Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Look at Durham

Bev Oda has resigned, and the tears of joy shed by this event - for Opposition supporters and Conservatives alike - have been fun. But now we come down to some serious business - the upcoming by-election for the riding of Durham.

Since 1972, Durham has essentially been a "conservative" riding - might be no surprise given its heavily rural geography, but it in fact is a fairly urban riding, with probably over 90% of it currently residing in the major towns in the riding - Clarington, Courtice, Uxbridge, and Port Perty.

Yet, even during the 1990's, when Liberal MP Alex Shepherd won the riding, he still fell behind the combined Reform/PC vote, which makes these suburbs - while not as big as they were back then - fairly conservative leaning. Another fact that is slightly telling is that the Christian Heritage Party, Canada's little theocratic party that could, has run a candidate in this riding in every election since its creation in 1988, a feat for this party. You can bet they'll run in this by-election too.

Anyways, in 2011, every single poll in the riding voted in big numbers for Bev Oda, not giving any single opposition party over 40% of the vote in any poll.

According to my current projections, Durham would likely vote for the Conservatives by nearly 47%, to 27% for the NDP and 19% for Liberals. In other words, even the Conservatives losing nationally isn't enough to bring this riding into the NDP hold.

Yet it is a by-election, and anything can happen. Moreover, I think there is specific reason to believe, similar to Calgary Centre, that the NDP would break out if there is any major opposition movement to come after them - yet in this case, there is an even more likeky chanced, based on the map below.

This map shows which parties managed to get a second-place finish in the riding, and its an important thing to note when considering how close the vote totals actually were between Grant Humes, the Liberal candidate, and Tammy Schoep, the NDP candidate - roughly 2,000 votes difference, or just over 3%.

The northern part of the riding, specifically the communities of Uxbridge and Port Perry, tended to vote more for the Liberals than they did the NDP. Unfortunately those communities maybe account for 27% of the population of the riding. Clarington (or more accurately, the Municipality of Clarington, which is the southern part of the riding, versus the Uxbridge and Scugog townships above it) alone counts for roughly 66% of the riding's population.

And this is where the NDP found strength, especially around the actual communities. In a by-election where the incumbent party is down in the polls, and the Opposition party up, having that kind of strength is key, and if those communities do swing in favour of the NDP, an upset is not out of the question. The simple fact is that unless the Liberals show either national strength or regional strength in Ontario, NDP's advantage in its "base" - if you can say a party that didn't win a single poll has a base - is just too much to overcome, at least in the fight for second.

Candidate-wise, no one knows quite yet who may jump at the chance to run, though this DurhamRegion.com article hints that the riding's Liberals expect 2011 candidate Grant Humes to run again, a prospect I'd agree with.

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