Sunday, May 01, 2011

Ridings to Watch - Quebec

I've already profiled close races in BC, Alberta, the Prairies, and Atlantic Canada. Now, a look at 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.

The Liberals

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.

The Conservatives

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.

NDP-Bloc Races

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.

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  • I think it's lost for Ruth-Ellen Brosseau in Berthier-Maskinonge. Not just because of her absentee campaign, but it was found out by a local radio host, that she really doesn't speak much French. The radio host ended up cancelling his interview with her because of her lack of grasp of the French language. In a riding where it's 98% Francophone and unilingual at that, not likely to make her one of their's. I think the Bloc will hang on there.

    By Anonymous ck, at 3:12 PM  

  • You are spot-on mostly. I have been following my Papineau race closely. The NDP candidate was late with signage and skipped out on both candidates' debates, citing the inability to get off of work. He is not a serious candidate. The local Green worked a whole lot harder, from what I can see. I think Justin will be returned, but it will again be close. He is a good retail politicker, and great on the campaign trail.

    Coderre can rot. Cauchon is finished, which is too bad because he was a principled and dedicated Justice Minister back in the day and he won my respect working for SSM to be passed.

    Dion and Cotler, I should hope, will both be returned. And Larry Smith is a stinker, so I doubt the Liberal will be unseated in Lac St-Louis (although it's worth pointing out that voters there twice voted for Jack's pop, Bob Layton, as a Mulroney PC).

    What makes me sad is to see Marlene Jennings - a great MP - likely to lose her seat, but at least it would be a Dipper.

    By Blogger Scott in Montreal, at 3:55 PM  

  • Before dismissing all of these placeholder NDP candidates out of hand, remember that Jean Charest began his political career in 1984 as a placeholder candidate in Sherbrooke running against a Liberal incumbent who won by more than 25,000 votes in 1980.

    I'm a Conservative supporter, but I can see some sharp talent emerging out of the next NDP caucus.

    By Anonymous Nonpareil, at 4:11 PM  

  • Let's keep our fingers crossed.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 4:41 PM  

  • Further to Nonpareil's comment, I think there is a danger in making too much of the "ground game" factor, especially in Quebec. Look at 1984 - you had virtual unknown Tory candidates with no organization to speak of overturning Liberal margins of as much as 30,000 votes in some cases. (There's an urban legend that a couple of newly-elected Tory MPs actually showed up for work at the *National Assembly* in Quebec City.) In 1993, the Bloc's very first election, they went from 1 to 54 seats. The provincial ADQ surge in 2007 is yet another example - lots of seats in places where there was little to no ADQ organization.

    The point is that huge swings in Quebec are not unheard of - organization or no organization. A GOTV makes a huge difference in a dogfight like, say, Parkdale-High Park, but in a place where you have the NDP 20 points ahead of the second place party, the lack of GOTV may not matter as much.

    (Of course, the experience of the ADQ post-2007 shows how quickly Quebec voters can tire of the new kid on the block. I suspect that part of the reason the ADQ surge receded almost as quickly as it appeared was that they elected so many 'placeholders' that things quickly turned into amateur hour - the NDP will have to hope it avoids a similar fate.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:44 PM  

  • I'm going to spend tomorrow night on Radio-Canada and Le Devoir... I'll check in Tuesday.

    Good luck to you always Daniel. No matter what happens, everything will be in flux again in time. Que la Force soit avec toi, frangin.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 4:47 PM  

  • "The NDP vote has tripled"

    NO, it hasn't. What may have tripled is stated intention to vote for the NDP in Quebec, but it remains to be seen (in the only poll that truly counts...) whether those intentions are followed by action, or not.

    I don't think we should be overstating prognostications based on tea-leaf readings, entrail examinations, the I Ching, or polls, which are invariably paid for by SOMEONE with some sort of vested interest in the outcome.

    Polling only becomes a "science" when you convert answers (often based on individuals' emotional responsed to questions and/or the sequence of questions and/or the questioner themselves) into numbers which can then be manipulated to fit various models.

    You see? There are FAR too many variables that have to be abstracted to come to any sort of meaningful conclusions.

    And lets not forget: "Statistics INDICATE, they do not PROVE".

    By Blogger Party of One, at 4:53 PM  

  • Party of One, I'm as open to a discussion of the flaws of polling as anyone. Changing response patterns and the move away from landlines are bound to cause issues. That said, the vaguely conspiratorial accusations are just unrealistic.

    Political polling is essentially a huge loss to firms. The only thing they get out of it is free advertising. To translate that into business that actually pays they need to be accurate. They will not distort the numbers because some media company is paying them a fraction of the cost of their work. Toothpaste companies do not want market research done by people who clearly cannot gauge the market. This is the pollsters' one opportunity to actually be proven competent. That is what matters to them.

    By Anonymous Robin, at 5:28 PM  

  • Robin hits the nail on the head. These guys all make their money between elections, and they do that by selling their track record.

    I will agree with Party of One that the NDP will likely underperform vis-a-vis their polling numbers. It's one thing to tell a pollster you will vote for someone and it's another to actually go out there and do it. This is a particular problem for the NDP as they record their highest levels of support among those historically least likely to vote (ie the under-35s).

    That being said, I sense a greater degree of youth voter engagement and participation than in years past. I think the examples of the youth-led democracy movements in Egypt and Libya and a real distaste for Harper are fuelling this trend. Anecdotally, I have a number of friends who prior to this election were unrepentant non-voters and completely politically disengaged, who are now bombarding me with political e-mails, Facebook messages, Tweets, etc. (mostly of the anti-Harper variety).

    In addition, the polls are all showing clear trends and are fairly consistent in showing the NDP way out front in Quebec and an increasingly close second nationally, with the Liberals third everywhere except Ontario. Even if NDP turnout is lower, it's still highly unlikely that the Liberals nationally, or the Bloc in Quebec, will close the gap.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:43 PM  

  • Uhhh you are pretty sure that NDP support will not amount to much in the end ,as for Liberals(your party) you are not sure,are you serious,lol
    Well I'll just defer to this statement by you and ignore the rest..."I think it's important to recognize the failings of seat projection models - mine included'...
    That said can I offer up a (very likely) projection regarding liberal party fortunes, I predict a total rout of the liberals

    By Blogger Dirk Buchholz, at 5:47 PM  

  • It's not only in Quebec that parties can come out of nowhere and win lots of seats. Compare Reform's score in 1988 (2% of the vote, no seats) to that in 1993 (19% of the vote, 52 seats).
    Something to consider about ground game: when a party's support drops as drastically as the BQ's has, you have to expect that some of their volunteers have left as well. And that some of the voters they arrange to get to the polls end up voting for the other guys anyway! Data on which voters on their lists have deserted them will be hard to find.

    By Blogger ajbeecroft, at 6:40 PM  

  • Libs at 17!!!

    By Anonymous mr rectifier, at 8:21 PM  

  • Don't get me wrong. NDP should win at least 30 seats in Quebec. I think I put them at 37 on my final predicition I did up for the province.

    But this talk of 50 or 60 seats seems a bit optimistic. I wouldn't be shocked if they did it, but I feel their organization will hold them back from a sweep of that magnitude.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:37 PM  

  • I wouldn't be shocked if the NDP end up with anywhere between 50-130 seats. I would be mighty surprised at both ends of that range but not shocked. I, an Albertan having paid attention since 1997, have never experienced an election like this. I am pretty sure I know what order the parties will come in but there are definitely caveats to it

    By Anonymous Robin, at 10:28 PM  

  • FWIW, CG, I agree. I think the NDP will roughly tie with the Bloc in the Quebec seat count - around 30 seats each. Libs will get around a dozen and Tories will be reduced to a rump of four or five.

    I think the NDP is going to finish high 60s, low 70s, just ahead of the Liberals, who will be high 50s, low 60s.

    By Blogger ghoris, at 10:32 PM  

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