Monday, September 22, 2014
Final New Brunswick Projection - Did the Map Get More Blue?
The last couple of weeks have seen a dramatic tightening of the race in the province of New Brunswick between the governing Progressives Conservatives, led by Premier David Alward (Carleton), and the opposition Liberals, led by Brian Gallant (Shediac Bay-Dieppe). So dramatic, in fact, that the race went from an overwhelming lead to a narrow tie, with maybe some slight favourability in numbers to the Liberals, but definite favourability in the trend to the PCs.
Now, my co-blogger has called for a PC majority government, quite a hefty one at that - I find this a bit presumptuous, but to each their own. That doesn't mean he will be wrong, though, as the race is now officially a toss-up and it could literally go either away tonight.
What has happened to cause what was such a sure thing for the Liberals to become a fight-to-the-death?
The first issue I see is that Brian Gallant, while not a terrible leader, is also not necessarily inspiring, or dare I say it, credible for a lot of New Brunswickers. A lot of comparisons have been made between Trudeau and Gallant, but they're honestly not that similar; Gallant is a former lawyer who started off with zero name recognition and just became the voter's default choice because of the piss-poor job Alward was doing. Even then, you could tell that protest voters against Alward were still very iffy about him, given the support the lent to Dominic Cardy's NDP (which we'll get to in a second) over the Liberals in polls. Trudeau's Liberals certainly share some characteristics, though Trudeau himself is much more popular, and seemingly more credible, in the minds of Canadian voters.
Shorter version, a bad debate, poor interview, and very simply, an uninspiring platform and leader that have fallen flat has kept Gallant from consolidating his lead. Gallant's disapproval has shot up from 33% to 46% over the course of the campaign according to Forum as voters get to know him more, though his approvals have seemingly stayed steady.
The consequences of this shift among the voters has been support leeching back to the Alward Tories, though I stress to say that this is not because Alward is a super duper leader who the people love - his most recent approval/disapproval was 35/56, meaning there is still a lot of opposition. That being said, he has steadily increased/decreased those numbers since the start of the campaign. Alward is already Premier, and the power of incumbency does wonders when facing against imploding opposition - just take a look at Alberta, BC, Ontario, etc.
The other consequence of all of this has been the poor New Democrats. They had some serious hopes at the start of the campaign, and could have easily held the balance of power in a minority legislature if they kept steady while the other two parties whittled each other down. Alas, they have not, and now sit roughly where Roger Duguay sat back in 2010 when he managed 10% of the vote and zero seats.
Some people are likely to ponder at this event - why are the New Democrats dropping when the Liberals are as well? Shouldn't they mop up that extra support?
Despite what Forum's polls say at times, I remain convinced that the NDP's support in this election has come mostly from disenfranchised Tory voters. Cardy has run a campaign to appeal directly to those PC moderates who aren't worried about the NDP's social policies but always have those concerns about their fiscal responsibility. In the debate I watched, you could honestly not tell what party Cardy would have been from without the helpful colours on the podium - he could have easily been from the PCs or the Liberals.
While this is a legitimate strategy and one that usually pays dividends, it usually does so over a number of elections. Cardy has gone a long way to bring in new voters for this election, but many people who may have said they'll support the NDP in previous polls over the last for years are now drifting back to their usual home, possibly concerned about the impact of a Liberal government, which Cardy has attacked as spendthrift and reckless. That rhetoric will only serve to help the PCs in this election, as voters are not disgusted enough by Alward to break the habit of believing the NDP are fiscally irresponsible. They're going to go with what they know.
In the end, I project the NDP will win a grand total of zero seats, even if they increase their share of the voters. That doesn't mean they don't have a chance - in particular, Cardy could win in Fredericton West-Hanwell, and Kelly Lamrock could win in Fredericton South, these are upsets I believe could happen. I don't see Bev Harrison in Hampton or any of the Saint John seats falling at this point, however.
In the end, we're left with this race all tied up between the PCs and Liberals. Below is the riding list, peruse it as you wish and keep a record for tonight. You can also see the same information to your right (or at the link above) under "New Brunswick Projection." I'll give some ideas about interesting areas to watch after the list.
Ridings/Regions to Watch:
All Acadian seats tonight will be boring, so don't bother. The two exceptions are Tracadie-Sheila and Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou, where previous Tory incumbents are fighting against a tide, but could hold on. If you see them start turning blue, then the Liberals are toast. The same is vice-versa for the rural Anglophone ridings, essentially the southwest of the province - they should be boring, but if you see Liberals making inroads, start paying attention.
Moncton and Saint John will be the places where the race is won and lost tonight, so pay attention.
Saint John is a "Red Tory" city, where moderate conservatives frolic in peace and harmony, but will vote Liberal if they've had enough of a PC government. In 2010, all ridings voted PC after voting Liberal in all but two ridings in 2006. My projection shows the Liberals could take SJ Harbour and SJ East without any serious problems, but previously locked-in ridings are now ties. If they start turning blue/red, consider it a bellweather. There is also an outside chance the NDP could win SJ Harbour and Hampton, but those odds decreased with every poll.
Moncton is a more interesting case, being split between Acadian homelands (Dieppe), super-duper Anglophone areas (Riverview), and a mix in the rest. Four of the city's ridings are too close to call right now, a big change from previous Liberal domination in earlier projections.
Anyways, have fun watching tonight and hold out hope that Gallant can pull this off. Remember, just because its close doesn't mean Gallant is going to lose! Both 2003 and 2006 featured close elections between the PCs and Liberals, and 2010 seems to have been an aberration due to the major amounts of angst towards the Shawn Graham Liberal government at the time. We could see yet another close race here, and it is anyone's guess who will end up on the winning side of history this time.