Monday, July 20, 2009


Rather than run my usual summer voting contest ("Pick Canada's greatest Minister of Veterans Affairs...March Madness style!"), I think I'll spend the summer political slow down playing around with my election spreadsheet...or actually slowing down the blogging frequency, and instead enjoying Toronto in all of its garbage-scented glory.

I do have the last three elections ('04, '06, '08) loaded up, in addition to some riding demographics. Having had three elections close to each other, with the same parties and the same riding boundaries, offers a rare opportunity to really crunch some numbers - so that's what I intend to do.

Or not. Maybe I'll just enjoy the summer. Time will tell.

I already put up some rough calculations to help Elizabeth May find a home. Today, I'm going to do some more quick and dirty analysis, before moving on to some more advanced stuff.

Today's question is simply: "What are the most competitive parts of the country politically?". These are the areas where your vote matters most and where parties would be wise to deploy their resources.

To come up with a crude list I simply gave a point for a margin of victory under 5%, a point for a MOV under 10%, a point for a MOV under 20%, and a point if the riding swung. Add it all up for three elections, divide by the 11 possible points, and you get a rough "competitiveness score" - and a list of the most hotly contested ridings in the country.

At the top are Papineau, Vancouver Island North, and Brossard La Prairie, which have all swung twice and been close every time. It's also been worth your time to vote if you live in Ahuntsic, Burnaby Douglas, Newton North Delta, Esquimalt Juan De Fuca, Jeanne LeBer, New Westminster Coquitlam, Sault Ste. Marie, Western Arctic, Ottawa Orleans, Gatineau, North Vancouver, West Nova, Saint John, Brant, or Trinity Spadina - the average margin of victory has been under 5% there the last three elections.

At the bottom of the list is Crowfoot, with a mind boggling average margin of victory of 74%. Must be hard to motivate the GotV workers there, eh? Still, there are 84 other ridings in the country where no one has even come within 20% of first in any of the past three elections. I'm not a huge PR guy, but it does make you think when there are 8.3 million Canadians who, $1.75 subsidy aside, are basically wasting their time when they vote.

But just listing ridings is a bit dry. Let's look at how competitive the different provinces have been:

1. British Columbia 40.4%
2. Ontario 38.8%
3. New Brunswick 35.5%
4. Newfoundland 32.5%
5. Nova Scotia 31.4%
6. PEI 25.0%
7. Manitoba 24.7%
8. Quebec 23.5%
9. Saskatchewan 23.4%
10. Alberta 7.1%

No real surprises there, with BC earning it's reputation for hotly contested political battles and Alberta, well, being Alberta.

And, just how competitive are the different parties? Well, there are 141 ridings where the Liberals have tasted victory in one of the three minority elections, with an additional 48 where they've at least once been "in the game" (within 10%). The Tories have won 152 seats and have been in the game in 40 more. For the Dippers, 40 wins and 21 "nice effort" awards.

So if you do the math, both the Tories and Liberals haven't even come close in well over 100 ridings - which means something big will need to give in order to break the minority deadlock any time soon.



  • Okay, the following comment from Guy Boutilier may be a little over the top:

    "My wife and I and our two-year-old were obviously very disappointed and shocked,"

    I just have a hard time imagining Guy and Gail explaining his current employment situation with little Marc to the point that Marc is "disappointed and shocked". Either that, or Marc is one precosious child!

    By Blogger Party of One, at 8:26 p.m.  

  • I am looking forward to more of this. But I must note that when you are speaking of margins you most certainly are talking about percentage points and not %, right?

    By Blogger Peter Loewen, at 10:57 p.m.  

  • Party of one - ha ha. True enough...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:14 p.m.  

  • Newfoundland's score is artifically high, I think; since Confederation there's been a fairly 'natural' distribution of the seats there: the two Saint John seats are Tory, the other five are Liberal, and you see occasional divergences. We're in the middle of one of those right now, thanks to ABC.

    By Blogger IslandLiberal, at 1:25 p.m.  

  • Funny that Iggy has spent most of his time pandering to the parts of the country where he has no chance.

    By Anonymous DR, at 4:45 p.m.  

  • One question I have about margins is the degree to which parties in Canada play to win.

    For instance, John McCain committed considerable resources to Pennsylvania, even though he was well behind, because it was necessary to a victory for him.

    While Canadian parliamentary elections are not winner-take-all (you can lose but still win more seats), they may be effectively that for some party leaders (Michael Ignatieff is in his 60's and doesn't have a lot of time on his hands).

    So I guess my point is, what is the appropriate baseline for competitiveness? The ridings that were closest last election? Or the ridings that a party would need to win in order to win government.

    So yes, you are probably going to send GOTV resources to the marginals as the endgame approaches, but before then in picking a strategy, you have to have to be thinking about ridings like Guelph - even if you are Harper and its 2004 (the Tories lost there by 19 points).

    Testable hypothesis: do young and secure leaders target marginals while older and more vulnerable (to losing party leadership) leaders target what I will call linchpin ridings (the ridings the party would need to win in order to form a government).

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 5:41 p.m.  

  • Here's another perspective:

    The Conservatives only need another 80,000 votes (albeit in very specific ridings) to entertain a majority while the Liberals need 500,000!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:50 p.m.  

  • kudos

    By Anonymous SUPER PC, at 2:30 p.m.  

  • Coming to a milk carton near you

    Back from some time away and, okay, very funny and everything guys but, um, what have you done with Michael Ignatieff?

    I swear – he was right here when I left. Tall guy. Smart. Fairly eyebrowy. Come on, you remember him! He was threatening this and wagging his finger at that – then he flipped a pancake or two out in Calgary and… poof! Gonzo.

    Has anybody checked the salons of 18th century Europe?

    Don’t get me wrong: I understand the rigors of a relaxing leadership mosey grueling leadership marathon could leave even the most resilient of politicians aching for some R&R.

    And I totally get that it takes a lot out of a man to exercise the will required to extract from our Prime Minister a concession as formidable as a panel to look into the possibility of examining certain potential changes that could theoretically be made to Employment Insurance eventually.

    Plus, he wrote that book that totally captured the public imagination just like Cutthroat Island and 3D Doritos.

    But enough clowning around, guys. Where’d you stash him?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:59 p.m.  

  • A great analysis - very reasonable. I thought Ontario would be the most competitive, though. Well, it's close second, so not a real shocker anyway. I'm looking forward to read more from you in the future - maybe election predictions? Best regards, Jay.

    By Anonymous Vancouver BC realtor, at 11:30 a.m.  

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