Monday, June 29, 2009

You May be seated

After her befuddling decision to run in Central Nova last election, Elizabeth May appears to be on the right track:

OTTAWA–The federal Green party is expecting an election this fall and the new, number-one strategic priority is to make sure leader Elizabeth May has a seat in the House of Commons when it's over.

"Now the party is convinced that our number-one goal is to elect me to the House of Commons. So that changes quite a lot of things," May told Green party members in Eastern Ontario yesterday at an election-preparedness briefing.

May says she's ready to switch ridings to make that happen and is now deciding whether she should run in Guelph, Owen Sound or on Vancouver Island in the next campaign.

Her short list also includes Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley in Nova Scotia, now vacant because of the retirement of independent MP Bill Casey, a former Conservative.

The Green leader confirmed publicly for the first time yesterday that she's unlikely to run again in Central Nova, where she was defeated by Defence Minister Peter MacKay in the 2008 election. (MacKay won 46 per cent of the vote in Central Nova, while May won 32 per cent.)

The party is polling and testing the ground, in an unprecedented way, May said, in ridings such as Guelph, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, and Saanich-Gulf Islands, where the Greens did well last year.

Having recently updated my election spreadsheet, I figured I'd have some fun and try and look at where May stands the best chance of winning.

To get a rough idea, I took the average vote totals from the past three elections, and made the following two assumptions:

1. The Green vote will double
2. May will convert half of everyone who currently has the Greens as their second choice. To get these numbers, I averaged out the second choice preferences of the final Ekos, Angus, and Decima 2008 election polls. For example, 18% of Conservative voters and 22.6% of Liberal voters listed the Greens as their second choice, so I transferred 9% of the Tory vote and 11.3% of the Liberal vote in every riding to the Greens.

This isn't intended to predict how May would fare...only to give a relative ranking of seats, based on how close the Greens are to winning the seat (projected Green vote - highest vote total of another party). I did try different variations of the above formulas, and the results were all similar.

So, based on this, what are the ten most winnable seats for the Greens?

1. Guelph (Lib)
2. Saanich-Gulf Islands (CPC)
3. Victoria (NDP)
4. Vancouver Centre (Lib)
5. Ottawa Centre (NDP)
6. Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound (CPC)
7. Esquimalt Juan De Fuca (Lib)
8. West Vancouver Sunshine Coast yada yada (CPC)
9. Central Nova (CPC)
10. BC Southern Interior (NDP)

Off the bat, we can strike Central Nova from the list - it's only there because of the increased May-vote in 2008. If you base this on only the 2004 and 2006 elections, it's the 146th best riding for May to run in, further illustrating just how awful a choice it was for her last time. Similarly, I tend to think the Greens are already punching a bit above their weight in Vancouver Centre, as they fielded a very strong campaign there last time, thanks to Adriane Carr.

Looking at the other 8 ridings, there's a case to be made for pretty much all of them, as most feature relatively weak incumbents, and were won on the strength of vote splitting. And the Greens seem to be on the right path, with the three ridings they're polling in (bolded above), all placing highly on my list.

Of the three, Guelph certainly seems the least daunting, with Green candidate Mike Nagy only 11% back last time - with the vote split there, May could take this riding with 30% of the vote. Running in Guelph would, however, mean tossing overboard a young man who has run for the Greens in the riding three times, growing their vote substantially over this period. It would also mean defeating a Liberal, or possibly handing the riding to the Conservatives off a Green-Liberal vote split. Given her previous statements, risking this would be out of character, but it could signal the begining of a shifting strategy where the Greens focus on running against the Liberals (and NDP), rather than the Tories.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the other two seats May is targeting are held by Conservatives. May would certainly enjoy giving Gary Lunn a go in Saanich Gulf Islands, as she has been highly critical of the man before. But, then again, knocking off a lower-profile target like Larry Miller (I'd wager most of his own family members haven't even heard of him) in Bruce, might be easier. On the flip side, the Green vote sky rocketed there last election, presumably on the strength of the candidate (former councilor Dick Hibma), the Greens had running.

So, taken all together, I'd expect May to make a run at Lunn. Either way, she should decide soon, and spend August and September tricycling through the riding, because direct voter contact will make a difference, and she simply won't have the time to do a lot of it during a national election campaign.

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  • Guelph.Home of the communist party of Canada and other assorted left wing flakes. Mike

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:26 p.m.  

  • I think when considering Ontario ridings, you also have to take a look at how the vote split provincially, to get a sense of what may have happened in each election: did one Party's voters stay home? Did one Party punch above their weight? And what would the May dynamics bring to the table: would she motivate the contrary response (as she did in Central Nova), or would she motivate those who support the Green economic platform (er, whatever).

    By Blogger Paul, at 7:44 p.m.  

  • Who's taller, Lunn or May? And how will this impact the battle?

    There's such an urban/rural split in the Green support with May of course at the vanguard of the urban-left column, does this tip the scale to an urban riding?

    By Anonymous Gustav, at 7:54 p.m.  

  • You should remember that in Saanich-Gulf Islands in 2008 the NDP candidate was forced to withdraw, and the Liberal candidate was actually a former Green Party member. If there were actually NDP and Liberal candidates the next time, it would make it a bit more problematic for May.

    Also in Esquimault-Juan de Fuca, Keith Martin beat the Conservative candidate by a whopping 79 votes, so not much room for May here either.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:00 p.m.  

  • I almost think those dynamics might help May. The Green vote was 10% there last time and 2006, and 16% in 2004, so the withdrawal didn't help...perhaps some Green vote drifted Liberal last time if the grits ran a former Green party member.

    The Conservative vote was also higher there in 2008, than either 2004 or 2006.

    In short, if anything the riding seems more appealing for the Greens based on 04 and 06 than last election. And I think there's some chance the Lib/NDP vote (especially if NDP had problems there) could rally around May.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:15 p.m.  

  • I wouldn't rule out Ottawa Centre.

    Lots of students and the Greens poll well among young Canadians.

    A core of experienced Green party campaign workers.

    A forgettable, interchangeable NDP MP who probably had his best result in the last election.

    A Liberal party without an obvious candidate and likely to be badly divided by however the nomination works out.

    A bunch of public servants who are throughly tired of a Conservative government that remains distrustful of its own employees.

    There's no chance the Tories can win.

    And with enough possible voting blocks, May is in the race.

    The question is whether she could win.

    The answer is maybe. For May, a maybe should look pretty good.

    By Blogger C4SR, at 9:26 p.m.  

  • Of the three, Guelph certainly seems the least daunting, with Green candidate Mike Nagy only 11% back last time - with the vote split there, May could take this riding with 30% of the vote. Running in Geulph would, however, mean tossing overboard a young man who has run for the Greens in the riding three times, growing their vote substantially over this period.

    In fact, Mike Nagy has ruled himself out of running again in Guelph. How would that affect your assessment?

    By Blogger The Pundits' Guide, at 10:36 p.m.  

  • Guelph looks promising - it's a question of whether May wants to try and knock off a Liberal.

    I suspect it's more likely Liberals would vote May to defeat a Tory than Tories voting May to defeat a Liberal, but you never know. If she wants to go at Iggy hard and grab Liberal/NDP votes next election, it would be a bold statement.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:20 p.m.  

  • Why doesn't she run in Ottawa-West-Nepean. She has lived in Ottawa her entire adult life, John Baird is an anti-environmental rightwing fanatic and she would have easy access to the national media in Ottawa.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:42 p.m.  

  • Great post. I think it's a shame that electoral reform seems to be a dead issue in Canada now (after the BC vote, and Ontario's). I'm not sure when these things are subject to referendums, we will ever see meaningful reform. Even if we set aside 10% of the seats in Parliament for party lists, Ms. May would be virtually guaranteed a seat. I wish the Libs (or Cons though unlikely) would put this in their platform to reform the Elections Act to allow for the 10%. It would invigorate our system without fundamentally changing it.

    By Anonymous Tom Broen, at 12:26 a.m.  

  • I think that Guelph would not be the best choice for May. The Greens are a party that will tend to do better in by-elections than in general elections. The high result last election in Guelph is attributable to a number of factors, but one of them surely is that is was a byelection that converted into a general election when Stevie dissolved Parliament. I think that a lot of voters had resolved to vote Green when it was a byelection then stuck with that pick when it became a general election, though some might not have voted Green if it were a general election in the first place.

    On the other hand, Saanich has been a riding where the Greens have been consistently competitive over a number of elections and it can't be attributed to a factor that won't be present in the next general election.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:02 a.m.  

  • In closing I would use the following criteria in the hunt for a seat:
    1. Relatively strong Green grass-roots
    2. Liberal or NDP incumbent (Greens draw support from those parties so it makes more sense to go up against them, and not a Tory)
    3. Fair sized "creative class" population (university towns ++)
    4. Conservatives likely to throw money at riding but not likely to win.
    5. High NDP + Liberal support

    Central Nova 1/5
    1. NO
    2. NO
    3. NO
    4. NO
    5. YES

    Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound 1/5
    1. strong federal results and even better 2007 provincial results (33% of the vote). However, were provincial results driven by opposition to religious schools?
    2. No, fairly strong conservative lead.
    3. Some economic impact from the Bruce County nuclear plant (in Huron-Bruce), but the nuke industry is probably not a friend to the Greens (what with their flat earth view of nuclear power).
    4. Conservatives are likely to throw some money there, but that is because they are almost certain to win.
    5. Not enough - the Tories won 47% of the vote. May would have to sweep the left.

    Saanich-Gulf Islands 2/5
    1. Yes, historically a stronghold for the Greens (despite declining performance).
    2. No, Conservative incumbent.
    3. Does include part of Uvic, but not a huge amount of high tech industry.
    4. Conservatives are likely to throw money there, but that is because they are also likely to win.
    5. Possibly. If May took a few Conservative voters and swept the Liberal and NDP vote of 2008 she might win.

    Guelph 5/5
    1. Yes, the Greens have had good results there in the past.
    2. Yes, a Liberal incumbent.
    3. Yes, University of Guelph. This is a college town, however, it also has a lot of manufacturing jobs.
    4. Conservatives are likely to mount a fair campaign. However, they are not likely to do as well as in 2008.
    5. Definitely, 71% of voters voted for a party other than the Tories.

    Ottawa West-Nepean (suggested by some people as a gimmicky place to run - people that seem to forget Prentice is environment minister now... although Jim Prentice IS very forgettable). 1/5
    1. No. The Greens got 6% here in their last run.
    2. No, the incumbent is a Conservative.
    3. Nortel and government jobs, so yes on the creative class thing. Then again, it isn't clear to me that too many folks are actually employed by Nortel these days.
    4. The Tories are going to throw money here, but have a good chance of winning.
    5. Iffy, only 54% of people here voted for somebody other than Baird.

    Bottom line - run in Guelph.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 2:08 a.m.  

  • Guelph makes the most sense, but I doubt May would run against a party that she has repeatedly endorsed. Her anti-Conservatism consistently trumps her pro-Green.

    She's essentially helping the Greens become a wing of the Liberal party. May never has and never will say an unkind word about the Liberals or do anything to hurt their chances. BC: here she comes.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:30 a.m.  

  • Even though you have it as 10th I think her best bet would be in BC Southern Interior. I can't see her beating out Dewar in Ottawa Centre.

    By Anonymous Fence Jacksonville, at 10:43 a.m.  

  • What about Cumberland Colchester? Bill Casey would probably endorse her, and there's no incumbent there.

    By Anonymous Maritimer, at 11:20 a.m.  

  • I'm not so sure that Casey would be so quick to endorse her - or anyone, for that matter. He didn't even serve out the remainder of his term as MP; I'd say that's a pretty clear sign that he wants to wash his hands of politics. Additionally, I would assume that if the Tories nominate even a reasonably-palatable candidate, they would win. Heck, even someone from the old Reform-Alliance wing of the party might be able to pull off a federal election win (as has been done repeatedly in New Brunswick).

    As for May's choices - I'd say her best opportunity was lost in the last election. If the Liberals were willing to step aside to help topple Peter MacKay, then it's plausible that they would have done so to topple Gary Lunn instead. With the surprise revelations about the NDP candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands, it would've essentially been a 2-way race between Lunn and May.

    Saanich is probably still one of her best options this time around (and I'd put money on her selecting the riding) - she'll still have a large Liberal/NDP vote pool to choose from, and the riding ahs a history of giving a measurable level of support to the greens. However, her presence may end up having the effect of making the election even easier for Lunn if all it does is further splinter the left in the riding - Lunn may even win with less than 30% of the vote.

    By Blogger daniel, at 12:05 p.m.  

  • As I recall, May previously insisted that she would never run anywhere but Central Nova.

    Does it shock anyone that Elizabeth May seems unable to stand by her own convictions on anything?

    By Blogger Patrick Ross, at 2:10 p.m.  

  • Guelph is almost certainly the best chance for an electoral win for EMay. The required split is there, the people are there, it's close enough to substantial numbers of GPC volunteersm who would love to head over for some canvassing. I'd lay odds in favour.
    Some of the commentors here have some strange idea that the Green Party = Elizabeth May, and therefore would be averse to unseating a Liberal.
    Lots of Greens really supported Dion. That support doesn't transfer to the Liberals. In addition, it nearly, (and still may) cost EMay her job. That isn't a mistake that anybody senior in the GPC will be making anytime soon. The GPC will look after the GPC first. We'll talk with you guys AFTER the next General if cooperation is warranted.

    By Anonymous Bluegreenblogger, at 6:56 p.m.  

  • HoserToHosier, I like your criteria, but on Central Nova, haven't you forgotten St. Francis Xavier in Antogonish? I thought that was one of the places May's campaign had targetted.

    Also, your comments on Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound are perhaps missing the fact that their 2008 candidate Dick Hibma worked for Bruce Power. A chunk of Ontario Greens are in fact pro-nuke.

    Finally, on Ottawa West-Nepean, you list Nortel as a leader of the high tech industry. All I can say (and I live in Ottawa), is we sure hope it stays so, because it was just delisted from the TSX, and is really hurting (not to mention the situation former employees have been left in).

    By Blogger The Pundits' Guide, at 6:59 p.m.  

  • St. Francis X probably helped May, but is rather small for Central Nova to be considered a college riding. It only has 4200 students, and a couple hundred faculty. Guelph, by contrast, has about 20,000 students.

    On the nuclear thing I agree that May's position on the nuclear issue would be at odds with other other candidates (the 1 point was from having a strong presence there).

    Nepean is next door to Kanata, which houses a lot of high tech firms, even if things aren't as good as they were in 2000. There are also a lot of upper middle class government workers there, who would make a nice target for the Greens.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 9:18 p.m.  

  • Mike Nagy has already said that he's not going to run again in Guelph. IF the election doesn't happen in the first few weeks of school, and the Greens can manage to really reach out to the University students and get them registered, then I can easily see them taking Guelph if May runs here. I live in a heavily Liberal neighbourhood in Guelph, and although Frank Valeriote's been a city fixture for a number of years, he certainly doesn't seem to be as popular now as he used to be (at least among the people that I talk to).

    The big problem always seems to be getting the students out to vote though- hopefully the Greens are already working on strategies for that.

    By Blogger Jen, at 6:58 a.m.  

  • May will do well in Saanich-Gulf Islands but she won't take it. If Green Party's Briony Penn couldn't win this riding with the Liberal machine behind her (most Liberals in 2008 abandoned Victoria altogether and campaigned for Keith and Briony) and no NDP candidate to challenge the position, then it's never going to happen. The last election in Saanich proved that while the left does split here, the Conservative vote is actually much stronger than previously imagined. Briony actually got more votes than Gary Lunn received in 2006, but she still lost because many Conservatives don't bother voting here due to complacency--when rumours came up that Lunn might lose the riding, they came in droves to reassert their dominance. The NDP on the otherhand demonstrated their party loyalty by just not showing up to vote instead of helping Briony win.

    Guelph and Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound are certainly her best options, but I'm leaning towards Bruce-Grey-Owen-Sound. The Greens could easily unite the left on that one than with Guelph where she would breed bad blood with Liberals.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:23 p.m.  

  • There are strong hints circulating in Saanich-Gulf Islands that Lunn may not run again. How would this affect May's calculations?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:06 p.m.  

  • YESSSSSS!!! I've been saying forever that Elizabeth should run in Guelph and now that Mikes said hes not going to run again we need a new candidate anyways!

    By Blogger For a Greener Guelph, at 10:32 p.m.  

  • I'm one of those Liberals who has May and the Greens as my #2 choice. As such, I'd like nothing better than for her to take down some Tory drone, no matter where it is.

    Now, this is just a thought here, but we know that there is little chance of any party forming a majority in the near future, meaning any government, be they Liberal or Conservative, will have to rely on 3rd party support for survival. Now, the Greens have aligned themselves, somewhat, with the Liberals. If Ignatieff here wanted to play this smart, he'd likely request the local Liberal party run a weak candidate against her wherever she chooses (to stave off the kind of idiocy that was thrown our way last election when we decided not to run a candidate against Lizzie), and then let the Greens tear at the NDP, while taking on the Tories (I think it's a lot easier to switch NDP votes to Green than to Liberal in many old ND-ridings). If we can build up the Greens as a solid left alternative to the NDP, we will have a stable and semi-sane junior collation partner for the future Liberal minority governments.

    As has been noted here, the Greens really haven't targeted the Liberals, and I think it's because they realize their best bet at power is a Lib-Green coalition (particularly when Dion was at the helm), and I think it wouldn't be a bad idea for us to try to repay the favour.

    By Anonymous DasSoviet, at 6:21 a.m.  

  • I think Lizzie should run in Guelph, where she could be humiliated, again; but this time, by a Liberal.
    Then, to complete the Triple Crown, Lizzie could run in a riding where the NDP is strong, and be humiliated once again. By then, maybe, just maybe the Green Party will have grown up, and selected a real leader - or at least a person who is actually there because of green issues, and not solely for personal gain.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:02 p.m.  

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