Tuesday, May 7, 2013

British Columbia provincial swing and trend maps

The BC provincial election will be held in one week, and with that is time for some more maps in an effort to analyze British Columbia politics. Today’s post will take a look at two maps comparing the last two provincial elections (2005 and 2009). One map shows the swing between the two elections and the other shows the trend between the two elections. It is my hope that these maps will be helpful in determining how British Columbians will vote next Tuesday, and perhaps explain some of the surprises that could be in store.

Swing map (2005-2009)

The first map shows the swing between 2005 and 2009. As I explained in my last post, the swing is a calculation that shows the average gain of one party vs. the loss of the other party. Because BC is for the most part a two-party province (NDP and Liberals), I have made the swing calculation across all provinces as between those two parties. The overall swing between the two elections was miniscule- just 0.3% towards the NDP. This has meant that the map is all over the place, with 44 ridings having swung towards the Liberals and 41 having swung to the NDP (despite the overall swing being to the NDP). The Liberals gained 3 seats between the two elections, and the NDP gained 2 (there were less seats in 2005). Notionally however, the NDP lost 4 seats while the Liberals gained 3 (and 1 Independent was elected). So even though there was a swing towards the party, they (notionally) lost seats!

Overall, all 73 of the 85 ridings had a swing that was within 5% of the provincial average. 4 ridings swung more than that towards the Liberals and 8 ridings swung more than that to the NDP. The riding that swung the most towards the Liberals was Vancouver-False Creek that saw nearly a 9% swing. This can perhaps be attributed to the condo boom in the riding, which has meant an influx of wealthy individuals. However on the flip side another riding experiencing a condo boom- Vancouver-West End saw a huge swing towards the NDP (7.5%). The other three ridings that experienced a large swing towards the Liberals were Delta South (thanks to Independent candidate Vicki Huntington winning and taking much of the NDP vote with her), Peace River South and Kootenay East. The riding that saw the highest swing towards the NDP was Surrey-Newton, which saw an 8.2% swing. The Liberals had a high profile candidate in 2005 (Olympic gold medallist Daniel Igali) and their vote collapsed in 2009. However, Surrey-Newton was not the only Surrey riding with heavy swings towards the NDP. Both Surrey-Green Timbers and Surrey-Whalley had swings of over 7% towards the NDP. Those ridings also happen to have a heavy Indo-Canadian population, and show that there may be a shift going on in that community. Other ridings that showed a high swing to the NDP include Nanaimo, Juan de Fuca, Port Coquitlam and Powell River-Sunshine Coast.

In looking at the swing map, the most obvious pattern is that for the most part, Liberal held seats swung towards the Liberals while NDP seats swung towards the NDP. There are many exceptions of course, but this is the overall trend. What this shows is that incumbency matters. Ridings that the Liberals notionally won in the 2005 election on average had a swing of 1.3% towards themselves, while ridings that the NDP notionally won in 2005 had an average swing of 2.3% towards themselves.  This is food for thought for anyone wanting to do a prediction.

For the record, ridings where the NDP notionally won in 2005 but saw swings away from them include Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, Nelson-Creston, Vancouver-Fairview (a riding they would lose in 2009), Kamloops-North Thompson (a notional loss of a seat, as they didn’t in actuality win a seat in Kamloops), Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge-Mission (another notional loss of a seat), Cariboo-Chilcotin (seat loss), and Burnaby North (another loss). One thing that this proves is that even though a seat may have notionally gone NDP in 2005, a lack of an NDP incumbent plus actually having a Liberal incumbent is a good indicator of a swing towards the Liberals. Meanwhile, 2005 notional Liberal ridings that swung NDP include Peace River North, Abbotsford West, Chilliwack, Parksville-Qualicum, Vancouver-Fraserview, Stikine, Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Burnaby-Deer Lake (NDP gain), Boundary-Similkameen, Saanich South (notional loss with an NDP incumbent), Saanich North and the Islands and Vernon-Monashee.

Trend map

The second map is the trend map. This map is almost identical to the swing map, as all it shows is the swing in a riding (to the NDP) minus 0.3%. The trend shows how the riding swung compared to the provincial average. Another way of looking at it is how the riding would have swung if the provincial swing was exactly 0%. Since the provincial swing towards the NDP was 0.3%, this is how much was taken off the swing in each riding to calculate the trend. Because the swing was so close to zero in the first place, the trend map isn’t very different from the swing map. In elections with huge swings however, trend maps are useful to see which areas are less susceptible to large swings than others.

The biggest change to look for on the trend map is the ridings that swung NDP but trended Liberal. There are only three of these ridings. They are Parksville-Qualicum, Boundary-Similkameen and Vancouver-Hastings. Out of all the ridings in the province, Vancouver-Hastings was the riding that was the closest to the provincial average in terms of its swing. Its trend towards the Liberals was less than 0.1%.  BC electoral geographers like to point to Kamloops as the provincial bellwether (as goes Kamloops, as does BC), but perhaps Vancouver-Hastings, a safe-NDP seat in Vancouver’s east end is the best indicator of BC vote swing?

So what does this all mean for next week’s election? Well, let’s take a look at the eight ridings I identified in my last blog post as the next eight ridings to go NDP with a uniform swing. These are the 8 ridings the NDP would win first en route to a majority government with a uniform swing. Presently, polls are showing an average swing of 6% to the NDP. This would give the NDP these eight ridings plus an additional six more.

Maple Ridge-Mission: As mentioned, the NDP notionally won this riding in 2005, but in reality it did not win the riding then known as “Maple Ridge-Mission”. With its current borders, the NDP won the seat by just 0.4%. With its borders in 2005, the Liberals won it by 0.7%. In 2009, the Liberal incumbent did not run again, but the Liberals were buoyed by at least being the incumbent party in the riding. This gave the Liberals a very small swing, enough to win the riding despite its new, more NDP-friendly borders. It was close though, as the Liberals won by just 0.3%. Given recent polls, even a modest pro-incumbency boost will not be enough to keep the NDP from winning this seat based on this very small trend.

Cariboo-Chilcotin: This riding is the successor riding of Cariboo South, a riding that the NDP won in 2005. Despite the re-name, the NDP still would’ve won the riding on its new 2009 borders by about 3%. While this is close, with the power of incumbency, and small province-wide swing towards the NDP, there was no reason for the NDP to lose the seat in 2009. However, the party did lose the riding, by a razor thing margin of 0.5%. This translated to a 3% trend to the Liberals. This was the third largest trend to the Liberals out of all NDP notionally-held seats. If this pro-Liberal trend continues, the NDP might find it hard to win this seat, despite only having lost it by 78 votes in 2009. The NDP is running the same candidate in Charlie Wyse, so if his record as an MLA hurt him last election, it could hurt him again.

Saanich North and the Islands: According to the map, most of Vancouver Island is trending towards the NDP, and polls show the NDP with a large lead on the Island. One of the few ridings they do not hold there is Saanich North and the Islands. This riding is formerly a safe one for the Liberals, having won it even in the 1990s when the NDP was winning majority governments. However, it has been trending heavily towards the NDP over the last 20 years, and the party cam within striking distance in 2009 when they lost it by 0.8%. It was one of only a small number of Liberal-held ridings to trend to the NDP. Only three other notionally Liberal ridings had higher swings to the NDP. Given polls, this riding would be a shoe-in for the NDP to win based on trends alone. However, the riding is held federally by Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and the provincial Greens are polling quite well on the island. This is one of their targeted ridings, and if they take more votes away from the NDP than the Liberals, they BC Liberals would still win.

Oak Bay-Gordon Head: This is another Liberal-held riding on Vancouver Island that is trending NDP. Despite holding the seat since 1996, sitting MLA Ida Chong seems to have no incumbency advantage behind her. She won the seat by 2.2% in 2009, but had notionally won it by 3.3% in 2005. Again, given trends and polls this riding should be ripe for the NDP to win, but is again complicated by the Green Party. The Greens are running their biggest campaign in this riding, and there is no reason to suggest they don’t have a good chance of winning it. This riding spans Elizabeth May’s riding and the federal riding of Victoria which just had a by-election a few months ago. If you recall the result of that by-election, the Greens very nearly doubled their seats in Parliament to 2 by almost winning it. And the polls in Oak Bay-Gordon Head? They went Green.

Kamloops-North Thompson: One area pundits like to call a bellwether in BC politics, is Kamloops, so there is no surprise in finding a Kamloops riding on this list. (It should be noted that this riding isn't the perfect bellwether, having voted for the opposition Liberals in 1996). This riding was one of those ridings that the NDP notionally won in 2005, but in reality did not. In fact, in reality, the Liberals won the Kamloops-North Thompson seat by over 8 points. On the 2009 boundaries however, the NDP would have won the seat by 2.1%. However in 2009, the Liberals won the seat by 2.4%. They were bolstered again by party incumbency. While their sitting MLA retired, it was no matter. The Liberals in reality held the seat and that gave them an advantage. The area may also be trending to the Liberals. Indeed, it did trend to the Liberals by 2.5% between 2005 and 2009. If the riding continues to trend Liberal, it might be difficult for the NDP to win it, despite how close it was last time.

Burnaby North: It might come as a surprise to the casual observer that this riding (and neighbouring Burnaby-Lougheed) are Liberal-held ridings. Especially considering the federal seat that spans both ridings has gone NDP in every election since 1979. No matter, the north end of Burnaby is the least NDP friendly part of the city. However, the NDP still held their own in the 2009 election, losing the seat by just 2.7%. In 2005, the NDP actually notionally won the seat by 0.5%. But the Liberals won the riding in reality and again, were boosted by having the incumbent. The riding had an overall trend of 1.9% to the Liberals. If that is repeated again in this election, it might just be low enough for the NDP to win it back.

Burnaby-Lougheed: Next door to Burnaby North is the very similar riding of Burnaby-Lougheed. It is also a marginal northern Burnaby seat. However, unlike Burnaby North, its 2005 notional results had the Liberals winning it, albeit by just 2.8%. Burnaby-Lougheed had a smaller trend to the Liberals than Burnaby North, at less than 1%. In 2009, MLA Harry Blow (who had previsioulsy represented the now defunct riding of “Burquitlam”) won the seat by 3.6%. All things considered, the trend may be low enough for the NDP to win this riding as well.

Vancouver-Fraserview:This riding has been a good bellwether in its history, having voted for the majority party in every election since its creation in 1991. And, it's a riding trending NDP (albeit narrowly). In 2005, the Liberals won the seat by 5%. This was narrowed down to less than 4% in 2009. One thing that helped was the Liberal incumbent, Wally Oppal was not running again. Also at play is the large South Asian community in this riding. We know the South Asians in Surrey are partly responsible for ridings trending NDP there. While we haven't seen that to a large degree in Fraserview, it is not inconceivable to see South Asians go NDP here as well. It would not take a large swing in this riding for the NDP to take this riding, and if you factor in the small trend to the NDP, this riding will probably go NDP on election day.

If the NDP can't win all 8 of those ridings, they could have difficulty winning the next lowest hanging fruit based on trends alone. Of the next 5 ridings on the swingometre, only Vernon-Monashee saw a trend to the NDP between 2005 and 2009. However at this point, polls show the NDP can overcome most of these trends.


  1. I'm not clear what the term "winning notionally" means.

    1. They would have won in 2005 based on the 2009 boundaries.

  2. Hey, remember that in some ridings in the last election (Kamloops for example) there was no BCCon candidate, this could change the calculations in those ridings.