Friday, May 13, 2011

A Cross-Post from Poll Vaulting

I just posted this at my Poll Vaulting blog, but I like it and I thought I'd stick it here too:
So I'm looking at Elections Canada's results. One thing that intrigues me, and has always intrigued me, about Canada's electoral system is how far from consensus we ever are: a party can come as close as possible to acclamation in one riding and be a complete non-entity in another riding. I realise this is just a reality of the federation we happen to call home, where disparate interests are brought together in a union that, for better or worse, is frequently more pragmatic than ideological. We might even come, one day, to see these schisms as positions of strength.
The Bloc Québécois were, of course, beaten pretty heavily this time out, squeaking ahead of the competition in only four ridings in the province. Yet in most of Québec, they still managed to come in second, and their overall vote tally remained second as well - where the Liberals and the Conservatives both managed more seats int he province than the BQ, that's because they rely on certain pockets of support. The BQ is now a victim of their broad across-the-board appeal.
Well, mostly across the board. It should come as no surprise that Mount Royal (excluding of course the 233 ridings where they did not field a candidate) is the riding where they performed worst, with a laughable 2.9% of the vote. It's one of ten ridings, however, where they failed to obtain even ten percent of the vote - and not all of those ridings are in Montréal. While their best performance was, not surprisingly, one of the four ridings that they took, Bas-Richilieu--Nicolet--Bécancour with 38.3% (still nowhere near 50%, I hasten to add), their second-best turnout of 36.4% was in a riding they lost to the NDP, Verchères--Les Patriotes. Their four victories came in their first, third, seventh and twelfth-best contests.
 With the Liberals, the real extent of their current predicament is visible in these riding-by-riding results. As of this most recent election, there are currently a rather horrifying 91 ridings where Liberal support is in the single-digits. Not for the first time, Jonquière--Alma takes the cake for 'worst Liberal performance', with a horrid 1.98% of the vote representing barely a thousand votes (in second-worst-performing Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar, their 2.3% was less than 700 votes). This is fringe-party-level support, and indicates that the Liberals will have to do a lot of work to be seen as a truly 'national' party again.
The only real glimmer of light in the Liberals' disastrous May 2nd was the one that came first - Newfoundland, the only province they 'won' in terms of popular support. It should come as no surprise that the Liberals' three best performances in the country are all on the rock, including Bonavista--Gander--Grand Falls--Windsor and Humber--St. Barbe--Baie Verte, at 57.7% and 57.0% respecively the only ridings in the country, two of 308 contested, where the Liberals took a majority of votes. That's two more than the BQ managed, but that must be small consolation for them.
The NDP, by comparison, have to be looking at these riding-by-riding results with a certain degree of satisfaction. There's a tendency at the moment to see the NDP's breakthrough as strictly a Québec thing, but consider this: of 308 ridings, there are only two, Crowfoot and Portage--Lisgar, where the NDP managed less than ten percent of the vote - 9.1% and 9.8% respectively - two is a smaller number and 9.1% is a higher number than any other party in the country, meaning that when they turn to 2015, they'll find a higher basement than the other parties regarding room-for-growth on a riding-by-riding level. The fact that their two worst performances are in the Prairies ought to give them an idea of how to progress as well.
The toplines are satisfying too for the NDP, I imagine, with king-of-the-hill being Jack Harris in St. John's East, where his remarkable 71.2% actually represents a drop from 2008. Jack Layton's own performance of 60.8% was merely fifth-best, though satisfyingly the top five are all from different provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Québec and Ontario, respectively). All-in-all thirty-six of their 102 seats were won with bare majorities of 50% or more - a decent number but by no means sensational. As regards local hegemony, for sensation we must look elsewhere.
The Conservatives arguably have less across-the-board consistency than the NDP at the moment, with much more embarrassing bottom-of-the-barrel numbers. Yet their peak performances are that much higher - the Conservatives won this election not by being 'Canada's party' so much as by having extraordinary levels of success in certain parts of the country. And, of course, by squeaking by in many others.
The Conservatives' worst performance is a rather horrid 3.5%, in Gilles Duceppe's own former riding of Laurier--Sainte-Marie, where fewer than 1800 people cast their vote for the party who now has a majority government in the country. That the basement is in Québec should come as no surprise: amazingly their forty-two worst ridings are all in La Belle Province, with my own riding of Davenport the worst in the so-called 'RoC'. Only 23 of those are less than 10%, though, a much smaller number than the Liberals currently have to contend with.
Their best performance nationwide should come as no surprise: it's Kevin Sorenson's fiefdom of Crowfoot, where the only two times since the creation of the riding in 1968 that the conservative candidate has won less than 70% of the vote were two elections in which the conservative vote was split in two. United, they anaged this time out to award Harper's party with a shocking 84.0% of the vote. In fact, 13 of the top 16 Conservative victories were all located within Alberta, and they were all more than 70%.
There were a stunning 107 ridings in 2011 in which the Conservatives got more than 50% of the vote - almost two-thirds of the ridings that they won. Anyone wanting to blame 'vote-splitting' or a disunified opposition for the Conservatives' victory needs to consider this very important fact: where the Conservatives are strong, they are very strong indeed, and it's tough to imagine any other party forming a proper national government in Canada without making very serious inroads into those 107 ridings. At the moment, there are more ridings where a completely united opposition would still not shake the Tories' victory than there are ridings won in total by any other party in the country. The NDP managed an impressive 102 seats, squeaking by with less than 50% in two-thirds of those ridings. And yet the Tories' fortress ridings actually amount to a larger number than that. And they actually managed to obtain at least one of these bare-majorities in every province in the country except Newfoundland and Labrador: one in PEI, two in Nova Scotia, four in New Brunswick, one in Québec, 40 in Ontario, nine in Manitoba, ten in Saskatchewan, 25 in 28-seat Alberta, and 15 in British Columbia.
That's a remarkable coast-to-coast victory, and it indicates the breadth of Harper's current mandate, which is much deeper than a popular vote of less than 40% might indicate.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...