Monday, September 23, 2013

Newfoundland and Labrador municipal elections

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians head to the polls tomorrow to elect the municipal governments across the province’s 277 towns and three cities (St. John’s, Mount Pearl and Corner Brook). Up for election are just the municipal councils- electing mayors, councillors and in some cases deputy mayors.

Elections will not be held in numerous communities due to the entire council being acclaimed, as well elections are being deferred in the communities of Duntara, Keels, King’s Cove, Lamaline, Lark Harbour, Little Bay Islands, Lord’s Cove, Lourdes, Nipper’s Harbour, St. Paul’s, Summerford and York Harbour (and possibly others as well).  Some communities such as Anchor Point, Englee and Conche have fewer candidates than positions available.

Among the province’s largest communities (over 5000 people), the towns of Clarenville, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Labrador City, Marystwon and the City of Mount Pearl are all seeing their mayor’s re-elected by acclamation.

Most communities in the province elect their councils on an at-large basis, with no municipal ward system. In fact, only two municipalities have municipal wards: St. John’s and Conception Bay South. St. John’s has five municipal wards, and Conception Bay South has four.  In both cases, these wards elect one member of council, but both cities also have at large councillors elected across the city, who do not stand in one particular ward.

Map of Newfoundland's municipalities
Map of Labrador's municipalities                  

As St. John’s is by far the largest city in the province, and the province’s capital, most of my focus on tomorrow’s election will be there. St. John’s has an 11 member city council consisting of the mayor, deputy mayor, five councillors elected from each of the five city wards, as well as four councillors elected on an at large basis. There will be no election for Ward 1 councillor, as incumbent councillor Danny Breen has been acclaimed. Both the mayor and deputy mayor positions are elected separately on an at large basis.

The race for mayor will be the most closely watched race in the province, as it pits two partisan camps against each other. There are no municipal parties in the city, but the partisan leanings of both major candidates are quite obvious. The incumbent mayor, Dennis O’Keefe is a member of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party, and his main opponent, Sheilagh O’Leary was endorsed by federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. (Being endorsed by a federal party leader is unheard of in municipal politics). There is a third candidate as well, Geoff Chaulk, who is a mental health advocate- but is not expected to contend.

O’Keefe has been mayor of St. John’s since 2008, and previously was the city’s deputy mayor (2005-2008) and at-large councillor (1997-2005). Before entering politics, O’Keefe was a teacher. He was first elected as mayor in a 2008 by-election, where he defeated Marie White, a former deputy mayor. O’Keefe was re-elected in 2009, when he defeated Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth, 57%-37%. Ellsworth is re-entering politics in this election, as he is running for the open seat of deputy mayor.

O’Keefe’s main opposition comes from Councillor Sheilagh O’Leary. A businesswoman and photographer by training, O’Leary was elected as an at-large councillor for the first time in 2009. Not only did she win a seat on council, she topped the list for the position, winning 6500 more votes then the next candidate. She even won more votes than O’Keefe did-although this would be comparing apples to oranges as voters get four votes for at large council.

An Abacus Data-VOCM poll was conducted earlier this month that showed O’Keefe leads O’Leary 60%-39%, with Chaulk at 1%. However, 30% of those polled were undecided. In the Deputy Mayor race, Ron Ellsworth leads his opponent, transgender activist Jennifer McCreath by 59%.

The 2009 election was less polarizing, as the two main candidates were conservative oriented. Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth, who was O’Keefe’s main opposition often clashed with O’Keefe on council on spending matters, perhaps putting him to O’Keefe’s right. A third candidate, Mark Wilson- the leader of a popular local reggae band also ran in the race. While a fringe candidate, Wilson was the only left of centre candidate in the race, and won 6% of the vote.

St. John's neighbourhoods and wards

Special thanks to the City of St. John’s elections office who sent me the ward-by-ward results of the 2009 mayoral race (data not found on the web). The results show that O’Keefe won all 5 wards, but the race in Ward 4 was fairly close, and the only ward where O’Keefe did not win a majority.

2009 results by ward

Ward O'Keefe Ellsworth Wilson
1 (East End) 52.0% 43.4% 4.6%
2 (Central) 56.2% 31.8% 12.0%
3 (West End) 65.0% 31.0% 4.0%
4 (North) 49.1% 45.2% 5.7%
5 (South) 65.9% 30.8% 3.3%

O'Keefe support by ward (2009)
Ellsworth support by ward (2009)

Wilson support by ward (2009)
O’Keefe’s support was strongest in the more suburban west end of the city (ward 3), and the suburban/rural
/remote Ward 5, which covers the sparsely populated expansive southern 3/4ths of the city. Ward 4 was O’Keefe’s weakest ward. This ward covers the semi-suburban northern part of the city, which also includes Memorial University. This ward was also Ellsworth’s strongest ward. Wilson’s strongest ward by war was Ward 2, which covers the city’s downtown core. This must be where the city’s reggae fans are concentrated.

With O’Keefe having a large lead over O’Leary, he will in all likelihood win all 5 wards of the city. However, if O’Leary is to win any ward, it will likely be Ward 2, which takes in the more progressive downtown. Ward 2 encompasses a large portion of the provincial riding of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, which the NDP has held for 23 years.  The more suburban wards cover more Tory friendly areas, which should be strong areas for O’Keefe.

We’ll find out the results tomorrow evening when polls close on 8pm (6:30 Eastern).

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nova Scotia 2013 election: September 20 projections (a tale of 2 projections)

We’re now full steam into the Nova Scotia election campaign, and we’ve finally seen the first poll release of the campaign, coming from top Atlantic Canada pollster Corporate Research Associates (CRA). They polled 406 Nova Scotians between Sept 12 and Sept 18 and found the following:

Sept 12-18 poll
Change from Aug poll

Just when we thought the NDP would be making a come back with CRA’s poll conducted in August (which showed the NDP 10 points down, up from a 19 point deficit in the Spring), this poll suggests the Liberals have picked up steam over the early part of the campaign.

I have put these numbers into a spreadsheet to see how this break down would results seat-wise based on the transposed results of the last election, in 2009. The results are no surprise; the Liberals would win a majority- but not the landslide that a 20 point lead might suggest:

Projected seat total

Breakdown by seat: 

Map based on these numbers


A huge concern in the polling industry in this country is the under-polling of a certain percentage of “silent” voters who for whatever reason (perhaps due to not answering pollsters, lying to pollsters, or legitimately deciding who to vote for at the last minute) don’t show up in polling data. We have seen in recent provincial elections in Alberta and BC where the incumbent party went into election day well behind in polls, but ended up with decisive victories on election day. Will Nova Scotia show the same phenomena? Maybe, but maybe not. The incumbent party is behind, and is unpopular in the province. Many NDP supporters may be lying to pollsters because of the unpopularity of such an opinion. There is also a large percentage of undecided voters (22% according to the CRA poll), which means if most of that 22% go NDP, it could make the election close. Both the Alberta and BC elections also saw a large percentage of undecideds making up their mind at the last moment. However, this may be where the similarities end. Both the incumbent parties in BC and Alberta were parties who have been in power a long time, and are parties on the centre-right- perhaps an ideology closer to those people who were underpolled in those elections. The NDP however is an activist party of the left, and could be less likely to appeal to those types of voters. One glimmer of hope for the NDP on this front is, they have governed the province from the centre, so they may still appeal to silent centrist voters. But, voters may be more likely to want to ditch the NDP because they have only been in power for one term, unlike the Liberals in BC who have been in power since 1996 or the Tories in Alberta who have been in power since cavemen walked the Earth (actually, 1971). Finally, the elections in BC and Alberta saw the rise of new right wing parties that changed the electoral landscape (admittedly, the BC Conservatives faded away by the time of the election there, however the threat of vote splitting may have helped the Liberals win at the last moment). This hasn’t happened in Nova Scotia. There are no new major parties that have arisen.  Additionally, the opposition Liberals have had the same leader since 2007, who has already fought a general election. The opposition parties in BC had new leaders fighting for the first time.

Anyways, let’s pretend for a moment that the polls are indeed wrong, and that come Election Day, a large ‘silent’ portion of the electorate come out and vote NDP. In both the Alberta and BC elections, we saw about a 10% difference between the poll numbers and the actual result for the two main parties. If we apply this to the CRA poll, this gives us a 38-38 tie between the NDP and Liberals. And what does my spreadsheet say for such a result?

Adjusted projected seat total

Breakdown by seat:

Map based on these adjusted numbers

Despite a popular vote tie, the NDP squeaks out a bare majority of the seats, based on the 2009 transposed results. The story behind this is that the electoral geography in the province really benefits the NDP. While the Liberals rack up massive majorities in their safe seats (like in West Nova and the Halifax suburbs), the NDP ekes out a number of wins in marginal seats across the province. Of course, when you apply the real poll numbers, all of these marginal seats disappear leaving the province very Liberal red and could result in the NDP being nearly wiped out. Of course, this is just what my spreadsheet is telling me. The real story on the ground is very different.


An important note is that these numbers are in no way my actual predictions for the election. They are simply just taking the 2009 transposed results and redistributing each party’s proportion in each riding based on poll numbers. (I have only made an adjustment in one riding- Cumberland North due to a strong (former PC) Independent running in 2009, whose vote share I have combined with the Tories). I have done this across the province as a whole, since CRA has not published any regional breakdowns in their polls. If any pollster does do regional breakdowns, I will alter my data accordingly.

 I have in the past done actual predictions, but since my new position with a reputable polling firm, I have decided against it due to possible conflict of interest.

Monday, September 9, 2013

2013 Nova Scotia election: A look at the new electoral map of the province.

On Saturday, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter announced that Nova Scotians would be heading the polls on October 8, ending months of speculation as to when the province would be going to the polls. Dexter currently leads the first N.D.P. Government in provincial history, which was elected in 2009. Going into Saturday's announcement, his party trails the Liberals by 10 points, according to the most recent CRA poll conducted in August.

Nova Scotia's 51 new provincial ridings

The 2013 election will be fought on new boundaries, which were drawn up last year, amid some controversy. The election will fought in 51 ridings, instead of the 52 that were contested last election. Rural Nova Scotia will be losing three ridings, while the Halifax Metro area will be gaining 2 seats. The Halifax Regional Municipality is the fastest growing census division in the province (increasing 4.7% between 2006 and 2011), while all but six census divisions (counties) in Nova Scotia are seeing a decrease in population. Nova Scotia as a whole saw an increase of just 0.9% between censuses.

The biggest controversy surrounding the boundary changes was due to the fact that four specially designated ethnic ridings (three Acadian, and one African Nova Scotian) were to be abolished. These four ridings were significantly underpopulated, as their existence was to give minority groups representation in the legislature. This fact may not be backed up by reality however, as the African Nova Scotian riding, Preston- is currently represented by a White MLA (but has in the past elected MLAs of African descent, including a New Democrat). The government was criticized, because they passed legislation recommending that all ridings be of equal size, which meant that these four ridings, all held by opposition parties would be abolished (i.e. merged into neighbouring ridings). The Liberals and Tories opposed the plan.
Elections Nova Scotia was nice enough to publish the re-distributed 2009 election results for the new riding boundaries. However, where there were more recent by-elections, they used the results from those by-elections in their redistributed results. Why they did this is a mystery, as it makes the data inconsistent, and makes comparing to the 2009 election an incomplete task. However, thanks to krago from the uselectionatlas, who sent me poll maps from the ridings that had by-elections (now since taken down from the Elections Nova Scotia site), I was able to figure out the redistributed results for those ridings myself.
Here are the 2009 election results for the new ridings that overlap ridings that had by-elections since the 2009 election:

New riding NDP votes (%) Lib votes (%) PC votes (%) Grn votes (%) Oth votes (%)
Antigonish 2989 (34.6) 2189 (25.3) 3313 (38.3) 148 (1.7)
Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie 4004 (50.2) 1786 (22.4) 2085 (26.2) 95 (1.2)
Northside-Westmount 3974 (41.1) 1805 (18.67) 3741 (38.7) 148 (1.5)
Victoria-The Lakes 2165 (28.6) 2221 (29.3) 2931 (38.7) 167 (2.2) 97 (1.3)
Cumberland South 1917 (27.1) 395 (5.6) 4447 (62.8) 104 (1.5) 221 (3.1)
Inverness 1365 (17.2) 1601 (20.2) 4647 (58.7) 302 (3.8)
Cape Breton-Richmond 2175 (26.8) 3720 (45.9) 2078 (25.6) 129 (1.6)

In addition, the ridings of Glace Bay and Yarmouth had by-elections since 2009, but their boundaries have not changed, so there was no need to find the redistributed results, just use the 2009 results in those ridings.
The Elections Nova Scotia redistributed results show the NDP winning Antigonish, the Liberals winning Inverness, the Liberals winning Yarmouth and the Tories winning Northside-Westmount. However, this is due to the by-elections that happened since the last election. In 2009, these four new ridings would have all gone PC except Northside-Westmount which would have gone NDP (surprisingly, since its predecessor riding, Cape Breton North went PC).

Having a look at the redistributed results, it is clear that the NDP does go into this election with a more favourable map than in 2009. The redistributed results would have given them two new seats, while the Liberals would have won two fewer, and the Tories would have won one fewer:
Party 2009 seats (actual) 2009 seats (new boundaries)
NDP 31 33 (+2)
Liberals 11 9 (-2)
PC 10 9 (-1)

As mentioned, rural Nova Scotia loses three seats. One in Cape Breton, one in West Nova, and one on the south shore. Two are gained in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). While the loss of a seat in the South Shore means a loss of a seat for the NDP, this is gained by a favourable redistribution in Cape Breton which would give them the new riding of Northside-Westmount, plus the addition of the two new HRM ridings which would have gone NDP. The Liberals lose two seats, one in West Nova and one in Cape Breton. The Tories’ loss goes to the NDP as the former Cape Breton North riding which was won by the PCs has taken a chunk out of the former riding of Cape Breton South which went Liberal, but the had the Tories finish a distant third. The result gives the NDP a narrow notional win. 

Pictogram created by Space7 at of the new ridings coloured by how they went in 2009 (same colour key)

Redistribution highlights

  • In West Nova, the underpopulated Acadian riding of Clare has been merged with neighbouring riding Digby-Annapolis to form the new riding of Clare-Digby. Clare was one of the three Acadian ridings that were previously protected but were abolished in the new redistribution. Both Digby-Annapolis and Clare-Digby were Liberal ridings, and neither incumbent (Wayne Gaudet or Harold Theriault) are running for re-election. The rest of the ridings in the region were retained, with Annapolis taking in the Annapolis County portion of the former Digby-Annapolis riding.
  • On the South Shore, the ridings of Queens and Shelburne have been merged together into the new riding of Queens-Shelburne. Both Queens and Shelburne went NDP in 2009. Shelburne MLA Sterling Belliveau will be seeking re-election in the new district, while Queens MLA Vicki Conrad will be resigning. Elsewhere in the region, the Acadian riding of Argyle has expanded to include the District of Barrington which was previously in the riding of Shelburne. Argyle was one of those underpopulated minority ridings that were previously protected. Redistribution may not affect its representation, as Argyle MLA and Acadian Chris d’Entremont will be seeking re-election in Argyle-Barrington. In addition to this, Lunenburg West expands westward a bit to take in part of the former riding of Queens
  • In Northern Nova Scotia, there was little in terms of boundary changes, except some of Cumberland North being transferred to Cumberland South. In terms of riding name changes, Truro-Bible Hill becomes the convoluted “Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River” despite having no boundary changes.
  • In Central Nova, the underpopulated (due to Guysborough County being the fastest shrinking county in the province) Guysborough-Sheet Harbour riding is expanding to take in a small portion of Antigonish riding (Antigonish County being the second fastest growing county in the province) and will be renamed “Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie”.
  • As mentioned, Cape Breton loses one seat. The entire island has been redistributed, with only four ridings retaining the same name. Cape Breton loses one riding, but since there is one vacancy in the region, all 8 incumbents have found separate seats to run in, in a “musical chairs” type scenario. The ridings of Cape Breton Centre, Glace Bay, Inverness and Victoria-The Lakes are the only ridings to retain their names, and of those only Glace Bay retains the same boundaries as the 2009 election. If we want to pick a riding that has been abolished, we might as well pick the vacated riding-Cape Breton South. A majority of this riding will be retained in the new riding of Sydney-Whitney Pier, but more of that riding has come from Cape Breton Nova. The other three new ridings are Cape Breton-Richmond (created from all of the Acadian riding of Richmond, and small parts of Inverness and Cape Breton West), Northside-Westmound (created from most of Cape Breton North and part of Cape Breton South), and Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg (created mostly from Cape Breton West, and from small parts of Cape Breton South and Cape Breton Nova). The loss of the Cape Breton South riding means a loss of a safe Liberal seat in the region.
  • The growth in central Halifax has ensured that the region would gain one new seat- which if it existed in 2009, would have ensured the NDP would win an extra seat. Just two ridings in central Halifax will be retaining their names: Halifax Chebucto and Halifax Needham. An additional riding- Halifax Citadel-Sable Island is only adding “Sable Island” despite Sable Island already being in the riding of Halifax Citadel, and having a grand total population of five. These three ridings- located on the urban Halifax Peninsula, only faced minor boundary changes, while the more suburban central Halifax ridings experienced more changes to accommodate an additional riding. Most of Halifax Clayton Park becomes the new riding of “Clayton Park West”, while the riding of Halifax Fairview effectively splits into two new ridings: Halifax Armdale and Fairview-Atlantic.  Both of these ridings would have gone NDP had they existed in 2009.
  • Growth in the Halifax suburbs have also ensured that that region will also gain a seat, and again this would mean the NDP would’ve won an extra seat in this region in 2009. In this area, just four ridings retain their name: Halifax Atlantic, Sackville-Cobequid, Timberlea-Prospect and Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank. These four ridings saw only minor changes with redistribution. Outside of these ridings, there now exists three ridings where there used to be two. The new riding of Bedford has been carved out of the riding of Bedford-Birch Cove, while the riding of Hammonds Plains-Upper Sackville has been split into two new ridings: Sackville-Beaver Bank and Hammonds Plains-Lucasville. Hammons Plains-Upper Sackville MLA Mat Whynott will be running in Sackville-Beaver Bank, leaving the riding of Hammonds Plains-Lucasville without an incumbent. For the record- both of these new ridings would have gone NDP in 2009.
  • Finally, on the Dartmouth-Cole Harbour side of the HRM, there will be no new ridings, but a lot of ridings have been moved about. The area, which is mostly suburban is still growing, but will see no new ridings because one riding- Preston is one of those underpopulated minority ridings (this time representing Nova Scotia’s historic African community) and has to be abolished due to its small size. The Preston riding is expanding to include small parts of the ridings of Dartmouth East and Eastern Shore, and part of the now defunct Cole Harbour riding. The riding will be renamed “Preston-Dartmouth” and retains its Liberal advantage. Outside of this riding, the ridings of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, Dartmouth East, Dartmouth North and Eastern Passage all retain their names. The only name changes came as a result of transferring Portland Valley from Dartmouth South-Portland Valley (to become just “Dartmouth South”) to Cole Harbour (which will now be “Cole Harbour-Portland Valley”). Other than this change, only minor changes to the other ridings occurred.

While it is clear the NDP have the advantage on paper thanks to these new boundaries, only time will tell if this will help them on Election Day. The way polls are going for the NDP, they will need more than just the extra two ridings they would have gained thanks to redistribution to win the election in October. However, the way pollsters are low-balling incumbent parties in recent elections across the country, anything can happen. In the coming weeks of the campaign, look to this site for cartographic projections of the polls, as I attempt to map the outcome of the election.