Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Most surprising election ever

Teddy here to look at the results of the BC election, the most surprising election ever.

Why do I call it that? A few reasons. Lets first compare it to other shocking results.

Diefenbaker, 1957. His win was a shock to many, but back in the 50's the polling industry did not have the same stranglehold on 'who will win' as they do today. Many did expect another federal Liberal victory, but the idea they could lose was not as alien as it otherwise may have been. Certainly the most shocking federal election, and in the top 3 ever in Canadian history, it has been displaced.

Quebec, 2012. Nobody expected the Liberals to nearly win the election, coming within a few seats of doing so. Why this one is not as unexpected as others is the back and forth of the polls throughout the election, showing varying results depending on when the poll was taken. In the end, however, the results did not match any of the polls.

Alberta, 2012. This is one that stuck in everybody's mind. Wildrose had a lead in all the polls from the drop of the writ to the election. The explanations for why they lost were eventually settled on "Albertans were not ready for such a new force"

BC, 2013. Every poll since the summer of 2011 had told us the same thing. Every single poll. The NDP was going to win. The BC NDP is not some untested force, they have been in government before, and, their economic policies are well known to all. Despite that, the party lead, every, last, poll. Nobody - at least nobody that I spoke to - thought there was any way they could lose. Even my own post asking if the Liberals can win was mocked by a reader who said "CAN the liberals win, Yes and Satan could have a baby with Snooki" something that I did not bother to respond to because of the chances he was right.

So lets take a look at what happened. First of all we should note the BC Liberals did lose some seats. Remember a week ago when Clark tried to make an advance vote and wrote two names on her ballot? Both those people have lost their seats. In fact, Liberal results in the city of Vancouver retreated. They also lost a seat in Burnaby, and two in the Victoria area. The Liberals made up for this by adding seats in every other region of the province. The party has managed to make a clean sweep of the central interior, controlling every interior riding outside of the kootenays.


With nearly all polls in, the results are as follows.

BC Liberal - 723,113 - 44.40% - 50 seats
BC NDP - 643,069 - 39.49% - 33 seats
Greens BC - 130,425 - 08.01% - 1 seat
All Others - 131,897 - 08.10% - 1 seat

Compare this to the results LAST TIME
BC Liberal - 751,661 - 45.82% - 49 seats
BC NDP - 691,564 - 42.15% - 35 seats
Greens BC - 134,570 - 8.10% - 0 seats

Christy Clark, despite leading her party to a majority, has lost her own seat and will likely require one of her MLAs to step aside for her to run in the riding. My personal guess is she will take a Richmond riding.

So what does this mean?
For Clark this means she has 4 years in government to make her mark. She now has a chance to move forward in government and to build a team around her that supports her. Considering most expected a loss, fair-weather friends have left, MLAs that don't really want to be in government are out, and those that do not support Clark's policies are, by in large, gone. Those who did remain include those who thought they could run for leader after Clark loses the election, those committed to public service and/or the party, and  those who wanted to back Clark and her ideology. This will make it much easier for Clark to put together a cabinet. It will also make it easy for her to find a riding, as there are likely a few people who expected to be in campaign mode for leader right now, and may not be keen to sit 4 more years in Cabinet; I'm certain some of them will offer their seat to the leader.

For Dix this probably marks the end of the road, at least for the time being. Considering how fast the party turned on Carole James, Dix probably does not stand a chance at remaining for any length of time. I think he knows this too. His party will take a long hard look at what happened and why and will rebuild. The BC NDP will be demoralized for quite a while by this, especially considering the poll lead, and this may flow into Federal politics as well. My personal guess is that by 2019, Dix will be a federal MP, and probably a strong one at that as he seems to know french.

For Weaver it means a simple fact: With Sterk stepping down as Green leader and with Weaver already the deputy leader, it means he will take over as Leader of the party. Weaver will get a spot in the debates, and will likely get as much coverage as, if not more than, Elizabeth May gets.

For Cummins it means he becomes the butt of jokes. The Conservatives, even if they are running at 20% with a full slate, are unlikely to get into the next debate because of this. In fact, given the party took 2% province-wide last time with about 20 candidates, and 5% this time with about 50 candidates, it really means Cummins did nothing at all for the party. I suspect the Conservatives will be torn apart and dead by September, and the threat of a right-wing challenge of the BC Liberals will be put to bed for the next election cycle, if not 2.

For Pollsters it means a lot of printing - that is printing out resumes because I suspect heads will roll. Individual phone questioners probably don't have much to worry about, but their bosses, and especially, their bosses bosses are likely to be gone within a year or two. With 3 big elections as tests and 3 big failures in a row, things will need to change if the industry is to gain it's credibility back. This is something the Government actually would likely back them up on, as governments use polling data to make public policy decisions. We may be in for a change to laws around polling.

For us, predictors and projectionists all over the internet, it means dark days. Politicians will take shots at us, lumping us in with pollsters, and many of us will "quit" or "retire". I myself semi "retired" after the Quebec election. How we react will determine what happens next. My personal feeling is we should, as a group, look at the 3 elections, look at the polls from all 3, and try to find a trend or pattern hidden within the numbers. We should look to see if we, as a group, can look at a poll and say "this poll is wrong". To see if we can look at the numbers being provided and see the signs that something is not right about it. I was arguing on twitter before I ran out of tweets (apparently you can do that) that we as projectionists and predictors need to make our models so strong that they can deal with all the data we have being wrong. This is not something to do. You need to know where and why they are wrong or you make the wrong call. I for example did presume the polls were wrong this election - however I presumed they were wrong in the other direction, that the NDP would do better than estimated. If we as a group are to remain viable, we will need to figure out how to predict the future.

Lastly, what does it mean for Alberta. May seem like an odd question to ask, but I have new insights here. My new job as a recruiter in the engineering field allows me to see things from an interesting prospective. Job offers recently have slowed down to a trickle because all that nice juicy oil Alberta has is stuck there, no way to get it out. With a premier that is more supportive of pipelines than Dix would have been this means a boon to the oil patch. I personally suspect when I head on in to the office today to see a lot of smiling faces. It might take some time for all the new jobs to pan out, but it certainly does mean more jobs in Alberta.

All in all, I really think more than any other, this election will go down as a shocker. People will struggle to explain it for months and years, but we will not truly understand what happened until quite some time after the next BC election. I suspect that this election will become required reading in universities across Canada, warning people about the dangers of betting on a sure thing.


  1. I think the trend is that at least in the BC election and the Quebec election is the economy. People who stay on message talk about good economic times if they are re-elected win. I think if a campaign continues to spit out the same things, and appear calm cool eventually the ideas of a debt free BC or Quebec not controlled by the streets kick in. People in the last second will buy into all the TV ads of how Clark or Charest are strong and best for the economy, and in the end people will vote for who looks like the best person to keep their jobs.

    So what we can take from this is that when we see a candidate who runs a good campaign, stays on message and no scandals should be expected to get anywhere between 5-10%, which I know is too big of a margin, but right now I think this is all we know about what happened in the last two elections.

  2. who was the idiot who said "CAN the liberals win, Yes and Satan could have a baby with Snooki" he must feel realy stupid right now.

  3. Who do you think replaces Dix? Could be Farnworth, but personal I'm hoping Nathan Cullen runs

    1. Farnworth is my guess, personally. Either him or Horgan. I doubt Cullen will enter the race, he's tied up federally as House Leader.

    2. True, but he might make the jump if he doesn't feel the NDP will be able to win federally.

      Considering the fact that Dix lost support in the Interior and North, Cullen would probably be the most practical choice IMO

    3. He probably also has the credentials to win in Vancouver Island as well. I'm not sure, however, what Cullen's reach is really like among provincial NDPers... he has no ties to them. Plus, where would he run?

    4. Well, if I remember correctly he lives in Stikine, so he would probably run there if Doug Donaldson stepped aside. Of course, if he wanted to run in a Liberal-held riding he could probably run Nechako Lakes, which covers a bit of his federal district.

      I really don't think Cullen has any ties to the BC NDP, but I don't think it would affect him that much. After all, when he ran for the federal leadership he was hardly an influential MP.

      And besides, Dix and his campaign were sort of the definition of party insiders, and look how that turned out.

    5. And a Cullen-led BC NDP come 2017 is much less worrisome for me than a Cullen-led federal NDP come 2019 :)

    6. What about Svend Robinson?

    7. Well, you may be right Ted. I personally don't see it happening, however. I think one of the regular provincial MLAs or faces will come forward, rather than Cullen or others coming down from on high. But we'll see.

  4. I agree with you and can't understand why pollsters have been trying to minimize the extent of their failure in this election. Supposedly, Liberal internals put them ahead, but if that was the case, why didn't they brag about it to the media instead of insisting that "we don't care about polls"? The Current on CBC Radio broadcast a shameful roundtable with pollsters insisting that their numbers weren't actually all that far off the mark; one even claimed that he could tell Clark was going to get a majority! It doesn't seem as though they even care about their horrible performance, which was certainly much less excusable than their failures in Alberta and Quebec.

  5. Could it be that a lot of NDP voters decided to stay home because the NDP was so high in the polls and their victory was certain?