Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Ipsos pollster John Wright on Quebec:

Mr. Wright is awaiting a bill introduced in the Commons in April that would create 30 new ridings, giving 18 seats to Ontario, seven to British Columbia and five to Alberta. What makes the legislation controversial is that no new seats will go to Quebec, which already has 75 in the House.

The pollster asks: Why bother with Quebec? Mr. Wright suggests the Harper government has already given up trying to woo the province after making so many concessions with so few results.


“I think there has been a politically conscious move to almost ignore Quebec as a political entity to deliver seats,” Mr. Wright says, suggesting Mr. Harper likely asks himself: “Why am I wasting my time?”

Eric at 308 offers his rebuttal, slicing and dicing past election results to conclude:

But if the Liberals and Conservatives think they can get a majority by ignoring Quebec and waiting until the boundaries are redrawn, they are sadly mistaken.

Personally, I don't think it's ever wise for a political party to give up on any part of the country. Five or ten seats anywhere is the difference between winning and losing, or between majority and minority. To completely write off a region is irresponsible and a lot of people would take it as a sign the party in question isn't ready to govern.

But when looking at the math, there's an argument to be made that Quebec simply isn't the best use of resources for any of the federalist parties right now.

In my July seat projections, I came up with a probability of each party winning every seat in the country. From this, you can create a 95% confidence interval for their showing in each region...a good way of looking at "best case" and "worst case" scenarios:

You quickly see that there isn't a lot to fight over in Quebec. The Liberals and Tories each have about 6 swing seats right now to look at in Quebec - less than they have in Atlantic Canada (11 and 10), Ontario (19 and 20), or even the West (12 and 15).

That's not to say they should ignore the province when it comes to resource deployment - those Quebec seats are grouped together and can be targeted. But in terms of making huge policy concessions that will hurt you elsewhere in exchange for votes in Quebec? It just isn't good politics.

Now, maybe you don't like my seat projections. That's fine. Let's do the math another way. Take the 2008 election results and keep increasing the Liberal or Tory vote until they get enough seats for a majority. Here's where those "needed seats" come from:

Liberals: Atlantic (7), Quebec (14), Ontario (46), West (11)
Conservatives: Atlantic (2), Quebec (0), Ontario (6), West (4)

Simply put, because there are so many Bloc strongholds out there, it simply isn't in the interest of the major parties to bend over backwards to please Quebecers. And when new seats are added to the map in 4 years, it will become even less so. (For a look at what redistribution means, check out my previous blog post on this topic)

Now, I put some caveats up front and I'll add some more here. The "simple majority math" example is really only looking at the short term. It requires the Liberals to win 84 seats in Ontario, which isn't sustainable in the long run. The goal should be to get in a position where more and more seats in places like Western Canada and Quebec are in play than right now.

Similarly, it would have been tempting for Harper to give up on Quebec completely after looking at the 2004 election results. But he didn't, and it won him the 2006 election and nearly got him his majority in 2008. There's absolutely no reason the Tories can't win seats in rural and suburban Quebec, just as there's absolutely no reason the Liberals can't win more seats in Montreal, Quebec City...Regina, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

But in terms of targeting regions for the next election? Well, Quebec has become more and more like Alberta - there simply aren't enough seats in play to justify pandering to voters there.

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  • Ignoring Québec is lazy politics, in French "lâche." It's a tough game here, need to study, learn, listen, and then even then it may not matter. But you can't give up.

    Harper is lâche, he gave up on Quebec, and it will hurt in the long run.

    For Liberals, all you have to do is go back to early spring 09 to see that Quebec can turn Red (we were at 35%-37%), it just takes a combination of favorable factors which we still need to reconstruct.

    But giving up is weak, and for losers.

    By Blogger EB-5 Dreamlife, at 9:20 a.m.  

  • The problem isn't number of seats, the problem is our voting system.

    By Anonymous Radical Centrist, at 10:23 a.m.  

  • The new seats added may be good for the Liberals as they can tell Quebec voters the only way to prevent a Harper majority is to vote Liberal.
    Replacing Iggy with Martin Cauchon may also be a big step in winning back Quebec votes-but it wouldn't help the Liberals in the west.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 11:59 a.m.  

  • Oh for crying out loud.

    I can understand why some Liberals think that adding seats is about pandering to some region or other, or about ignoring some part of the country. But Dan, you know better.

    Adding seats to the House of Commons is done to ensure we respect the principles of democratic representation: that regions which have a higher population per seat get seats added, and that regions which have a lower population per seat do not.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:49 p.m.  

  • The new seats won't be added until 2014 at the earliest - so its all a moot point for the next election.

    By Blogger DL, at 12:49 p.m.  

  • Anon - I know why they're adding the seats and don't have a problem with it. If the post is unclear, let me know and I can rephrase/clarify it.

    My point was that proposing other policies that pander explicitly to Quebec while hurting you elsewhere don't make sense given the electoral math.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:12 p.m.  

  • Radical Centrist - I'm not a PR guy by any means, but the one thing it (or a variation) has going for it, is that it would prevent parties from ignoring any one region of the country.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:13 p.m.  

  • I think Mr. Wright has the issue wrong... I was under the impression the new seats were based on population, rather than "not bothering with Quebec".

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 2:23 p.m.  

  • I don't think you've done your "efficiency" analysis correctly. Aren't the Quebec seats the Liberals can pick up all in a small space surrounding Montreal and/or Hull? In comparison, to win the extra seats in the west I suspect we would need to focus on at least four major cities in four different provinces.

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 9:15 a.m.  

  • Well, in the short term, the swing seats in the west are going to be all in Vancouver or Winnipeg. From a travel perspective, those do require more resources, but when it comes to media buys/financial help etc, I doubt those would be any more difficult to target.

    I think the point is more when it comes to large scale policiy positions - picking a position just to gain support across Quebec isn't going to do you a heck of a lot of good if it helps you in 6 swing seats but hurts you in 42 others.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:33 a.m.  

  • "The new seats added may be good for the Liberals as they can tell Quebec voters the only way to prevent a Harper majority is to vote Liberal."

    I always love how Liberal analysis ends up assuming that everyone who doesn't vote Conservative hates Stephen Harper. The Liberals don't win in Quebec because Quebecers don't share the strong federal government view of the Liberal Party. They're not simply going to abandon that to stop Harper from winning a majority. Especially when you consider that the Conservatives are the federal party the most sympathetic to that view. Quebecers may not love the Conservatives but don't confuse that with loving the Liberals. It's just as likely that a potential Conservative majority delivered by the ROC will result in more Quebec seats for the Conservatives as Quebec voters ensure they get their representation in the government.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:02 p.m.  

  • New electoral ridings are created every 5 years in response to increased population. B.C., Alta. and Ontario deserve theses new seats. Demographics show the population in Quebec has not increased substantially (more people are leaving Quebec due to it's poor economic management and less opportunity) and moving west. The opposition voted AGAINST allowing these new electoral ridings after the last census. This should be a point of contention, as it shows the Libs/Opps do not want any more political strength given to the west. This means we will not require as much support/bribery from Quebec as in the past. This has got to have the Libs quaking in their boots!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:02 p.m.  

  • Wow, this is lovely. Imagine all the studying as well as producing you could do... Chilly during the cold months although. D3 Gold

    GW2 gold

    By Anonymous D3 ITEms, at 2:32 a.m.  

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