Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Taste of Victory on the Danforth



There's a lot of talk today about the eventual by election for Jack Layton's Toronto-Danforth seat. Many Liberals are salivating at the prospect of a victory there which would pull them within a mere 67 seats of official opposition status:

Liberals hope to paint Layton’s Toronto riding red again

Liberal Party president Alfred Apps is counting out Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, predicting a two-way fight with the NDP for Jack Layton’s Toronto seat.

Mr. Apps, a Bay Street lawyer who knows the Toronto political landscape well, told The Globe Wednesday that Mr. Layton won the seat because of his “terrific municipal background and powerful personality.”

He added: “Jack actually won it on the strength of his personal reputation and charisma.”


Given that by elections are all about expectations, I certainly wouldn't be advising Alf Apps, or anyone else, to raise expectations of a Liberal win on the Danforth. But it's still likely worth examining just how probable a Liberal pick-up actually is.

For starters, we need to accept that anything can happen in a by election. In Kevin Lamoureux's Winnipeg North by election upset last year, NDP support fell from 62% to 41% while Liberal support jumped from 12% to 46%. So at least in theory, Jack Layton's 43-point victory in May is not an insurmountable hill to climb.

But that's still a mighty tall hill, which only looks taller when you take a proper scan of the landscape. As the map at the top of this post shows, the two ridings to the East of it fell to the NDP in May. A relative no-name, Matthew Kellway, beat a 6-term incumbent in the Beaches by 11 points. That's nothing to sneeze at.

The riding has gone NDP provincially the previous four elections - most recently by 6,500 votes. Yes, Peter Tabuns is a popular incumbent, but there are a lot of people in the riding who are used to voting orange, even when Jack's name isn't on the ballot.

Finally, it's a riding that, demographically, "should" be an NDP seat. When I put the Census demographics into the regression meat grinder, it comes out as the 16th strongest NDP seat in the country.

Add it all up, and the odds of an upset on the Danforth are exceedingly small. Raising hopes to the contrary is only setting Liberals up for disappointment.

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20 Comments:

  • I'm not so sure that Apps is wrong to try and make us hopeful about T-D. I mean, what else can he say - it's too hard, forget about it, why even bother running?

    Not that I'm suggesting you're saying that, but we all know how far behind the pack we are there. It doesn't hurt to show some enthusiasm for the fight. Maybe Alf could dampen down a tad, but hey, everyone needs some hope. It's the only way we'll ever win back ridings like mine, T-D, or any others similar.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 8:11 PM  

  • Better to say nothing at all

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:46 PM  

  • Approach some strong candidates, maybe people like George Smitherman or even Gerrard Kennedy, put their names on a ballot and let the people of TD decide who their Liberal candidate will be. Then work hard to win the by-election.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:52 PM  

  • Kennedy is the only hope. But if he loses, his career is over.

    By Anonymous Marc from soccer, at 11:01 PM  

  • I love Apps talking about how Jack Layton originally won the seat because he was a personally popular municipal politician. While that was definitely true. That was also like 7 years ago. It would be nice if the Liberal leadership finally realized that the political landscape has changed since the Chretien era. How bad of an electoral beating is required to get this through their thick heads?

    Also, there is no way Smitherman or Kennedy will run in what is likely to be a certain loss in a by-election. There will be plenty of better seats for them to run in in the next general election.

    By Anonymous Not so Natural Governing Party, at 11:26 PM  

  • Well, I have nothing against the guy talking optimistically. In the NDP we've survived on that for plenty of years, ya?
    But on top of all the other factors, this is no normal by-election. The previous incumbent didn't just retire from politics, he died in a dramatic fashion that has tugged at the heartstrings of the nation, let alone his own riding. There are going to be a lot of people voting NDP just because Jack would have wanted it that way; right now the NDP could probably run a gerbil in that riding and win. I'll acknowledge it's not really fair, but that's how it is.

    By Blogger Purple library guy, at 12:25 AM  

  • My gut says PLG is correct - the Liberals will be fortunate to win 20% of the vote. Even assuming no sympathy vote, this should be a strong riding for the NDP. Just apply the provincial swing since 2000 to the 2000 results:

    NDP: 44.95%
    LPC: 25.7%
    CPC: 22.12%

    However my head asks what other cases exist of prominent political deaths in Canada.

    1979 John Diefenbaker dies
    PC support
    1979: 49%
    1979 by-election: 38%

    1977 Real Caouette dies
    Socred support
    1974: 63.9%
    1977 by-election: 45.66%

    1942 JS Woodsworth (former CCF leader) dies
    NDP support
    1940: 40.5%
    1942 by-election: 70.2%

    1942 Erneste Lapointe (King's Quebec lieutenant)
    Liberal support
    1940: 59.3%
    1942: 56.7%

    So, interestingly, in 3 of 4 cases the party whose MP died actually lose support. The exception - Woodsworth - may not be that telling either. Woodsworth's Pacifist views may not have sat well with his constituents.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 7:01 AM  

  • H2H - I was thinking about looking up other historical cases like that. Diefenbaker's may be the most comparable, and an 11-point dip in NDP support seems realistic.

    My guess is we're likely looking at around 45-55% NDP, 25-30% Lib, 15-20% CPC, 5% Green, depending on the strength of the candidates nominated.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:47 AM  

  • And yes, there's nothing inherently wrong with Alf trying to fire the troops up.

    The problem will be if the media narative becomes "Danforth will be a close Lib-NDP battle", and the the LPC get blown out by 30 points.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:48 AM  

  • Kennedy/Smitherman? Both got their butts whipped, especially Kennedy in Parkdale High Park. Of course the interim leader is a recycled, reprogrammed failed NDP premier. Look to the future, not the past.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:37 AM  

  • This could be interesting because the byelection will likely be called during the NDP leadership campaign, which if Topp runs would probably force him to run in this riding unless he wants to wait it out and find a seat in Quebec or something.

    I think Smitherman waits it out for Bob Rae to retire since he represented the same riding provincially.

    By Blogger Bailey, at 11:48 AM  

  • I can't see that riding being a great fit for Kennedy or Smitherman. Both are still young enough that they can wait for something better to come along.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 5:23 PM  

  • Both Kennedy and Smitherman likely have ambitions to replace McGuinty too.

    By Anonymous Sean, at 5:40 PM  

  • Smitherperson carried Layton's riding in the mayoral vote.

    Not that it matters; I'd say it's going NDP anyway, but - it does provide an early opportunity and test case for the federal Liberals to field-test some new ideas and new technologies without general election pressures.

    Maybe Rob Silver's "primary" concept?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:53 PM  

  • Any chance Denis Miller would run for the NDP? Even if he doesn't run for leader, being in the NDP caucus has to look a lot more appealing now that they're official oppo.

    By Anonymous TDG, at 9:11 PM  

  • "Smitherperson carried Layton's riding in the mayoral vote."

    Different kettle of fish. The metro left galvanized behind Smitherman in order to stop Ford. This time around there is no strategic voting imperative, and if there were, Smitherman would be the Joey Pants, not the NDP candidate.

    I should add that Smitherman is a terrible candidate. If the Liberal party is to distance itself from its corrupt past, I don't the cokehead high school dropout responsible for e-health is the right man for the job.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 8:13 AM  

  • HTH I'm not disagreeing with you either that it's a different kettle of fish, or that Smitherperson would be a terrible candidate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:04 PM  

  • I'm sad that there isn't a tag for the regression meat grinder. Also, awesome band name.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:09 PM  

  • By Blogger chenlina, at 2:18 AM  

  • By Blogger Unknown, at 5:18 AM  

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