Friday, August 2, 2013

Super Thursday By-Elections: Winners & Losers

Last night's five provincial by-elections were a wild right, with a couple of surprises and three more-or-less expected results in five suburban ridings all held previously by Liberal bigwigs which, while at once all relatively similar, were very different in their scope and results. You can check out the results here for yourself, though I'll be going over them at the end of this post as well; meanwhile, we've got consequences for the three major party leaders to dissect!

Lets start with everyone's favourite and most hated group....

The Winners

Beaming that evil Machiavellian smile. EVIIILLL!

Yes, no matter how much I patently dislike her, it is extremely obvious that last night's winner was Andrea Horwath's New Democrats, who picked up two seats in southwestern Ontario, a region where their future success will be made or broken, while also placing third in every riding including a close third in Scarborough-Guildwood with the thoroughly discredited Adam Giambrone (no, he is not "rehabilitated").

The NDP managed to win big in Windsor-Tecumseh, picking up 61.3% of voters on a huge 28-point swing towards them from the Liberals, who dropped to a sad third place behind the PC candidate who managed to repeat his 2011 performance almost exactly. Percy Hatfield, a former Windsor City Councilor with a relatively strong level of popularity, was able to wipe out his opposition on the back of apparent popular anger towards the Liberals in this traditionally NDP riding, which only flipped back in 1999 because of Dwight Duncan's presence on the ballot, that much is very clear by now. Teresa Piruzza, the next-door Liberal MPP in Windsor West, must be shaking in her boots, as I have some serious doubts about her ability to withstand an NDP assault without Duncan around.

Yet the biggest win of the night wasn't Windsor-Tecumseh, as everyone knew in which direction it was heading. The big fight won tonight by the NDP was in London West, where their candidate Peggy Sattler rode a wave of voters to a big win over the PC and Liberals. While we can never be entirely certain what happened, its actually amazing a lot of politicos didn't necessarily expect such a blowout, as there was a perfect storm surrounding this riding. The Liberal candidate, Ken Coran, was completely discredited as a force right from the get-go, and wouldn't put up much of a fight; the PCs remained an unpopular option with no star candidate to back them up, allowing the chance for anti-PC voters to coalesce around the NDP comfortably; and the fact is the NDP have been on a continued upward swing in southwestern Ontario, and London is a natural target for them.

Like Kitchener-Waterloo, it really remains to be seen if this is the kind of riding that will stay orange in a general election.

Though her party didn't really come close anywhere else, Horwath can be pretty proud of last night's results. Voters handed her party huge swings in two ridings where the NDP needed to grow in order to show they have the credibility to win not just a lot of seats, but government. And you can bet she'll use the momentum she's gathered from all the positive press of these wins as a bargaining chip with the Liberals, or maybe even force an election and take her chances running on a "I'm the lesser of three evils" platform which, in this day and age, unfortunately has a lot of appeal. Don't be surprised to see the NDP climb the province-wide polls in the coming days, even to first place.

Lets move on to the more unfortunate crew that I'm apart of...

The Losers

Hudak's expression is hilarious, unfortunately his footnote in history won't be.
Sadly for the crew standing in the way of Horwath's possible rise to power to Emperor Caesar Great Khan Premier (sorry, I've been reading a lot of history this summer), their results last night could at best be seen as "tolerable," though not exactly "great" and definitely not as "a good omen of things to come."

Kathleen Wynne's Liberals, who held all five of these ridings beforehand with +10% margins of victory, are down to two with under 10% margins. Yes, you can argue that the Liberals defied expectations by ending the night two ridings - hell, I was certainly prepared for disappointment in all five in the days leading up to August 1st. But the fact is that in her first electoral test, Wynne lost 3/5 of her seats, with the two in southwestern Ontario nowhere even close to even a moral victory, the very place she needed to do better in order to show she has the stuff to win. And guess what guys - at this point, she doesn't.

However, its hard to say it is Wynne's fault, as I'm sure some will be saying. While you can knock her for not being able to change the channel on McGuinty's scandals, as I said before the fact is that people are angry with the perceived scandals, they're bored with the decade of Liberal government they've had, and generally things haven't really been going too great in the province with riding costs and the after-effects of the recession. That Wynne's team kept two ridings is a good sign that not everyone has abandoned the Liberals, that we still have a base interested in where we're taking things - the win in Ottawa South really speaks to that given how the polls said it was going. But the loss of three others, why we lost them and how we can take them back, should take more precedence in our minds than this sad consolation prize.

Yet for all the doom and gloom for the Liberals, one can say that one person definitely had a worse night: Tim Hudak.

Imagine for a second that you are a member of a political party. Now imagine that your leader, a former minor cabinet member in a long-ago administration, has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory not just once, in a general election; not just twice, in a by-election in one of your own ridings; but now this leader has fallen short in five other by-elections, only eeking out a bare win in a riding that, with the candidate he managed to put in place, should have been a complete blowout. Plus he is the most distrusted, disliked and disapproved of current political leader in the province. Would you keep him as leader?

Personally, I wouldn't. You could call me a hypocrite on this, given that I supported Iggy to the very end, but the fact is that Hudak is the new Ignatieff and I have the benefit of hindsight. In fact, he is in a worse situation that Ignatieff when you think about the approval/disapproval stuff. But the parallels are there, aren't they? Sure, Iggy/Hudak won a narrow victory in Winnipeg North/Etobicoke-Lakeshore, but they lost one of their own ridings in Vaughan/Kitchener-Waterloo and failed to make waves anywhere else. Iggy/Hudak is up against an unpopular government with a stubborn base, and an energetic third party with a popular leader that people may just be willing to lend their support to whenever push comes to shove, even some of his own supporters.

There is the caveat that the pollsters can take some of the heat for the high expectations that people had for the Tories in these ridings. At the same time, you'd expect that an opposition party so vigorously opposed to the government and by all accounts winning some legislative victories by bringing out the scandals (again, hints of Iggy with the Liberal's contempt of Parliament push versus Harper) to be able to kick the government when its down! Yet they were unable to take out two relatively low-hanging fruits in Ottawa South and Scarborough-Guildwood, lost what was seen to be a good win for them by a huge amount in London West, and eeked out a 1,500-vote win in Etobicoke-Lakeshore based solely on the fact that he nabbed Doug Holyday away from Ford Nation, because you can be pretty darn sure with Milczyn's numbers that the PCs wouldn't have won the riding with anyone else.

The fact is that Hudak's whole operation, once again, was a mess last night, and if I were a PC supporter, I would be thoroughly disappointed and looking for new leadership, and it seems some definitely are, such as SunTV hack Michael Coren. I think it may only be a matter of time, days even, before the knives come out for Hudak's back. Question becomes whether or not he can survive it.

Anyways, below are the results in fun graphical form:

And because I like donut graphs:


  1. I think a lot of NDP support came from their candidates. Percy Hatfield and Peggy Sattler were both excellent options. I still think Ken Coran could have been a good MPP, but him flipping back to the Liberals after scrapping with them was to much for people to swallow.

  2. It would be interesting to see that last ring chart without the Holyday factor in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. Given that he increased that riding vote share 17% in that riding while the other four candidates ranged from a small loss (Windsor) to a 5% increase (Ottawa). It appears the Libs were down 17% on average, the NDP up 9% on average and the PC's 5% on average, and closer to 3% without Holyday. If those swings occured province wide, imagine the changes in a lot of ridings. It would be a interesting article to actually post those results based on last nights change in popular vote.

  3. Someone on has applied the by-election swing to the whole province and comes up with 65 PC seats,33 NDP and 9 Liberals.

    However much Hudak failed to meet expectations the fact is that the PC base held and grew modestly in most of the seats. This combined with the Liberal collapse would give them a comfortable majority if the general election mirrored the by-election results.

    And Kyle, if you use the phrase "thoroughly discredited" to describe Giambrone for a minor sexual indiscretion I wonder what phrase you would use to describe your beloved Liberals for pissing $580,000,000 down the toilet."Damned to eternal hellfire" perhaps?

    1. I don't know these Babble numbers, but I highly doubt they've taken into account turnout, the regional differences, and the fact that THESE ARE BYELECTIONS! While it may be an interesting exercise to do just to see what would happen, no one with an ounce of credibility would hold these numbers as representative of a national or even regional swing. I seriously hope you are not putting yourself in such a camp.

      As for Giambrone, he remains discredited as an electoral phenomenon. Why this is could be due to his past scandals, or perhaps his poor decision making overall. I don't know, nor do I care, all I know is that he wasn't elected, proof of my cynical and slightly sarcastic point.

    2. *I'm sorry if I come off as hostile, its been a long night at work.

  4. My point was that the Conservative vote went up in four ridings and was stable in the fifth. They were already at about 37% last election. A few more points will put them into government, particularly with the Liberals losing more than a third of their support. Recent polls also show the PCs up a few points so I don't see that the night was such a disaster for them.

    The Babble entry as I understand it projects the average by-election swing across the whole province. It seems plausible to me, at least as a starting point but then perhaps I don't have "an once of credibility" either.

    I would be interested in your projections based on the by-elections, even though you have not been too accurate yourself lately.

    1. I figured that he probably did something like that, and in my fiddling around I got something similar with the average swing applied to province-wide numbers; I could do regional but I'm trying to get ready for work, so maybe another time.

      The point, however, is not whether you can apply these swings and get a terrible result for the Liberals and a majority for the PCs - you almost certainly can. The question is whether or not you should take that to face value as representative of how a higher turnout, more engaged general election scenario would work.

      One of the best examples I can give is during McGuinty's first term, when of the five Liberal-held ridings that went up for by-elections, we lost - again - three of them, all to the NDP. Hamilton East, Parkdale-High Park, and York South-Weston all swung over to the NDP in a big way. One could argue back then that this might herald a huge NDP swing in 2007 in urban ridings - a swing that never materialized. The NDP did indeed jump up about 2% overall, but they failed to win any extra seats (they lost York South-Weston, but won Hamilton East-Stoney Creek).

      So yes, by-elections can spell doom... but they also can be blips. You're taking your chances if you think they're truly predictive.

  5. Stockholm on Babble has pointed out that Guildwood and Ottawa South are both among the 11 remaining federal Liberal seats in Toronto.

    So you Liberals should not be crowing too much about retaining two of your most reliable seats by suc small margins.

    1. (You mean Ontario - Ottawa South isn't in Toronto.)

      He has a point, to be sure - though all I have to say is, so what? The concern was that the Liberal government had so much antipathy and anger towards it that its own base wouldn't come out to save it in ANY ridings; its pretty clear that the base did come out to save face in at least a couple, as well as make a good run against Holyday. That is why Liberals are "crowing" about these wins, though if you've read the above post, you know that I still see a huge problem on the horizon for us. It just isn't as dire as I felt it was in the run-up to August 1st.

  6. If ever the Conservatives should have taken a big jump forward...what with some major political and economic gaffs should been in theses by-elections. However the votes seemed to migrate left. i think voters have finally started to see the CON in the "trickle down theory", reaganomic theory or whatever you want to call the baloney right wing economic theories of the past decade...they just don't work for anyone but the super rich...and people have finally figured it out. It's not Hudak or Harper's fault but their ideals are going the way of the dinosaur. Hooray!

  7. When you look at the total raw vote numbers for these by-elections compared to the 2011 provincial election we have:

    1. Liberal: -50,961
    2. PC: -4,503
    3. NDP:+4,061

    IOW, it appears that 2011 Liberal voters stayed home big time compared to 2011.

    1. Very good point. A lot also stayed home in 2011 itself! The question then becomes whether or not Wynne and her team can appeal to those lost voters by the time the next election comes around.

  8. TC Norris analyzes the by-election swings and projects them into 65 PC seats, 30 NDP and 12 Liberals, very similar to what the Babble correspondent found.

    I hear what you say about by-elections but the Liberals suffered an immense body blow last Thursday, losing more than half their raw vote and 40% of their percentage vote. Not many governments recover from swings like that, much greater than any of the 3 by-elections you reference.

    The spin has largely been that the by-elections were a disaster for the PCs and a reprieve for the Liberals. The numbers just don't support that.