Ridings to Watch - Quebec
At the start of the campaign, the pundits confidently predicted there would be no surprises in Quebec. Well...surprise! The NDP vote has tripled, and there are probably over 50 ridings in play tomorrow. I'm not going to profile each of them - instead, a look at some bellwether ridings for each party.
I don't profess to be an expert on Quebec politics, so I invite those of you more familiar with the on-the-ground situation in La Belle Province to weigh in with your thoughts and predictions.
It seems almost certain the Liberals will lose seats in Quebec, but it's hard to predict just how bad it will get. And it's possible the Bloc's collapse will actually help them in some ridings. That said, we can likely write the Liberals off outside the island of Montreal, with the NDP poised to pick up Hull and Brossard.
Within Montreal itself, I think it's important to recognize the failings of seat projection models - mine included. For example, my model gives Denis Coderre just a 60% chance of holding Bourassa against the orange wave. Say what you will about Denis, and I've said plenty, but the man has been an MP for 14 years, he has name recognition, and he has a powerful organization. Even though I build incumbency into the model, not all incumbents are created equal.
The same is true of challengers. My model gives the young Trudeau only a one-in-three chance of holding Papineau, but there were several reports the NDP laid down their arms in Papineau at the start of the campaign, in exchange for the Bloc doing likewise in Outremont. If I were putting money on it, I'd say Justin holds.
There are 10 other Liberal seats I haven't already mentioned. Some of them, like Mount Royal and St. Laurent-Cartierville, are locks both using my projection model and common sense. The ones to watch on election night are seats like Westmount Ville-Marie and Laval-Les Iles.
Let's start with the bad news for Stephen Harper. Lawrence Cannon could be falling on Monday - my model gives him just a one-in-ten chance of holding Pontiac, and that's more charitable than most other seat projections which have already written him off completely. In fact, the only Conservative MP my model predicts as being completely safe is Maxime Bernier. Suffice to say, that's probably Harper's nightmare scenario.
My model has the Tories in trouble in Beauport and Charlesbourg, and local riding CROP polls have confirmed that. Beyond that, my model gives them even odds in most of their other seats - however, due to the strength of their organization, I'd expect them to hold most of these and come out of Quebec with around 6-8 seats tomorrow. After all, as Larry Smith has reminded us, there are benefits in having a seat at the Cabinet table. These benefits just aren't enough to get Larry Smith elected.
In the battle to form the official opposition, this is what it all comes down to. My projection model pegs the NDP's Quebec seat total at 33 to 58 seats but, as I said yesterday, if you're an NDP candidate finding yourself in Vegas this weekend, I'd bet on the low end of that. Quite simply, the NDP have few volunteers and a limited ground game outside of the 3-6 ridings they were targeting at the start of the campaign. Yes, many seats will fall because of the orange wave, but with place holder candidates, next to no canvassing, and no GOTV, I expect many of the close races to break against them.
So let's look at some of the bellwether ridings. If the NDP can't win ridings like Saint Lambert, Laval, and Gaspesie, they're in trouble - they may not even crack 15 or 20 seats in the province.
Sorting their ridings by probability of victory in my model, the seats to watch (around 30th on the list) are ridings like Longueil, Shefford, Ahuntsic, Saint-Bruno, and Quebec. If seats like those go orange, then Jack is likely on his way to Stornoway.
Another good indicator of how the night goes will be the early returns from Berthier-Maskinongé, home of the aforementioned Vegas candidate. A recent poll gave her 29% in the riding, placing her just 7 points back of the Bloc incumbent. That's about 9 points below where I project she should be, but given the media scrutiny, we can consider that the extreme example. So if the NDP come in over 30% there, they could be in for a very good night.