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Well, I think it’s interesting

Posted by padams under Election 2008, Election 2008 Campaign strategy, Election 2008 Media commentary

Paul Adams

I know, I know: you think that there are all these polls around, even three published daily now, and nothing has changed: after three weeks, the Tories are still in front but don’t know whether they’ll get a majority; the Liberals are still far behind; the NDP is doing well, but not well enough to displace the Liberals; and we don’t know yet what will really happen with the Greens.

OK, all this is true. (Though, I would remind you: how would you know any of this without the polls?)

But for those of us following the numbers day-to-day, there have been some fascinating dynamics in this campaign so far, and some amazing possibilities ahead.

Below, I’ve put a seat projection based on EKOS latest daily tracking numbers (conflict alert), which I share with all the usual caveats about seat projections. To me, it suggests some fascinating possibilities. (Don’t get vertigo reading this table, which I had trouble dropping in — hey! only been blogging 3 weeks.)


                     Liberal   C.P.C.   NDP     Bloc    Green   Other   Total 
CANADA             66      148       38       55         0          1       308 
Atlantic               7         21         4        0         0          0         32 
Quebec              10          7         2      55         0          1         75 
Ontario              40        46        20        0         0          0       106 
Man.                   2          9         3         0         0          0         14 
Sask                   1         13         0         0         0          0         14 
Alta.                   1         27         0         0         0          0         28 
B.C.                    4         24         8         0         0          0         36 
Yk/Terr                1           1         1         0         0          0          3 
                          66      148       38       55         0          1       308

First of all, it suggests that the rumours of the Bloc’s demise were highly exaggerated. The culture debate has helped the Bloc in recent days, but they have actually been on the rise for a couple of weeks now. The Tories’ hopes of a breakthrough much beyond what they accomplished in the last election are disappearing before their eyes. And look at the NDP in Quebec — can they maybe, just maybe, increase their foothold in the province?

And here’s a thought: Gilles Duceppe, Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Lucien Bouchard held that title for a while too, after the ’93 election. If the Liberals lost 12 more seats, on this projection, Duceppe would get the job — even if the NDP picked up every single one of the lost Liberal ridings. Not that I’m saying that’s going to happen. It couldn’t, could it?

As a matter of fact, the race for Leader of the Opposition is looking awfully close at the moment: Duceppe, Dion and Layton could all imagine getting the job under plausible scenarios for the second half of the campaign.

Now, look at Ontario. This may be Dion’s best hope of hanging on to his current job (at least until his own party gives him the heave-ho.) The Liberals have crept back into the race in Ontario. Just ten days ago, using this same model, the Tories would have had 58 seats in Ontario, to 31 for the Liberals and 17 for the NDP. Now it’s 46 Tories, 40 Libs and 20 NDP. 

There remains a lot at stake in this election. There is a big difference between a minority government and a majority — especially when on many significant social and economic issues there is arguably a consensus of 60% or more among supporters of the other parties in opposition to the Tories’ position.

I also believe that the survival of the Liberal Party may be at stake in this election — certainly, if it does not retain at least second-party status. And tied to that, of course, is the potential future of the NDP, which could replace it as the alternative to the governing party.  

And what about the Greens? At the moment, they have captured the support of more than a tenth of the public, yet could quite possibly end up without a seat. The party represents a strong current with regard to the environment, and a strong current of frustration with the youngest cohort of Canadian voters. What does it mean to our democracy if the Greens breakthrough? What does it mean if they don’t?

Personally, I agree completely that the media is overly concerned with the polls — not so much in reporting them, because they provide information useful to voters in making up their own minds — but in allowing them to frame their coverage of the election, muting some legitimate voices, while amplifying others, obsessing on strategy and neglecting the issues of jobs, the economy, the health care system, Afghanistan and the environment that voters care about — or might if the media helped them to understand them better.

But at the end of the day, an election is an exercise is statistics and the numbers will determine in considerable degree what kind of country we end up living in.

Paul Adams is a former political reporter with the CBC and the Globe and Mail, and is now a member of Carleton’s journalism faculty, and executive director of EKOS Research Associates.