Friday, February 10, 2017

"Do you think Kellie Leitch should have her own party?"

Such were the words of the illustrious Prime Minister of Canada and erstwhile leader of my Liberal Party, defending his government's failure to move on the electoral reform file from an upset constituent.

It's probably one of the most inane, cynical, and downright silly things PMJT has ever said - and he's said a lot of silly things.

Let's forgo the fact that Kellie Leitch may be about to run her own party come March, and if so will be elected with a ranked ballot system of proportional constituency sizes. That likely should have been the first thing to cross Mr. Trudeau's mind.

Let's also forgo the fact that Kellie Leitch could run her own party regardless of what system we elect our politicians with. Here's your daily reminder that there exists parties with fringe ideologies throughout Canada, and at times in the past they've been elected through first-past-the-post. While there is some downward pressure on these small parties because of the electoral system we use, it isn't overwhelming - Canada just has a relatively stable political climate, but not so stable that we don't have upheavals every decade or so, or did we collectively forget the 80s and 90s? All wins by Reform, the Confederation of Regions, Western Canada Concept and whatever else - all FPTP elections.

Finally, let's just move past the idea that Kellie Leitch is why the Liberal government gave up on electoral reform, we all know it's because it was too hard to do. :(

No, let's just focus on the fact that electoral reform isn't, and should never be, about keeping parties or ideologies from the House of Commons.

Reforming the political system should primarily be about ensuring the will of voters is heard loud and clear. FPTP elections distort the will of voters more than it represents said will, hence why it should be changed. It isn't and should not be about giving your party a leg up, or keeping another party down.

Why? Because if you can't defend your platform and ideology fairly, and instead rely on the tricks of the system to keep your opponents down, then your party is morally and ethically bankrupt.

I despise Trump, Le Pen, Leitch, and whoever else pushes nativist bullshit - but that doesn't mean I want to keep the voices of their voters out from the conversation. I want them to be heard, because clearly the establishment is missing something - and maybe in return, we'll get them to listen to our side. Even if they don't, they deserve a say just as much as the rest of us.

But clearly Mr. Trudeau doesn't share that belief. Utterly disheartening.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Campaign Research Ontario Poll: 50% PC, 28% OLP #onpoli

Campaign Research, a Toronto outfit in part run by the now-infamous Nick Kouvalis and current Ontario PC President Richard Ciano, put out a poll showing the Ontario Tories ahead at 50% support, a huge number.

Now, is this result out of the norm? Not necessarily, given that the PCs are known to have strong leads in most polling and the Liberals are struggling to catch up, though the low level of NDP support in this poll (15%) is definitely different. For comparison, the last Forum poll had the NDP at 24%, and Campaign Research's numbers are the lowest for the party since January 2011. There is simply no concurrent trend there, though in CR's defense, this the first 2017 poll in the province.

Basically, take this entire poll with a huge grain of salt. It's run by people partial to the conservatives and the PC Party in particular, the numbers are outside of the norm, and on top of that the sample size was 676, a fairly low number when compared to their fellow Ontario pollsters (usually 800-1500).

But hey, where's the fun in just ignoring it? Here's what I got when I put CR's numbers into the projection model: PC - 81 seats, Liberal - 15 seats, NDP - 11 seats. This includes 17 seats for the PCs in Toronto and zero seats for the Liberals in the 905. That's what I call a rout.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trumpism in Canada, Part 1: Ontario

You might be shocked to hear this, but Donald J. Trump is not popular politically in Canada.

In fact, according to any poll he isn't popular almost anywhere, including within the country he'll now lead. Yet the man convincingly won an election through the Electoral College - the question is, of course, how?

The short answer is this: demographics. Trump won overwhelmingly among whites in the United States, 58% to 37% for Clinton - that spread is even larger among non-college educated whites and white men. This wouldn't have necessarily been a winning number, as Romney won with a similar spread - except that combined with lower turnout among blacks, Hispanics, and younger voters, Clinton fell back harshly.

The longer answer involves shifts in voter patterns in particular states. The most notable: College grads went for Romney in 2012, but Clinton in 2016; while non-college grads went Obama in 2012, but Trump in 2016.
In 2012, Obama in particular swept the board among non-college grads in swing states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin - all states that flipped to Trump this year. Consider the chart below.

If you're looking for the reason why Trump won, the shift of these voters - especially white non-college grad voters - in these states are main reason. Many of these voters are the "white blue collar worker" we heard so much about during the campaign, especially the older among them who never had to attend college because they had a good paying job at home. That was, at least, until the jobs started leaving and new people started coming into their neighbourhoods...

The point is, regardless of how much voters disliked Trump, they still voted for him. Likeability is meaningless so long as you have something to sell, which makes all these polls useless.

So where am I going with this?

It's clear that "Trumpism" has won a legitimate place on the political spectrum, meaning that we're going to hear a lot about it over the next few years. You can say whatever you want - it's the politics of white grievance, it's the anguished cries of the middle class, it's whiplash against the establishment - but the fact is that it's coming, and Canada is square in the sights of it.

So I've started a project to see where Trumpism can grow in Canada, using the voting patterns laid out in the 2016 exit polls and the demographic information provided by the Canadian census. The first part will deal with Ontario, my home province and easily the biggest target for Trumpism's particular appeals.

A couple of caveats before you read on further.
  1. This is by no means a 100% accurate estimate of how we would have voted if Ontario was a state in the US. A lot of our voting patterns here have to do with regional variations and attitude, so there's nothing stopping people in a pro-Trump area demographically voting for Clinton because they like her more. That being said, there is a strong correlation between our political spectrum in Canada and the way these demographics show Trump's support.

  2. I'm using data from the 2011 Census, much of it also from the National Household Survey, aka the long-form census that was voluntary. Many global response rates were around 30% or higher. This is however the data I have, and I can't do much about that, just keep it in mind when you see close results below.

Got it? Let's move on. Welcome to Trump's Ontario.

The above map illustrates where and how likely Trumpism could win in Ontario's 121 federal ridings, and the province as a whole. The chart at the bottom right shows how Trumpism would do based on single demographic lines - i.e., if people voted plainly along income distribution, race, and so on, that is how the vote would go. The darker the shade, the more likely the winning candidate. How I got there I'll explain at the end of this post, which will also have riding-by-riding charts.

I chose to use the federal ridings because that is how we vote here, and if we had the result above, 100 seats would fall into the Clinton camp versus 21 for Trump.

Here's the facts about Ontario - we are a more diverse and well educated province compared to states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Michigan. We're close, but we veer closer to Virgina, New York, and the New England states on many metrics. We're also less segregated than many US states, though we do have high concentrations of ethnic groups in some regions, i.e. rural Ontario is incredibly white while many parts of the GTA are already majority-minority. One of the biggest differences however is the number of foreign-born citizens - i.e., Ontario is about 28% foreign-born compared to just 4% in Ohio.

We're also more somewhat more religiously diverse, where Ontario is a lot more Catholic and non-religious than any of the states in the Upper Midwest, but we are about on par with income levels in those states.

Trumpism is strongest in the rural ridings in eastern Ontario, the rural and small-town ex-manufacturing ridings in southwest Ontario, and the still labour-dominated northern Ontario ridings. It's weakest in and around the GTA and smaller cities, particularly Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Windsor. The Canadian politics nerds among you are probably already noticing a pattern here related to our own politics - Trumpism does better in areas currently or recently dominated by Conservatives and New Democrats, in particular for the latter their rural/small town labour base.

Put this all together and we get a close race, but not enough for Trump (or a Trump-like candidate) to win the province.

But there is a cavaet, and here's where we really get into it.

A major factor in any US political race is turnout among demographics. In 2016, Donald Trump won because turnout was up or maintained a larger share than it should among older white voters (they represented at least 70% of the 2016 electorate, but only around 64% of the population), while Clinton saw a drop among non-white, non-religious and younger voters. The above map reflects that turnout ratio as best as I could manage in Ontario. The map obviously got a lot more redder.

While it's wouldn't be enough for Trumpism to win in the province (in terms of the popular vote and seats, losing 68-53), it gets pretty damn close. The GTA is still a fairly solid wall against it, there are cracks appearing. Outside of the GTA it's a massacre, with nearly every rural riding minus one (Kenora) trending for Trumpism.

This is why voting is important, kids.

There are of course some things I can't account for, such as whether Ford Nation fall behind Trumpism. Demographically, suburban Toronto is not a friend to Trumpism, but it went heavily to both Fords in 2010 and 2014, and the movements aren't that far off. Also a good question, would Canadian union households swing an election for Trumpism? There's no good statistics I can use for union membership in the province, so it's impossible to say.

However, there are a few conclusions we can reach about Trumpism in Ontario:

  1. It's a close run thing, but could easily fall back out of reach with high turnout among youth and visible minorities.

  2. It has little to no traction in the majority-minority suburbs around Toronto, unlike how Harper's Conservatives did with their strong outreach to immigrant and minority communities.

  3. Trumpism mirrors quite well the receding of Liberal support from southwestern Ontario and other rural parts of the province, showing how the establishment left's problems in Ontario are pretty much the same as they are in the United States - aka, we are not immune.

  4. Ontario's demographics are moving away from pro-Trump groups, thus by 2019, a Trump-like candidate (coughKellieLeitchcough) might not be able to rely on the above maps to get them through.
The warning signs are there, folks. Just remember that.

Next up: Alberta.

A quick note on methodology:

The basic idea behind the above maps was based on seven demographic metrics - age, education, immigration, income, marital, race, and religion - for Ontario's 121 ridings adjusted by the results of the 2016 US presidential election's results for those metrics, as shown by the exit polls. The metrics were chosen based on what I had reasonable data for, for example I couldn't adjust the numbers by ideology or church attendance simply because the census didn't have that information.

To get a "Solid" result, a candidate had to win six to seven of the metrics in the riding. "Likely" was five, four was "Leaning." This is a crude way of projecting a result, but also effective - the more demographics a candidate can win among, the more likely they're to win the riding overall. Margin between the candidates was not taken into account.

Turnout was adjusted using a rough ratio method, and is only meant to be a general representative view, not completely accurate.

Below are charts for riding-by-riding, one without turnout adjustments and one with.

Friday, August 19, 2016

#bcpoli poll: 38% BCL, 29% NDP, 16% Grn

Quick post today in case people aren't aware of the current state of BC politics - a new poll was released, the first in several months, showing what appears to be an absolute wash for the BC Liberals.

Innovative Research, which is a semi-regular pollster during election season in past BC races, put the race at 38% BC Lib, 29% NDP, 16% Green and 15% BC Con.

Since at least early 2013, and I'd wager probably since the 2009 election, the Liberals have never had something like a nine-point lead over their NDP rivals. If Horgan led his party to that result it would be the third worst result for the party since its name change in the 1960s, with only 1963 and 2001 beating it out. It would be a disaster, while the Liberals would coast on by to an easy majority, despite 38% being their worst result since 1991.

Using the now updated BC election model, I get 55 BCL, 17 NDP, 10 Greens and 5 Conservatives. Ouch.

But it gets worse for the NDP, considering that the numbers for the BC Conservatives are very inflated. As I mentioned last post, the party is disorganized and currently doesn't even have a leader, that honour going to whichever of the no-names wins in September, with little but months to prepare for an election.

There is no way the Conservatives can maintain that kind of strength, but the Greens? Likely they'll fall back, but there is also a good chance they won't. To get to 16%, all they have to do is hit around 35% on Vancouver Island and they can settle for teens or lower everywhere else, and that will likely be their strategy going forward.

The NDP better get their house in order quickly before the Greens start looking to supplant them as opposition.

Monday, August 15, 2016

BC's 2013 elxn on new boundaries #bcpoli

For those interested, I've done a manual transposition of British Columbia's 2013 general election onto the new boundaries finalized by the provincial commission. You can read their reports here as well as view the new boundaries, but I've provided some maps below as well.

Click for full size

You can also look at the transposition in full on my Google Drive.

I did this over a month or so by hand (or computer, whatever), though it isn't as complicated as you might think. I used the boundary files provided by the boundaries commission, the voting area maps and vote tabulations of the 2013 election provided by Elections BC, as well as some general visual use of's BC section. There were 48 districts that needed to have their vote totals modified, though there are more out there that had small bits of boundaries changed, just without affecting actual population count, ie. moving a boundary in the middle of a forest or around a different part of a bay.

Note that I did have to take some liberties and shortcuts to get a workable result without wild speculation on my part. For example, if a voting area (aka poll) crossed a new boundary, I went by the rule that whichever side had higher count of visible residences would receive the entire area's vote totals. While I could have split them apart and divided them up per household, that would have required a lot of guesstimating on my part that, frankly, I wasn't going to commit time to, especially when it likely wouldn't affect the final result by any more than a handful of votes. It's also speculation to say which half voted which way, maybe one half all went NDP while the other Liberal, or both are even, or everyone who voted Green lived on one street - so on and so forth. Decisions like that simplified my task without creating invalid results, often because it would balance itself out anyway.

For advanced polls, special ballots, and so on, I split those votes up by whatever percentage of the vote was moved over into the new riding by the new boundaries, per party, before those advanced and special ballots were counted. So for example, if 85% of BCL voters in Riding A went into Riding B, then 85% of the advanced voters that voted Liberal from Riding A would go to Riding B, while the other 15% went wherever else. Same thing happened to 75% of NDP voters going from A to B, 67% of Green voters, etc. This allowed for the partisan strengths to be reflected when transposing results, so for example when Surrey South takes away the big chunk of Liberal-friendly voters that resided in the southern portion of Surrey-Panorama, their advanced voters went with them, which reflects how voters in the district actually voted. Therefore, Surrey-Panorama became a lot more NDP friendly as those BCL communities, and their advanced voters, left.

The only time I did not do the above with advanced polls was when it was clear that one advanced poll location was so far out of the way relative to communities within the riding that the likelihood of those people voting there was minimal, i.e. the voters of Hope likely didn't vote in the advanced poll locations in Chilliwack, so when Hope was redistributed into the redrawn Fraser-Nicola riding, their advance poll location went with them in whole. I won't say that it's perfect, however as with above, it should be far more reflective of the actual results.

Finally, there are about 3,000 missing voters from the calculations. Taken from the 48 ridings I modified, then we're looking at about 60 votes per riding - which I find acceptable. It's unavoidable that doing this manually in what is probably a far more imprecise manner (relatively speaking) than how professionals at Elections BC might do it, I'm going to lose some folk, basically through the multiple divisions of advanced and special ballot votes I had to do. No riding is 60 voters close, and even the few close ridings where it could matter I don't believe it will make a difference in - every party lost some votes, almost in equal proportions. I'm not too worried about it, but if you are then I apologize.

Anyways I promised a map, so here you are:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Adventures in Minor Political Parties: BC Conservatives

I've decided to start a fun new series giving short but detailed looks at the ongoing travails of minor parties in Canada, whether at the federal and provincial level, because everyone needs someone to feel empathy for.

For the first part, let's take a look at the poor struggling BC Conservatives. Just to be clear, the party really doesn't have any relation to the old Conservative Party in the province, which was last seen as an asterisk at the bottom of the 1975 election.

Well, that isn't true - legally they're the same party, but long has it been since those organizers or ties were relevant. They've been around, sure, but it wasn't until 2009 under the leadership of a religious nutbar that anyone was sure there was still life in the corpse.

However you may remember the BC Cons from four years ago when they were the hit new kids on the #bcpoli block, with longtime federal MP John Cummins ready to come down and whoop some pansy Liberals out of their place as the province's not-NDP party. Those were heady days, when they even once managed to tie with them. They even scared the BC Liberals so much as to bring up the perennial discussion of changing their name whenever it looks like they're about to lose

Unfortunately, mildly preturbing Liberals was all they managed to do. When push came to shove, Cummins and the Conservatives - who received no support from their federal colleagues - ended up with a paltry 4.8% support. In an election where the polls got everything else wrong, their piss poor numbers were the exception. Why did this minor party wearing big party britches fail?

Sad Cummins
In essence, the BC Conservatives came about at the wrong time and fell into the hands of the wrong people. The BC Liberals were in trouble because of various populist issues (HST, scandals, etc.) but were still obviously in control of the not-NDP side of the spectrum, while the Conservatives showed themselves to be inept at handling just one MLA. As the spectre of a NDP wash under the relatively left-wing Dix hung over the heads of donors, organizers, and voters, it was clear that the damaged but functional Clark Liberals were far more preferable to the utterly chaotic Cummins Conservatives. The leader was probably the key issue - Cummins may have been a long serving politician, but it was clear he couldn't lead the party out of a paper bag let alone into an election. They had severe issues with candidate recruitment during the election, Cummins couldn't handle himself in a debate, and overall it was just a super sad spectacle.

Had the party been led by a competent person, or had it come about during a time when the NDP were firmly in control rather than the comparatively right-wing BC Liberals, the story may have been different. However in a province where politics is polarized and where the players of the game know a bad bet when they see it, the BC Conservatives stood no chance.

Oh, and ideology? Who knows or cares, outside of believing in the province they live in. They also have crap logo design, but that's my opinion, unlike the rest of this.

So where are they today?

Currently the party is leaderless after their leader stepped down because the job he sought turned out to actually be a thing he had to take time to do. They're holding a leadership race this September, where a defeated federal candidate, a doctor who says the root of all problems is we suck at money, a guy who's best media exposure is an autoplaying YT video interview with The Rebel on his front page, and, of course, the leader whose resignation precipitated this race, are vying for the top job.

All of them, except Ellis, need better website designers, thus I crown her the next BC Conservative leader.

The party is currently polling at 11%, but would be lucky to end up with bread crusts in 2017.

Friday, August 12, 2016

If Elizabeth May resigns, the Greens likely won't recover for years

Elizabeth May has signaled the likely end of her leadership of Canada's Green Party, with the recent adoption of official support for the anti-Israeli BDS movement by the party's militants becoming the final straw for her. While she hasn't fully committed to stepping down as leader, spending 10 years in the spotlight with both victories and failures would be enough to sap anyone's strength. She basically laid out something I completely empathize with - she's tired of politics, and her inability to control the narrative even within her own party has not helped.

Regardless of what you think of May, BDS, or the Green Party in general, there's no doubt that the member for Saanich-Gulf Islands has made an impact in Canadian politics. Though the party was always going to grow, her well-liked public persona and loud activism allowed for several successes the Green Party might not have made so quickly. Elected Green members in BC, New Brunswick, and PEI have much to thank her for.

Of course, the departure of any longtime leader and national party will likely suffer some - but a resignation prompted by lack of control, lack of success and polarizing controversies would likely wound it beyond repair for a few years at least.

People were leaving the Green Party even before May's resignation, including experienced hands. Now more may go thanks to this BDS resolution, which has clearly cut the party in half. Right away the most vulnerable leader, BC Green leader and MLA Andrew Weaver who faces an election next year, disparaged the resolution with an official statement. And though we haven't seen word from the other provincial parties on the issue, I suspect most leaders will agree with May and Weaver. In particular in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, where large Jewish communities exist, they will almost have to. Quebec in particular is an interesting case, given that at their high point in 2007/2008, many of the Green's top ridings were on the West Island and covering major Jewish communities such as Côte-Saint-Luc, Hampstead and Montreal West. Could they be so successful in the future with the BDS issue hanging over their headsÉ

It gets worse. Imagine if you will a leadership race that pits longtime activists with campaign experience promoting May's fuzzy ideology, the "establishment" of the party, versus the pro-BDS side who will likely be flooded with entryists in a bid to keep the resolution from being taken out. This may not tear the party apart on it's own, but as we've seen with the UK Labour omnishambles, the left does not deal with issues surrounding Israel very well. We will see stories about Green anti-Semitism, true or not, making headlines, with shouting matches and rude commentary from activists on both sides. It will stain the party's image for years, because frankly it will be seen as a pattern with the Greens - after all, they ran Monika Schaefer as a candidate didn't they? They are a party of fringe ideas, right? Of course they'd welcome anti-Semites!

It will damage the party beyond repair, and mar the reputation of any May successor who will either have to alienate one half of the party, or try to broach a peace that will brush them with stains of both sides. Unlike May, they will not be given the benefit of the doubt and will not be able to hold it together. Winning any seat in 2019 will become a pipe dream.

The glue holding everything together right now is Elizabeth May, and she's clearly tired of it. What happens if she leaves the helm of the party in these circumstances? Nothing good, not for her and definitely not for the Green Party.