Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Provincial by-election today in St. George's-Stephenville East, Newfoundland

Location of St. George's-Stephenville East in Newfoundland
Voters in the southwestern Newfoundland riding of St. George's-Stephenville East will head to the polls today to elect a new member of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly (MHA) for their district. The seat became vacant in June, when its MHA, Progressive Conservative Joan Shea (nee Burke), Newfoundland's Environment Minister resigned, citing a lack of energy. Shea's departure is yet another sign of the declining fortunes of Newfoundland's governing Progressive Conservative party, which is currently amidst a postponed leadership election. (The party was set to acclaim businessman Frank Coleman as leader in July, but he had to withdraw amidst controversy, citing family matters, thus delaying the vote until September).

Map of the riding, showing poll boundaries and various geographic features


The riding of St. George's-Stephenville East can be found in the southwestern corner of the Island of Newfoundland. It takes in the eastern half of the Town of Stephenville, the riding's largest municipality, and wraps around St. George's Bay, including the towns of Stephenville Crossing and St. George's. The riding continues southward along the southwestern coast of the province, ending at the tiny community of Red Rocks, northwest of Port aux Basques. Stephenville, Stephenville Crossing and St. George's are the only incorporated municipalities in the riding. However, there are many smaller unincorporated communities dotting the coastline. The three municipalities are located in the north of the riding, close to the mouth of the St. George's River. The population in the rest of the riding are concentrated in two regions: Bay St. George South in the central part of the riding, and the Codroy Valley, in the south.


The riding has a large unemployment rate, with labour force participation in most communities being below 50%. This fact makes the riding fairly poor, with most communities in the low $20,000 range for median individual income, which is nearly $5,000 below the provincial median. Those who do work tend to work in Sales and Trades, with the traditional fishing industry having been decimated in recent years. Ethnically speaking, the riding has a good mix of English, French, First Nations and Irish roots. Catholicism is the majority religion, while Anglicanism is the largest Protestant denomination.


St. George's-Stephenville East was formed in 1996 when the riding of Stephenville was split in half, with its eastern section joining the riding of St. George's to form the new riding of St. George's-Stepheville East. While most of the territory in the new riding came from St. George's, the MHA from Stephenville (Kevin Aylward) would represent the new riding.

Including the preceding St. George's riding, the riding has been a good bellwether, having voted for the party that would go on to form government in every election since 1979. The Liberals most recently won the seat in 1999, with 53% of the vote. Since then, they bottomed out at 25% in 2007, but increased their share of the vote in 2011 to 33% when their leader (Kevin Aylward) ran in the seat. The Tories have held the seat since 2003, when Shea (then Burke) defeated Liberal Ron Dawe, who held the seat as Tory in the 1980s. Burke defeated Daw by less than 500 votes, or about 8%. She was easily re-elected in 2007 with 74% of the vote, but Aylward gave her a run for her money in 2011, when she won 49%. The NDP has rarely ever run in the riding. In fact, the party has only run in the seat once since the district was created 18 years ago. Bernice Hancock ran for the New Democrats in 2011, winning a respectable 17% of the vote.


W.J. Keough, Liberal (1949-1971)
A.M. Dunphy, Prog. Cons. (1971-1975)
Mrs. H.A. McIsaac, Liberal (1975-1979)
R.G. Dawe, Prog. Cons. (1979-1989)
L. Short, Liberal (1989-1993)
B. Hulan, Liberal (1993-1996)
K. Aylward, Liberal (1996-2003)
Mrs. J. Shea (Burke), Prog. Cons. (2003-2014)

Political geography

Shea's victory in 2011 was helped by winning large margins in the southern, more rural parts of the riding where she won all but one poll. Her best region was in the Bay St. George South area, where she won 62% of the vote. Her best poll was also in this region, #25, where she won 76% of the vote. This poll covers the community of McKay's. The Liberals did their best in the Stepheville area, where they won 38% of the vote. This was still not enough to beat Shea there, but they did win four of their eight polls in this region. However, the strongest poll for the Liberals was #17, where they won 78% of the vote. This poll covers the community of Mattis Point, which is across the St. George's River from Stephenville Crossing, Aylward's hometown. The NDP's best region was also the Stephenville area, where they won 21% of the vote. Their best poll was #11, which covers the community of Black Duck Siding in the northern part of the riding. In this poll, the NDP won 35% of the vote, which was not enough to win the poll. However, the NDP did tie one poll with the Liberals, #29. This poll covers the community of Highlands in the Bay St. George South area.

Results of the 2011 provincial election by polling division

Federally, the area belongs to the riding of Random—Burin—St. George's. The area was much more Liberal in the 2011 federal election, with Liberal MP Judy Foote winning 38% of the vote in St. George's-Stephenville East polls. However, this number was much lower than her 50% she won across the federal riding. Within St. George's-Stephenville East, St. George's area was the best region for Foote, while the Tories did the best in Bay St. George South, the only region in St. George's-Stephenville East where they beat the Liberals. This region tends to be the most anti-Liberal area in the riding, both provincially and federally, while Stephenville has historically been the most Liberal. In the 2011 election, the NDP's best region was actually the Codroy Valley in the south. Across the provincial riding, the federal Conservatives won 33% of the vote, the NDP won 27% and the Greens won 2%.

Recent election results by region

Despite the NDP having only run in the seat once in the riding's history, the federal party has had a lot of success in the region, sweeping the Catholic-majority region in 2004 with the candidacy of Des McGrath, a Catholic priest. The party also did well in 2008, capturing a number of rural polls.


In today's by-election, the Tories are running Kippens (a town outside the riding) resident Wally Childs, a principal at a school in St. George's. The Liberals are running Scott Reid, a political science instructor at Memorial University, who was raised in the Codroy Valley. The NDP are running their candidate from 2011, Bernice Hancock, who is a program director from Stephenville.

The most recent province-wide polling suggests the Liberals are headed to a landslide majority government in the next provincial election. This means that bellwether seats, like St. George's-Stephenville East will more than likely be caught up in the Liberal tide. This is why I am fairly confident that the Liberals will win the riding tonight.

Polls close at 8:00pm Newfoundland time, or 6:30pm Eastern.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Brunswick provincial redistribution and transposition

2010 Election results on the new boundaries
Yesterday, New Brunswick Premier David Alward met with the New Brunswick lieutenant-governor, asking for the province's legislative assembly to dissolve on Thursday. This will mark the beginning of the 2014 New Brunswick election campaign, which is scheduled to occur in just over one month's time, on September 22nd. The 2014 election will be fought over new electoral district boundaries, which were set by a commission last year. In total, New Brunswick Legislative Assembly will be reduced in size from 55 seats to 49 seats, meaning there will be six fewer ridings in the province. In a rare move in Canadian history, the redistribution saw a complete re-draw of the electoral map, due to the dramatic decrease in the number of ridings.

The decrease in the number of seats in the Assembly hurts the depopulating north the most, as Northern New Brunswick loses two seats with the redistribution (going from 10 to 8). Next door Miramichi is also badly hurt by the redistribution, as it sees a 25% reduction of seats, going from four seats to three. The Upper Saint John River Valley, Central New Brunswick (Fredericton area) and Southern New Brunswick (Saint John) all lose one seat a piece. No regions of the province sees a gain in seats, but Southeast New Brunswick, which includes the Greater Moncton Area, sees a net gain/loss of zero seats. 

Actual 2010 election results

Due to these changes, I took the initiative to calculate the results of the last provincial election in 2010 and transpose them on the new boundaries. Unfortunately, Elections New Brunswick did not publicly release their own transposition numbers, unlike some other provinces. I'm not the only blogger to do to a transposition, nbpolitico did one (but he's only providing more detailed numbers at a cost) and Blunt Objects did one as well, free of charge (much to my chagrin, as I had already started on this project, not realizing someone else would do it!). Interestingly, both nbpolitico and Blunt Objects show different numbers than in my transposition. They obviously used a different methodology than myself, so all my effort was not all for naught. 


To calculate my transposition, I identified which polling divisions would be going into which new riding, which was usually quite simple, but involved some guess-work, as in many cases, the new boundaries split up polling divisions. Then, I added up the results from the 2010 election from these polling divisions based on the new ridings they were in. But, that did not account for all of the votes cast in 2010. I had to account for advance votes and special votes (prisoners, military personnel, people living abroad). Advance votes were cast in larger polling divisions. Elections New Brunswick usually identified which polling divisions the advance voting divisions covered. When an advance polling division was entirely in a new riding, I added its result to the total for the new riding. When it spanned more than one new riding, I redistributed the results based on the ratio of the results in the regular polls they overlapped with. With the special votes, which were not allotted to any individual riding, I redistributed the results based on the same ratios as the regular votes cast in the riding. For example, if 40% of the Liberal regular votes in a riding were redistributed into riding “A”, than 40% of the special votes cast for the Liberals were allotted to riding “A”.

According to my redistribution methodology, the Liberals would have won 11 of the new ridings, while the Progressive Conservatives would have won 38. This would be two fewer seats for the Liberals from their actual 2010 total (13), and four fewer for the Progressive Conservatives, who won 42 seats in 2010. This shows that the new map is relatively fair, as it takes seats away from both parties. 

In Northern New Brunswick, the Liberals would have won just three seats, two fewer than the five they actually won in 2010. The Tories however, would retain their five seats. In Eastern New Brunswick, the Liberals would have won five seats on the new boundaries, down from seven which they actually won. This is beneficial to the Tories, who would win an extra seat from the Liberals in the Moncton area. Boundary changes in the rest of the province were more beneficial to the Liberals, where they won just one seat in 2010. The new boundaries would have given them two new seats, Fredericton South and Saint John Harbour. Changes in the rest of the province hurt the Tories the most, as they would see a reduction of five seats there.

The other parties in New Brunswick did not win any seats in 2010, and would not win any with the new boundaries either. The best result for the NDP would be in Tracadie-Sheila, where they won 33%, thanks to their leader, Roger Duguay having ran there. The Green's best result would be in Fredericton South, where they won 13% in 2010. Fredericton South contains the more progressive parts of Fredericton, taking in parts of the former ridings of Ferericton-Silverwood and Fredericton-Lincoln. The populist People's Alliance Party saw their best result in Fredericton-Grand Lake (14%), which contains part of the former riding of Grand Lake-Gagetown, where their leader Kris Austin ran.

Redistributed results of the 2010 New Brunswick election on the new ridings being used in 2014.

According to my transposition numbers, the closest of the new ridings on the new map would have been Moncton Centre, where my numbers show the Tories winning by just 6 (0.1%) transposed votes! Moncton Centre contains parts of the Liberal riding of Moncton East and the Tory riding of Moncton North. Interestingly, the incumbents from both Moncton East and Moncton North will duke it out to see who will win the new riding. The next closest riding would have been Saint John Harbour, where my numbers show the Liberals having won by 0.16%. This would be a gain for the Liberals, as the riding on its old boundaries elected a Tory in 2010. Fredericton South also saw a close race, with my transposed numbers showing the Liberals having won it by just 0.17% on the new boundaries. The new riding contains the most Liberal parts of two current PC-held ridings, Fredericton-Silverwood and Fredericton-Lincoln. Other close ridings were Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West (Liberal by 1.3%), Miramichi (Liberal by 1.3%), Bathurst West-Beresford (PC by 1.8%), Campbellton-Dalhousie (PC by 2.95%) and Shediac Bay-Dieppe (Liberal by 3.8%).

The 49 new ridings (click to enlarge)

Throughout the election campaign, I will be using my calculated numbers to do my seat projection forecasts for the election. However, there have yet to be any recent polls released in the province, so I will not be doing any projections until they are released. (Any poll conducted before Labour Day should be treated with a grain of salt, anyways).