Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Are By-Elections a Sign of Things to Come in a General Election?

A couple days ago, the Conservatives held on to two of their seats in Yellowhead and Whitby-Oshawa by fairly strong margins (42.6% in Yellowhead and 8.5% in Whitby-Oshawa). At least to me, this was not unexpected; Yellowhead did not feature the hullabaloo that Brandon-Souris or Fort McMurray did, so the Liberals were going to do well (they did, winning just under 20%, their best since 1993) but they were never going to come close to winning. In Whitby-Oshawa, the Liberals came closer that I expected, but I didn't think they would win - the combonation of this being Flaherty's old riding, his wife Christine Elliott's influence, and the fact that the Conservative candidate, in addition to being a climate change denier, is also a former two-term mayor of Whitby... yeah, that was just too much to overcome. Still, like in Yellowhead, the Liberal candidate managed to increase the party's share of the vote by quite a bit, going from 14.1% in 2011 to 40.7% Monday night.

The somewhat understated story of these by-elections (well, in priority behind Trudeau anyways) is the impact of the New Democrats in the various ridings... which is to say, there has been no impact. They have not come close to picking up any of these ridings from other parties, while losing one of their own seats and coming perilously close in another (the third was a mixed bag). As the chart below shows, the NDP have lost some level of influence in almost every single by-election in 2011.

Mulcair has been questioned on these results, and his response was pretty pat: "... by-elections are not always a great indicator of the general (election)," and that "... we've got a lot of work to do but we also know that our numbers have never been better heading into a federal (election)."

Well, I will give Mulcair the last one: their polling numbers have never been better when going into a general election, when you put those numbers up against previous election results. The problem, of course, is that the NDP wasn't the official opposition in any of those previous elections, and the current results are far below their 2011 numbers in every region of the country, including (if not especially) Quebec. So, yeah, I guess technically he's right, and there is the caveat of "the campaign matters," but as we've seen so far, any actual campaigns the NDP has been in have not exactly gone well.

His other main point is that yes, by-elections by themselves are not indicators of results in general elections. But it is also pretty hard to argue against trends, and there is an obvious trend that Mulcair is purposely ignoring. For example, here is the same chart above for the by-elections between 2008 and 2011:

With the exception of Winnipeg North, there was no total loss for the NDP - they either maintained their position or ended up higher than in 2008, even if they lost votes and percentage., in all other ridings, which the Liberals (at the time the Official Opposition) failed to do during the same period.

So yes, by-elections are a singular event, and they're more prone to local influence than any normal general elections... but come on. A party that is the Official Opposition, that says momentum is on their side and that the third party are has-beens, should be able to put up better results than this. At best, the NDP should be able to keep the Liberals down in obvious uphill battles like rural Conservative ridings or their own downtown core (or, for that matter, the Greens in Victoria), but that has simply not been the case.

And then there is the whole matter of feeding into the various narratives. What the public sees between the two main opposition parties is a battle over who can defeat Harper, and these by-elections clearly show that the NDP are unable to do that. Do you think that isn't going to affect how people vote outside of the ridings holding by-elections? Momentum, such as it is, is on the side of the Liberals, and at best the NDP can hope to hold to their 20-25% of the vote if the trend holds. That is not what I call a "never been better" proposition.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

US Election quickie

Teddy here; as most of you likely know by now, US politics is not my cup of tea. However, I thought I should at least outline some results from last night's Mid-Terms.

R - 53
D - 47
This presumes that Angus King will caucus with the majority. If he does not, we are looking at a balance of 52-48. Regardless, Republicans now control the Senate.

A slight gain for the Republicans.

Another slight gain for Republicans.

In the more local races

T-1 (exact tie)


There are still 5 chambers where the result is unclear.

In terms of Trifectas; that is, where one party holds the House, Senate, and Governor's position

As usual in US elections, a number of Ballot measures, IE Referendums, were held.

California has adopted a "rainy day fund" similar to that used by Saskatchewan. It's a brilliant idea, frankly, that forces governments to save during the good times to fight deficits during the bad times.

Minimum wages in Arkansas, Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota, and Alaska were voted an increase.

Oregon, DC, and Alaska have all legalized Marijuana, while Florida refused to legalize even medical marijuana.

Lastly, Tennessee, famous for having no income taxes, voted to ban the state constitutionally from implementing one.

Good websites for more information include Ballotpedia and the NY Times election site.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On creating good maps

Teddy here. I am still getting used to my new computer, so the graphics quality of my maps may be below par for a while, however, I take pride in creating maps that can share quality information.

Take for example the Summerside election. Summerside is the second largest city in PEI and where I grew up. Basil Stewart has been mayor there since 1985 and has seen the city though it's worst times and best times. Stewart is a known Tory, having run to be a PC MP in 1993. He said publicly this would be his last term and last election. Normally, Stewart can be expected to win by huge margins.

Last night, he lost.

And not just by a bit, by a huge margin, 69% to 31%.

Any map you'd thus see of Summerside would be expected to be a single colour, as, Bill Martin, the Mayor-Elect, won every ward. However, I do not consider this to be a good map. It does not really share any interesting information.

So what is a good map? Frankly, this:

Shown in Blue are wards that Stewart managed to get over 31% in, 31% being the city-wide average of vote he obtained. Martin won all of these wards by a huge margin, but any map that shows the "winner" of each ward would miss this divide in the city.

You can see in a darker outline, the "downtown" Summerside; which was by in large the original city prior to municipal merger in the 90's, IE the city that originally elected Stewart. If you want to compare Summerside to Toronto (and this is not the best idea, but one can stretch it for an analogy) ward 4 and 6 are like the "old Toronto" and the remainder of the wards like the "Inner Suburbs"

Martin, as far as I understand, is from the Wilmot area, this being, the areas in wards 7 and 8. With that in mind, this map shows the "urban" and "suburban" split, if you can call it that.

This map reveals a vote pattern that could be important in Provincial and Federal elections, where Tories and Liberals might want to target resources.

I uurge everyone who makes maps to keep in mind that you are not stuck to the way things usually are or the way things always are. Think outside the box. This will allow you to expand your set of tools and make better maps.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alberta By-Elections

Teddy here on his laptop with a quick update.

The above is a colour coded results table.

The largest victory is in Calgary-Foothills.
The ratio margin is 0.5129
That means even if the PC Party had only managed 51.29% of their vote they would have still won (or at least tied) in the riding.

Prentice ran here. This indicates that he has some personal support over and beyond his party, which only makes sense. This was the least-likely loss for the party and would have been most damaging if they had lost it.

Number Two is in Edmonton-Whitemud.
While the ratio is 0.5236 there is a caveat here.

Not only is this the best NDP result, but it's also the best Liberal result, and, the worst Wildrose result. This is an Edmonton riding. Edmonton is more to the left, and these results indicate to me that the Tories can still win on the splits in the city.

Up next is Calgary-Elbow.
The ratio margin here is 0.8102, a much closer race.

There were two spoilers here, the first is that this is the riding of Redford, and the second was the very strong Alberta Party candidate. My personal read on this is that the AP vote is the "I want to vote PC but what they are doing recently upsets me" vote. This vote is available across the province for the party best able to pick it up. Note that if Wildrose or the Liberals had picked up this vote, they would have won the riding. This is good news for both parties; if they can tap in to the anger at the PC Party, and hold on to it (without losing it to fear as Wildrose did last time) they could win the election. The problem here is that neither party has been able to do so, and these results simply show that the PC Party is still flying high.

Last on our list is Calgary-West.
The ratio margin is a small 0.9347.
This means even a loss of 7% of the vote would have resulted in a loss for the Tories.

The simple fact that this is the last riding on the list is important, it's the only one where the Tories were not running a Cabinet minister. In effect, it is the riding the Tories decided they could afford to lose. They did not lose it.

For the reasons outlined above, this is great news for the Tories, bad news for the Liberals, NDP, and Alberta Party, and Terrible news for Wildrose. The latter needed Calgary West. Losing it will have repercussions.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Remember to vote, and updates

I hope everyone who follows this blog who can vote today has already done so. Those who have yet to, I hope you do so soon, even if you simply submit an empty ballot.

I've voted for Morgan Baskin. I am unconvinced she could do any worse than the "big 3" candidates. I also want to encourage her to stick with politics as we need more people like her.

As for updates.

In Tunisia, the Liberals (Nidaa) have secured a victory. The Islamists have conceded defeat.

In Ukraine, now that more votes are in, I've updated the results. With 75% of the vote in, things stand as follows:

As noted in the graphic, the Front and the President's party are setting up for a coalition government.

30-40% of Ontarians in Various Municipalities Vote 2014 (and some Albertans too)

Today is election day across Ontario's thousands of local municipalities, ranging from the big ones in Toronto and Mississauga, to itty bitty races where specific people need to be beaten back by large margins. Turnout in these elections are hilariously low usually, despite municipalities being the closest level of government to your daily life - even Toronto's competitive 2010 mayoral race only saw 50% turnout.

So don't expect to see high numbers of voters, except in the few cases there are highly competitive races. Lets go over some, if you've got the time.

Mississauga is definitely going to see a spike in turnout, featuring its first actual competitive mayoral race since its creation in the 1970s. The main contenders are former Liberal MP Bonnie Crombie and former Liberal MPP Steve Mahoney - the race was fairly close before, but Crombie managed to score the endorsement of Hurricane Hazel McCallion herself a couple weeks ago, and that has put her far in the lead of Mahoney. Both have some great ideas though, and its good to see Mississauga has such strong contenders after McCallion's retirement.

In Hamilton, incumbent mayor Bob Bratina has decided not to seek re-election after one term (and is instead seeking election as a federal MP for the Liberals in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek). That has brought forward three main contenders to replace him: Brian McHattie, a downtown Councillor with ties to the NDP establishment in the city; Brad Clark, a suburban Councillor with ties to the Conservatives; and Fred Eisenberger, the previous mayor before Bratina who was defeated in 2010 who also has ties to the Conservatives, though maybe some Liberals as well. Clark has been accused of essentially trying out the Rob Ford strategy of pitting the suburbs against the downtown core, and it seems McHattie and him will work up their various bases. Eisenberger led in the polls I've seen scattered around, and probably has the best chance of winning due to broader appeal among both constituencies. Its really up in the air at this point though.

Over in Brampton, Susan Fennell's drama continues on and she still seems likely to go down to defeat, probably to former Liberal MPP and cabinet member Linda Jeffrey. Fennell, mayor since 2000, had her reputation ruined due to an audit that found she inappropriately charged hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city expensive account. She then sued the audit company for "exceeding its mandate," and the city's integrity commissioner looked in and eventually cleared her of wrongdoing, saying its an "established practice" that she followed and can't be held accountable for (right). That happened last week, so who knows how the polls have moved since then, but it seems likely that not enough people are going to be convinced by Fennell's cleared-by-technicality to win re-election. We'll see.

In southwestern Ontario, Windsor and London are looking for new mayors. Windsor's popular incumbent Eddie Francis decided to not seek re-election, and his position is being sought by three main contenders: Councillor Drew Dilkens, a leftist with probable NDP ties; Larry Horwitz, a former Liberal candidate from 2008 using suspiciously Ford-like campaign graphics; and John Millson, a former mayor from the late 1980s who may/may not have had the backing of former Liberal MPP and cabinet member Sandra Pupatello. I have zero clue about whats going on, but it looks like a fun race.

In London, former mayor Joe Fontana was booted out for being a corrupt asshat, so the city needs a new mayor. The main contenders, as far as I can tell, are business Paul Cheng, who has a largely self-financed campaign; and sitting councillors Matt Brown, Roger Caranci, and Joe Swan. An early poll suggested Brown had the lead over Cheng, but not much has come out since. Like Windsor, I have no idea whats going on, but I like the cut of Cheng's campaign, who says "folks" more than Doug Ford does.

Speaking of, the Ford legacy is on the line tonight in Canada's biggest city. John Tory, Olivia Chow, and Doug Ford are all competing to succeed Rob Ford as mayor, and the polls indicate so far that Tory has the lead. I don't live in Toronto, so it doesn't really matter to me - though I will heartily chuckle if Doug Ford gets in - but if I did, I would probably vote for Tory. I do find his resume impressive and he clearly has some positive ideas for the city, plus at this point he seems likely the only person who can defeat Ford. That being said, I feel like my heart is with Olivia Chow - she really does speak to a lot of the issues I care about, especially alleviating poverty. Yet I suspect a lot of people are saying "I like Olivia, but..." today. Tory will make a competent mayor, that's all people can ask for and actually receive at this point.

Some council races to watch are Ward 2, where Rob Ford is seeking his hold seat but does have some spirited challengers; Ward 7, where Comrade Mammoliti will hopefully go down to defeat; Ward 12, where former MP John Nunziata is trying to join his sister on council; Ward 24, where Dan Fox is running a strong campaign to unseat incumbent David Shiner; Ward 32, where incumbent Mary-Margaret McMahon is running against former incumbent Sandra Bussin and certified weirdo James Sears; and Ward 42, where former Liberal/PC candidate and incumbent Raymond Cho is facing off against Neethan Shan, former NDP candidate/party president who is perennially close to being successful, kind of like the NDP's John Tory.

On a personal note, the reason I haven't been as active lately is that I have been managing the campaign of my friend Michael Kukhta, who is running for Public School Trustee here in my city of Burlington (whose races are mostly pretty boring, especially for Mayor). We're hoping to get Michael elected tonight against three other opponents, and I'll be watching the results come in at a local bar, so no live results unless Teddy does them. But good luck to everyone in their respective campaigns!

Oh, right, Alberta - I nearly forgot. That's my Central Canadian bias coming out.

There are four by-elections in Alberta tonight as well, the first - and final, if it goes badly - test for new PC Premier Jim Prentice, who himself is a candidate on the ballot. Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-West, and Edmonton-Whitemud feature Prentice and two appointed cabinet members (and another guy) facing off against stiff competition in the Wildrose Party, and maybe the NDP or Liberals if they get their act together. I encourage people to mosey on over to Daveberta's website for more information.

These by-elections will heavily influence the fate of Prentice's government, though if he loses a riding I wouldn't say its the end - Prentice came in at a bad time for the hegemonic PCs, and there is a lot of anger out there. By-elections are a chance for people to express that anger, and not necessarily decide the fate of a government. So whatever happens, do not read too much into it.

One of the biggest questions to come out of this, as it always happens anyways, is the question of a merger on the progressive side of Alberta's spectrum. There are three main "progressive" parties in this election - the Alberta Liberals, the NDP, and the Alberta Party, the latter which poached former Redford/Nenshi campaign guru Stephen Carter. For some reason this speculation doesn't include the revitalized Greens, but whatever. Its very, very unlikely any of these parties will win any of the ridings up for grabs here, so any "success" tonight will be about who can end up in what position in the final results.

There was some hoo-haa in Calgary about the Alberta Party trying to set-up Liberals saying things about merger/co-operation (which, in fairness, Kent Hehr, does promote), but we're not likely to see any movements by any party to merge right now. The Liberals are counting on the Trudeau effect; the NDP are counting on new leader Rachel Notley's appeal; and the Alberta Party is betting on Carter. Co-operation in certain ridings makes sense, but the hail-mary plays of these respective parties have hardly come to pass.

Besides, any new entity that comes out of a merger will, at best, manage to get an Official Opposition role to a Wildrose government in this climate. The PCs are not swinging wildly to the right, and frankly neither are the Wildrosers. Everyone is making a play for the "progressive" centre, which is a lot more prevalent in Alberta than most people actually think. A merged progressive party will just be another party making the same play, and not even a mildly successful one at that - 20-25% of the vote, and that is being very generous. If it were me, I'd rather take my chances as a separate party and maybe find my own success - and if a strong movement for a merger does arrive, I'd have a better bargaining position based on my own success, wouldn't I? ;)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ukraine election

Teddy here, I've quickly put together a map showing the results of the Ukraine election. Remember that the ridings seen on the map are supplemented by Proportional Representation, and, that the results are still very early.

It appears when all is said and done that the President and the Anti-Yulia Liberals will each have in the area of 130 seats. The two parties are already rather close in ideology and should be able to put a stable government together. 

The Pro-Russian opposition has done well in the individual ridings, nearly sweeping the eastern portion of the country. This could pose troubles for Ukraine going forward as now a total of 5 provinces are either in open revolt or have voted for parties that tacitly support the rebellion.