows them hanging on to just 16 seats, most in suburban Edmonton, where neither the NDP nor Wildrose are popular.

For the Liberals, the rising support of the NDP, as well as not running a full slate will end up hurting the party. They may be polling at 10-12% now, but they will likely win less than 10% on election day again, the way things are going. My model shows them retaining the three seats they currently hold in Calgary, while losing both of their Edmonton seats to rising NDP. Edmonton Centre will be the wild card for the Liberals, as their candidate (MLA Laurie Blakeman) received the endorsement from the Alberta Party and the Greens. Would-be NDP voters may be attracted to her for rallying the other progressive parties behind her, and vote for her.

Presently I have “other” winning one seat. This is the riding of Calgary-Elbow, where Alberta Party leader Greg Clark is running. This seat held a by-election in October where Clark won 27% of the vote, just 800 votes behind the Tory candidate, Gordon Dicks, who won 33%. With the Tories much lower in the polls, it stands to reason that Clark could now win this seat, even if he only wins 27% again. In 2012, the Alberta Party won just 1.3% of the vote, but saw respectable results in a handful of seats. Forum has them at 2% while Mainstreet has them at 5%, so they are polling better now.

Here are the projected results for each riding. Ridings are shaded by how they voted in 2012:


Monday, March 9, 2015

Provincial by-election in Richelieu, Quebec today

Voters in the Quebec riding of Richelieu head to the polls today to elect a new Member of the Quebec National Assembly in a provincial by-election. The riding has been sitting vacant since September, when its MNA, Elaine Zakaib resigned to work as chief of restructuring and vice president of strategy for the struggling women's clothing chain, Jacob (which would later go bankrupt). Zakaib, a member of the Parti Quebecois was first elected in the 2012 election, and was re-elected in 2014.

Richelieu is anchored by the city of Sorel-Tracy, whose 35,000 inhabitants make up two-thirds of the riding's population. It is located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, between Montreal and Trois-Rivieres. The riding contains all of the Pierre-De Saurel Regional County Municipality plus four rural municipalities in Les Maskoutains Regional County Municipality. Roughly speaking, the riding takes in the lower valleys of the Richelieu and Yamaska Rivers, and the area between them.


Richelieu's demographics is that of a typical homogeneous French Canadian riding. It has very few immigrants, and is overwhelmingly Francophone, with 98% of its inhabitants citing French as their mother tongue. The riding is 98% White, and is 91% Catholic (with 7% being irreligious). Outside of the dominant French Canadian ancestry, about 2% of the riding is of Aboriginal ancestry, and at least 3% have Irish ancestry. Manufacturing is the main industry in the riding, employing nearly 20% of the work force. The riding is slightly poorer than the provincial average. The median income is $26,000, while the provincial median is $28,000. The average income in Richelieu is $32,000, compared to $36,000 in the whole of Quebec.


Richelieu has existed as a riding since confederation, except for a brief period during World War II when it was part of Richelieu-Vercheres. The riding voted mostly Conservative in the 19th Century, but then backed the Liberals continuously until 1948. Between 1948 and the rise of the PQ in 1976, the riding flipped back and forth between the Liberals and the conservative Union Nationale party. The PQ has held the riding almost continuously since then, except for the period between 1985 and 1994 when the Liberals had last held it. Despite being a PQ stronghold, the PQ has not been able win a majority of the votes here since 1998. Since then, the anti-PQ vote has been split between the Liberals and the ADQ/CAQ. In 2007, the ADQ came within 2000 votes of winning the riding, but fell back to a distant third in 2008, when the Liberals finished second, 3000 votes behind the PQ's Sylvain Simard. Zakaib's first win in 2012 was more comfortable, as she defeated the CAQ candidate by 3,600 votes. Her win in 2014 was another 3,600 vote margin against the CAQ candidate. However, both her and the CAQ lost a significant chunk of votes to the Liberals, who finished a relatively close second place, 4000 votes behind Zakaib.


1) Jos. Beaudreau, Cons. (1867-1869)
2) Pierre Gelinas, Cons. (1969-1871)
3) J.-A. Dorion, Cons. (1871-1875)
4) Michel Mathieu, Cons. (1875-1881)
5) Leon Leduc, Cons. (1881-1886)
6) L.-P-.P. Cardin, Liberal (1886-1892)
7) Louis Lacouture, Cons. (1892-1897)
*) L.-P.-P. Cardin, Liberal (1897-1912) 2nd time
8) M.-L. Peloquin, Liberal (1912-1923)
9) J.-B. Lafreniere, Liberal (1923-1929)
10) Avilla Turoctt, Liberal (1929-1939)
11) Felix Messier, Liberal (1939-1942)
12) J.-W. Robidoux, Liberal (1942-1948)
13) Bernard Gagne, U.N. (1948-1952)
14) Gerard Cournoyer, Liberal (1952-1956)
*) Bernard Gagne, UN (1956-1960) 2nd time
*) Gerard Cournoyer, Liberal (1960-1966) 2nd time
15) Maurice Martel, U.N. (1966-1970)
16) Claude Simard, Liberal (1970-1976)
*) Maurice Martel, P.Q. (1976-1985) 2nd time
17) Albert Khelfa, Liberal (1985-1994)
18) Sylvain Simard, P.Q. (1994-2012)
19) Ms. Elaine Zakaib, P.Q. (2012-2014)

Political geography

Richelieu is located in Quebec's sovereigntist heartland, an area north of Montreal that is one of the most reliably separatist parts of the province. Despite the orange wave of the 2011 federal election, the Richelieu area was still one of the few areas in the province to back the Bloc Quebecois. Before 2011, every federal riding along the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Trois-Rivieres voted for the Bloc, going back as far as their first election in 1993. In the 1980s the area backed Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives, which had the support of Quebec nationalists. Federally, the Richelieu area has not gone Liberal since 1980.

While Richelieu is a very homogenous riding, the fact that all three of the major parties did well in the 2014 election, revealed some political cleavages in the riding. The most noticeable cleavage is the urban-rural split. The PQ did slightly better in Sorel-Tracy than in the rural parts of the riding, while the centre-right CAQ party did slightly better in rural Richelieu. The Liberal's urban and rural numbers were about even, but most of their rural support was concentrated in the municipalities of Saint-Gerard-Majella, Saint-David and Yamaska in the eastern part of the riding. Saint-Gerard-Majella was the best municipality for the Liberals, where they won 49% of the vote. The central part of the riding was the best area for the CAQ. They won over 40% of the vote in the three rural municipalities there, Saint-Robert, Saint-Aime and Saint-Marcel-de-Richelieu. The strongest area for the PQ was also in the central part of the riding. The village of Massueville gave 45% of the vote to Zakaib, despite being surrounded by the Municipality of Saint-Aime, which went CAQ.

Historically, the rural parts of the riding have been less prone to support sovereigntist parties than in the urban centre of Sorel-Tracy. In 2008, much of the rural part of the riding went to the Liberals, but a lot of this vote had shifted to the CAQ in 2012. Federally, the BQ normally sweeps almost every poll in the riding. The 2011 federal election created a weird map, where the NDP won some suburban polls in Sorel-Tracy, as well as the village of Massueville, which was the PQ's best area in the last provincial election. The NDP also won a scattering of rural polls across Richelieu, and won all the Richelieu polls in the federal riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot (most of Richelieu is in the federal riding of Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet--Becancour). Most of the riding still backed the Bloc, however. Also of note was the municipality of Saint-Gerard-Majella, which may be the most conservative part of the riding. Not only was it the provincial Liberal's best poll in 2014, its lone poll was the only poll in Richelieu to vote Conservative in the 2011 federal election, and it also voted Conservative in 2006.

2014 election day results by municipality (or former municipality)


Running to replace Zakaib for the PQ is Sylvain Rochon, a former journalist who had also served as her adviser. Running for the CAQ is businessman Jean-Bernard Emond, the Liberals are running financial adviser Benoit Theroux and QS is running professor Marie-Eve Mathieu. The sovereigntist Option Nationale party is running their leader, Sol Zanetti, though that party has been irrelevant since the 2012 election. The Greens, Conservatives and Equipe Aotonomiste are also running candidates.

Province-wide polling in Quebec has been fairly constant since the provincial election last Spring. The Liberals are polling a little bit worse than the 42% they won in 2014 (they are now in the high 30s), while the PQ and CAQ are about even in the polls, at about the mid-20s, which is around what they won last Spring. Quebec Solidaire seems to have benefited the most from the Liberal dip in the polls, and are up into the low-teens from the 8% they won in 2014. With the little volatility in the polls, it stands to reason that the PQ's Sylvain Rochon should be able to win today's by-election. In 2014, the CAQ candidate finished 12 points behind Zakaib, and without a CAQ surge, I do not think they will be able to make up the difference. For what it's worth, SorelTracy Magazine conducted a poll last month showing Rochon with a 14 point lead over Emond (41 % to 27%). Theroux was at 20%. 

Polls close at 8pm.