Sunday, November 27, 2011

Newfoundland and Labrador provincial election, 2011 - Results and analysis

Results by riding
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians went to the polls last month to elect their 47th House of Assembly. The race would be a foregone conclusion from the offset, but despite that where the chips were to lie was harder to predict.

Going into the election, the Tories had a large lead in the polls, so it was obvious they were headed towards a majority government. However, the real question was who was going to form the Official Opposition. The NDP consistently polled in 2nd place, but having never formed the Official Opposition before, and only being strong in a small number of ridings, it was hard to predict whether they would be able to translate this support into seats. And the Liberals, traditionally the governing party in the province were polling in third place. Would they be able to hold on to their seats to form the Official Opposition?

When the ballots were counted, the Tories, under leader Kathy Dunderdale did indeed win a majority government. She became the first woman leader to win an election in the province's history. The party won 56% of the vote, winning 37 of the province's 48 seats. While rare in Canadian elections, this majority of votes the Tories won in was actually a large decrease from the 69% (a record in Canada) the party won under Premier Danny Williams 4 years before. While the NDP won the 2nd most amount of votes (25%), they were not able to concentrate their support in enough seats to form the Official Opposition. They did win an historic 5 seats, but the Liberals were more efficient with their votes, getting the remaining 6 seats with just 19% of the vote. The Liberals actually doubled their seat totals from 2007, despite winning less votes province-wide.

Progressive Conservative
Kathy Dunderdale
Kevin Aylward
Lorraine Michael

In the end, the polls were semi-accurate. The final three polls released before the election showed the Tories in the mid to high 50s, which is what they got. They did overestimate the NDP substantially however. Two polls had them winning 33%. Corporate Research was right on money though, giving the New Democrats 25%. Meanwhile, the Liberals did much better than the polls suggested. Polls pegged them in the mid-teens, but they ended up at 19%. Perhaps at the last minute, voters switched from the NDP to the Liberals?

The election showed an obvious east-west divide in the province- at least when it comes to which opposition party is favoured. The east liked the NDP second best, and is where 3 of the party's new 4 seats came from (all in St. John's actually). Four of the party's 5 seats were won in the St. John's area. The Liberals however were 2nd best in the west, where they picked up 2 new seats. Four of their six seats were won on the west coast of the province, and the other 2 were won in Labrador, an area with less voters per seat. While the Liberals did better than expected, their leader, Kevin Aylard did lose the seat he was running in.

Where I went wrong

Due to the fact that the NDP was in uncharted territory in this election, because it had never received even close to a quarter of the votes before, this election was hard to predict. Also throw in the fact the Liberals did better than expected. I'm glad I did do some reading up on the election though, to see where the NDP's best chances were, as it helped my final prediction. I did get 8 seats wrong, meaning my accuracy was only 83%. This was my worst prediction of all the provincial elections this Fall. Here are the seats that I got wrong:

Bay of Islands
2011 was a rematch in this riding from the previous election. Former MHA Eddie Joyce of the Liberals was once again up against incumbent Terry Loder of the Tories. Only 400 votes separated them in the last election. Joyce represented this seat for 9 years before being defeated by Loder in 2007. I figured with the Liberals down, they would lose this seat again, but the Liberals won the riding back by over 700 votes. Bay of Islands is just one example of the Liberals bouncing back on the west coast of the rock. I was off an average of 11% per party with my prediction in this riding.

Burin-Placentia West
This riding may not be traditional NDP territory, but the NDP's candidate Julie Mitchell did very well here in the 2007 election, where she won a third of the vote. It was expected to be another close race, as she faced Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman once again. In the end, Jackman was able to hold on to his seat, defeating Mitchell by just 40 votes. I predicted a very close race here, and I was at least right on that (I had Mitchell winning by 1%). Despite not calling the right winner here, I was so close with my numbers, that I was off of an average of less than 1% per party.

Humber Valley
Another west coast rematch I got wrong was in Humber Valley. Tory MHA Darryl Kelly was running against former Liberal MHA Dwight Ball whom he defeated in 2007. In fact, this was the third meeting between these two candidates, as Ball had beaten Kelly a few months earlier in a by-election. The race in 2007 was close, with Kelly winning by just 300 votes. I was expecting another close race, but with Kelly winning again with the same margin. The race was indeed close, but it was Ball who won- by just 68 votes. I was close with my numbers, being off by an average of just 2% per party.

Labrador West
Historically, the NDP's second best riding in the province has been in Labrador West. So, with the party being at an historic high, it only made sense that the NDP would win this seat, right? Wrong. Despite doing well in this part of Labrador federally, the provincial party selected a weak candidate in this riding to go against Labrador City councillor Nick McGrath. I figured this was a sure bet for the NDP, due to its high polling, history in this riding and the fact that it was an open seat. I was so sure they'd win, that I gave the NDP candidate a 29% lead. Oops. This was a huge blunder on my part. I was off by an average of over 20% per party here! (including off by 30% for the NDP).

St. Barbe
St. Barbe featured another rematch of 2007. This time however, the Liberal candidate, Jim Bennett, was not a former MHA, weakening his chances of picking off the Tory incumbent. That incumbent was Tory MHA Wallace Young who has represented this seat for ten years. He defeated Bennett easily in 2007. However St. Barbe is a traditional Liberal seat, having only elected Tories for a total of 7 (or 15, depending on what part of the riding you're in) years since confederation before Young's 2001 victory. The race was another squeaker, Bennett would win by just 38 votes. I predicted Young to win by 9 points. I was off by an average of 5% per party.

St. John's East
The St. John's area is a loyal area for the Tories, but the NDP made a breakthrough in 2011. While I got two neighbouring ridings correct in predicting NDP pickups, I was not so keen on this seat. St. John's East has elected Tories for all but 10 years since confederation. Tory incumbent Ed Buckingham received 70% of the vote in 2007. Was it so far fetched to say he'd win it again? In the end however, it wasn't that particularly close. The NDP candidate, George Murphy won by nearly 600 votes. I did predict the NDP to do well here of course, predicting they would lose by 4%. They won however by 11%. I would be off by an average of 5% per party here.

The Straits – White Bay North
Perhaps the biggest surprise on election night was here, on the northern tip of Newfoundland. In area that has been trending Liberal in surrounding ridings chose a different opposition party to represent it in St. John's. The NDP, which has no history here ran a strong candidate in businessman Chris Mitchelmore who won the seat in a close 3-way race by 210 votes, edging out the incumbent MHA, Marhsall Dean of the Liberals. This was a big surprise, especially considering the two neighbouring ridings switched from the Tories to the Liberals, yet this Liberal incumbent wasn't able to hold on? What makes it more surprising is that the Liberals have held this seat for all but 8 years since confederation. I don't remember reading about the NDP prospects in this riding, so I ended up predicting a Liberal victory, with the NDP in third. My near correct prediction for the Tory vote here saved me, and I was only off by an average of 5-6% per party here.

Torngat Mountains
Finally, we go to the most northerly riding in the province in the Torngat Mountains. This Innu-dominated riding votes more for the candidate I assume, then party. After all, it was this part of Labrador that helped the federal Conservatives win the region with Innu leader Peter Penashue. Would it not make sense then to suggest the provincial Tories would also win this riding, especially because they were the incumbent party? Well, no. Tory MHA Patty Pottle, who won this seat by just 76 votes in 2007 went down in defeat to the Liberal candidate, Randy Edmunds. She lost by over 10% of the vote, or 150 votes in this sparsely populated riding. I was off by an average of 8% per party. 

Change maps (2007-2011)

PC vote change (2007-2011)
Tory change

With the loss in support for the Progressive Conservatives in Newfoundland, we see a mostly red map. These are the seats where the party lost votes. Most striking are the St. John's area ridings where they lost a lot of votes to the NDP. There were a handful of seats the Tories were able to increase their support in interestingly. The most notable was in the Isles of Notre Dame, where the Tories saw a gain of 17% between the two elections. I suppose voters didn't take well to the Liberal candidate being a carpetbagging former MHA from Labrador. The Tories also increased their support in the impoverished southern coast of the province, and in Labrador West, again due to a carpetbagging- this time NDP candidate.
Liberal vote change (2007-2011)
Liberal change
The Liberal vote change map is more of a mixed bag of green and red. The Liberal vote did go down in 2011, but their seat total was doubled. This is evident in the map. As you can see, their vote totals went down in almost every St. John's area seat, but their votes went up in the western part of the province. These western seats were marginal in 2007, and therefore these gains allowed the Liberals to pick up their new seats. The seat the Liberals lost the most support in was the Isles of Notre Dame (carpetbagging candidate). Their seat where they increased the most was in Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans where their 2007 candidate received just 4% of the vote. 
NDP vote change (2007-2011)
NDP change
The NDP saw their best election in provincial history in 2011, so it makes sense that their change map would be mostly green- for gains. In fact, the NDP lost support in just two ridings- in Labrador West where they ran an out of town candidate, and in Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans where they were not able to replicate a good result from 2007. There is lots of green on this map, the darkest shades coming from the St. John's area where the party picked up three seats off of massive swings from the Tories. Another large swing came in the riding of The Straits-White Bay North, another pick up for the party. 

1 comment:

  1. Torngat Mountains is Inuit-dominated, not Innu.