Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another fine mess? (Canadian version) 

It could be a really classic FPTP nonsense soup in Canada today as the 40th General Election finally gets to the polls. Yes, the ‘True North’ uses the same beloved electoral system as our own dear First-Past-The-Post Westminster Parliament, and with five parties in serious contention in one region or another no sensible person is making any serious bets of their farms on the outcome.

The main tracking polls show the Conservatives in the lead nationally (35%) eight point ahead of the Liberals (27%) with the New Democrat Party on 19% , the Bloc Quebecois on 10% and the Greens on 9% so the Tories –currently with a minority government – ought to be favourites. But hold on. Regional variations and the structure of marginals means it even more difficult to read

The BQ only fight in Quebec so that national percentage translates to 41 percent where their candidates are standing. Tories and Liberals are tied at 21% each and the NDP on 12% The Tories made big gains here in the last election but are threatened in at least half their seats by Liberals who have recovered hugely from an abyss earlier in this campaign.

In the Prairies Provinces the Tories have 52% to the Liberals 18% and the NDP 21% while in British Columbia and the Artic the Tories have 40%. Liberals 23% NDP 25% Greens 12% Marginals in BC only around Vancouver really, where Liberal and NDP support is appreciably higher.

That leaves the Maratime Provinces and Ontario. Maratime polling shows Tories on 24%, Liberals on 37%, NDP on 28% and Greens 9% and all sorts of marginals some three way. And as for Ontario, the biggest Province with about a third of the seats… well…

Cons 34% Liberal 35% NDP 21% Green 10%

Most likely result is another Tory minority administration. The NDP could conceivably overtake the Liberals by winning in the multi-way marginals to become the official opposition provided they get more seats than the BQ. Or the Liberals could squeak the 40 or so marginals and so emerge as the largest party and lead a minority administration. If tactical voting really takes hold the Tories could be creamed despite having the largest popular vote, and this is being urged by a former Tory Premier of Newfoundland who is pushing an initiative called ABUT (Anyone Bar the Tories). If so the Tories could be essentially restricted to Alberta, where they hold every seat, and revert to their recent role of being in effect the ‘Bloc Albertois’. Chances of a Liberal majority government, miniscule –would need freak ABUT results in Quebec and BC. .

As to why a Tory is campaigning bitterly against the Tories, and how the Tories (until a few weeks ago on course to gut the BQ and become the largest Quebec party) screwed up so completely they lost 40% of their support in 10 days, and why a Liberal Premier in BC refuses to campaign for the Federal Liberals (the Grits) despite the fact the Grits are pushing a Green Tax initiative (copied from our own dear selves) building on the pioneer initiative in his province .. Well Canadian politics is supposed to be boring, right, so nobody on this side of the pond could possibly be interested.

But just maybe we will end up on Wednesday morning with another superb example of why our current electoral system is a dangerous gamble, so perhaps we should spare a bit of attention.

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