Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Point Doulgas by-election: Post mortem

I haven't made many “post-election analysis” posts on this blog, but it's never too late to start, right? As expected, the NDP managed to win last week's provincial by-election in Point Douglas, Manitoba. A seat they have never lost, and which gave them their best result out of all ridings in the 2016 provincial election. Even though the NDP won, the by-election result was a bit of a disappointment for the party, as they won less than 50% of the vote for the first time in the riding's history.

Preliminary results show the NDP's Bernadette Smith winning 44% of the vote (down from 58% in 2016), with the Liberal's John Cacayuran winning 29% of the vote in second place (up from 19%). This was the Liberal's best showing in the riding since the 1990 election. The Tories finished third with 16% of the vote, only down a quarter of a percentage point from 2016. The Greens finished in fifth, behind the libertarian Manitoba Party. Overall turnout was down 10% from last year's election, to just 32%. While bad, it's not unusual of for by-elections to have turnouts in the low 30s, and considering how low turnout usually is in this riding, it's not that bad.

Elections Manitoba published the preliminary results by polling division, which has allowed me to delve deep into the results to see just what happened on election day. I sure hope they used the same poll map as in the last provincial election.
Race and income by census tract (2011 National Household Survey)

Except for the one polling division in the southeast corner of the riding, Point Douglas' electoral geography is usually quite homogeneous, as the NDP has historically swept almost every poll in this riding. Last week's by-election did identify a political cleavage in the riding, that I believe is most likely based on ethnic lines. The Liberals ended up winning 8 of the 40 polls in the riding, and tying the NDP in one other. Most of these poll wins came from the northwest part of the riding, which has a lower Aboriginal population than the rest of the riding, and a higher Filipino population. This part of the riding is over one-quarter Filipino, which is the highest proportion of Filipinos in the riding. Most of the rest of the riding has a large Aboriginal population (with about 50% of the population in these areas being Native), and these areas stuck with the NDP, who just so happened to be running an Aboriginal candidate. The poll in the southeast corner of the riding stuck with the Tory candidate. This one poll is in an area that is very different from the rest of the riding socioeconomically, with an average income of over $60,000 compared to the low $20,000 range in most of the rest of the riding.

The swing map reinforces my theory of Filipino voters switching their allegiances to the Liberals. Some polls in the northwest of the riding saw up to 30% swings away from the NDP. In fact the poll which was the NDP's best in 2016 was even won by the Liberals! That's not to say it was all bad news for the NDP, as a few polls actually swung in their direction. One poll even saw a nearly 30% swing away from the Liberals! These swings to the NDP came from areas that are the most Aboriginal in the riding, and are also among the poorest parts of the riding.

Contributing to the election results was a likely turnout difference between Filipino and Aboriginal voters, as the northwest part of the riding saw the highest election day turnout, while the poorest and most Aboriginal parts of the riding tended to see the lowest turnout. In fact, there is a clear correlation between swing and turnout; areas that swung the most to the Liberals had a higher turnout, while those areas that had the lowest turnout swung to the NDP (or at least had a lower swing to the Liberals).

What does this all mean for Manitoba politics going forward? Well, not too much, as both the Liberals and NDP are leaderless at the moment. However, it does expose a potential ethnic cleavage in Winnipeg's north end, which may cut into the NDP's dominance of this working class part of the city. We've already seen the Liberals not only make inroads, but sweep this part of the city in the last federal election. I'm not saying they will do this on the provincial level, but winning over Filipino voters will help the Liberals win a few more seats in the region.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Point Douglas by-election preview

Hello readers, it's been a while since my last blog post, due to being quite busy with work, but now that summer approaches, I have a bit more free time to focus on elections across this great country of ours. Of course, summer means a great lack of elections. Oh well. Anyway, those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I have still been making maps and charts, something that I much prefer over writing, to be honest. It's a lot easier to provide analysis in 140 characters or less!


Today, Manitoba is seeing its first provincial by-election since the Progressive Conservatives were swept to power in last year's provincial election. The governing Tories have remained fairly popular over the last year, and enjoy a sizable lead in the polls, thanks to a split opposition, and the fact that both the NDP and Liberals are leaderless at the moment, with both parties set to elect new leaders in the Fall.

Today's by-election is in the riding of Point Douglas, perhaps the safest NDP seat in the whole province. In last year's election, the NDP saw its largest share of the vote out of any riding, when they won the seat with 58% of the vote. In the 2011 election, it was the NDP's second best riding in the province, when 73% of voters backed the party. Most of the riding has voted NDP in every election since the party was created, and for its predecessor the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) before that, going back to when single member constituencies were created in Winnipeg for the 1958 election. Even before that, the CCF would regularly win seats in this part of Winnipeg, which has a long working class history.

Point Douglas is located in Winnipeg's notorious north end, and is named for a bend in the Red River. The Red River forms the eastern boundary of the riding, while the northern boundary is formed by Church Street and the western boundary mostly follows Sinclair Street. The southern boundary follows the CPR Winnipeg Yard, and then follows Main Street south to Lombard Avenue, and then east to the Red River. This diversion creates a bit of a “panhandle” in the southeast of the riding. While this unites all of Point Douglas together, it lumps two very socioeconomically different neighbourhoods together.

The riding is one of the poorest in the province, with most census tracts reporting an average annual income of less than $25,000. One exception is the South Point Douglas area (the aforementioned “panhandle”), which reported an average income of $63,000 in 2010. The riding has a very large First Nations population, as well as a sizable Filipino population.

Results by neighbourhood (2016 provincial and 2015 federal elections)
Click to enlarge

In the last two elections, the NDP won nearly every single poll in the riding. In 2011 the NDP won all but one poll, and in 2016, the lost just two. In 2016, the Liberals won the Lord Dufferin Park apartments, while the furthest southerly poll has voted for the Tories in both elections. This poll covers the Exchange District and Civic Centre neighbourhoods, located right next to Downtown. In federal elections, Point Douglas usually always votes NDP. However, in the 2015 election, the area switched allegiances en masse to the Liberals, thanks in part to the popularity of Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lemoureux, whose support base had previously been further west in the district. Lamoureux won 62% of the vote in Point Douglas in 2011.

In both the 2011 and 2016 elections, the NDP won a majority of votes in every neighbourhood except the South Point Douglas area, where they still managed to win pluralities in both elections. In the 2015 federal election, the Liberals won a majority of the vote in every neighbourhood, with North Point Douglas being their worst at 55% of the vote. North Point Douglas was the NDP's best neighbourhood in the 2016 provincial election (63%) and second best in 2015, after Lord Selkirk Park. Interestingly, Lord Selkirk Park was the Liberals' best neighbourhood in the last two provincial elections. The Tories typically do the best in the South Point Douglas area, winning 35% of the vote in 2016 and 41% in 2011. However, their best neighbourhood in the federal election was actually St. John's Park, winning just 18% of the vote. The Greens also do their best in the South Point Douglas area, winning nearly 10% of the vote there in 2016.

Point Douglas representation history (since 1958)

Point Douglas was vacated last January when its MLA, Kevin Chief resigned citing family reasons. He had represented the seat since 2011. Since the riding was re-created in 1990, Point Douglas has continuously been represented by members of the First Nations community, as both Chief and his predecessor, George Hickes are Aboriginals.

The NDP hopes to continue the riding's tradition of electing First Nations MLAs, with their candidate Bernadette Smith. Smith's credentials include pushing for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and advocacy for women's and indigenous rights. The Liberals are running John Cacuyaran, a former staffer for MP Maryann Mihychuk. The Tories are running electrician Jodi Moskal, the Greens are running Sabrina Koehn Binesi and the libertarian “Manitoba Party” is running their leader, Gary Marshall.

This should be an NDP hold, but turnout will be a big factor in this riding. The NDP can usually count on the support from First Nations residents in the riding, and it will help that they have an Aboriginal candidate. The NDP's main competition will be from the Liberals, who are notably not running a First Nations candidate. The Liberals' poll numbers are currently just below the NDP in province-wide polling, which would not ordinarily be enough to take this riding, but will be enough to ensure a second place finish, which they did not get in 2011 (but did get in 2016). That is not to say that this riding could not go Liberal in the future, as the federal election results prove that this is more than possible. But provincial politics in Manitoba is much differently aligned than in federal elections, and the provincial Liberal Party is too unorganized to pick this seat up.

We'll see who wins when polls close at 8pm (9pm Eastern).