By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
Mitch Wexler has updated his maps to apply the 2011 election result to the latest proposed boundaries for 2015. In the latest version, the Conservatives gain 23 seats, the New Democrats gain five and the Liberals gain two.
Wexler talks to Susan Delacourt about what to make (and what not to make) of all this.
Wexler says this is the product of plain arithmetic and not some political tilt to the redrawing. “The reason that the Conservatives pick up the most seats is because by pure math, when you add districts the party with the most seats will end up with more,” he said.
Nor should anyone be viewing this data as a prediction. In fact, Wexler notes, the 30 new seats, many in areas of high population growth, could make the next election volatile. “Most of the new seats will be (won) by narrower margins, so a swing in the election simply swings more seats,” he says.
Saskatchewan remains an interesting case. If the 2015 boundaries are applied to the 2011 results, the New Democrats finish two points behind in Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River (about 300 votes closer than they were in 2011), 1.6 percentage points ahead in the new riding of Regina-Lewvan and nine points ahead in new riding of Saskatoon West.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 9:46 AM - 0 Comments
Political science professors at the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina have written an open letter to defend the riding boundaries proposed by the Saskatchewan boundaries commission and respond to the dissenting report of David Marit.
We feel that arguments made in the dissenting report by Commissioner Marrit are not compelling enough to overturn the will of the majority on the Commission. He claims that the number of MPs representing Saskatoon and Regina will be reduced from eight to five. Yet, this argument ignores the realities on the ground. Marrit does not take seriously that eight MPs currently representing Saskatoon and Regina are forced to split their time and attention between the rural and urban portions of their ridings. A better way to look at the new situation, we assert, is that Saskatoon and Regina gain five MPs solely devoted to their interests and rural areas now have more MPs entirely devoted to their interests.
Marrit also states that 75% of the people who contacted the commission were against the proposed changes. However, the other commissioners note that most of that 75% came in the form of pre-formatted postcards sent in at the behest of local MPs who wanted to maintain existing boundaries.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
Back in August, Brent Rathgeber explained why he wasn’t going to be commenting on the riding boundary review process.
I have publically stated that it is inappropriate for Members of Parliament to actively lobby for or against a particular electoral map or configuration. This has both an ethical and a practical aspect. Ethically, I believe that MPs, who intend to run again, are in a complete conflict of interest when lobbying for or against a certain boundary configuration and therefore ought to recuse themselves from a conflict, real or perceived. If I were to make a submission to the Boundary Commission, which if accepted, assisted in a narrow electoral victory, certainly allegations of gerrymander would follow thereafter.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 3:55 PM - 0 Comments
Four days after denying any involvement with phone calls made to Saskatchewan residents about changes to riding boundaries in the province, the Conservative party admits it was responsible for the calls. Here is the statement from party spokesman Fred DeLorey.
In regards to the calls last week that went into Saskatchewan concerning redistribution, the calls came from the Conservative Party. There was an internal miscommunication on the matter, and the calls should have been identified as coming from the Conservative Party.
As I said in the past, we are not polling on this issue, we already know where people stand – 75% of people who attended the public hearings and submitted written submissions opposed these drastic changes to the boundaries. But we are doing a host of things to communicate with voters and get their feedback.
Not only were these changes opposed by 75% of the public, but an actual member of the commission also opposed these changes, which led to an unprecedented Dissenting Report by the boundary commission.
We agree with the Dissenting Report of Commissioner David Marit on the basis that:
—These drastic changes were opposed by 75% of the public who presented at the Commission’s public hearings;
—There will be fewer MPs representing urban areas than under the previous maps, a fact pointed out by the residents, city-councillors, and business leaders in Regina and Saskatoon;
—Because of population growth, the next boundary commission will have to change the ridings back to rural-urban blends; and
Rural Saskatchewan plays a vital role in supporting the urban population centres and it only makes sense to have MPs that represent both rural and urban areas to reflect that important characteristic of the province.
Colby Cosh covered the dispute within the boundary commission last week. As I noted a few weeks ago, the new boundaries theoretically turn a province with 13 Conservatives and one Liberal into a province with 11 Conservatives, two New Democrats and one Liberal.
And as I noted shortly after the last election, the popular vote result in Saskatchewan is a glaring example of first-past-the-post failing to reflect the province-wide will of voters. Here again are those numbers from the 2011 election.
Conservatives 256,004 votes (13 seats)
NDP 147,084 votes (0 seats)
Liberals 38,981 votes (1 seat)
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 8:13 PM - 0 Comments
Colby Cosh notes that there is some consternation over the proposed new riding boundaries in Saskatchewan.
As I noted two weeks ago, the province presents an intriguing map for 2015, particularly as it pertains to the New Democrats and their hopes of breaking through in the Prairies.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Andrew Coyne has another go at making the case for a one-time electoral cooperation pact among the opposition parties to achieve electoral reform, as Elizabeth May has also recently proposed. I still think this is a crazy idea.
Andrew notes that the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens are variously interested in replacing our first-past-the-post system for electing MPs. He then builds his case thusly.
It will be objected that much of this is merely an expression of the parties’ self interest, or more charitably that their principles show a remarkable tendency to align with their self-interest: under proportional representation the Greens would win many more seats than the one they have now, as until recently would the NDP, while the alternative vote tends to favour middle of the road parties like the Liberals. Fair enough. I happen to think these are also useful reforms in the public interest. But it is to those parties’ supporters I address myself here: to their self-interest as much as their ideals.
Because none of this is going to happen as things stand: neither the Conservatives’ defeat nor the democratic reforms each proposes would follow. It is not going to happen so long as the Conservatives maintain their apparently unshakeable hold on 35% to 40% of the voters that have stuck with them for much of the past decade. And it is not going to happen so long as the rest is divided up more or less evenly amongst two or three opposition parties…
So the long-term answer to the opposition’s dilemma is electoral reform, based on some form of proportonal representation. But that isn’t going to happen until they can figure out how to beat the Conservatives in the short term. The obvious answer is for the three parties to cooperate in some way at the ballot box: to combine, rather than split their votes.
The premise here seems to be that it is unlikely the Conservatives will win anything less than another majority mandate in 2015. If you were taking wagers right now, approximately two years away from the next vote, the odds would obviously have to favour the Conservatives. But another Conservative majority is not nearly a sure thing. The Conservatives polled at 33% in December. And the two years between now and the next election leave plenty of time for unforeseen developments. Incumbents at the federal level have a tendency to hold power for awhile, but they also have a tendency to eventually lose.
Could the New Democrats or Liberals win a majority government in 2015? It looks unlikely now, but the NDP was ahead of the Conservatives and in the mid-30s a year ago and the Liberals were ahead of the Conservatives and in the mid-30s in 2009. If the threshold for a majority government is around 39%, the possibility of an NDP or Liberal majority can’t be entirely dismissed.
Eight and a half years ago, the Liberals won a minority government with 36.7% of the popular vote. The Conservatives took 29.6%, the NDP 15.7% and the Bloc Quebecois 12.4%. How possible is it that the New Democrats or Liberals could win 36% of the popular vote in 2015? Could we see something like a 35-30-25 split with the Liberals or New Democrats in first and the Conservatives in second? Maybe you wouldn’t wager your life savings on it happening, but you’d be unwise to wager your life savings on it not happening.
But then, the opposition parties don’t even need to “win” the next election, do they? If the Conservatives are reduced to a minority and the House of Commons math works for the other parties, some combination of the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens could form a coalition government. How possible is a coalition government taking power in 2015? (We nearly had one in 2008. And with that experience, the parties might now be better prepared to pull it off.) Once again, you might not want to bet on it, but you can’t discount the possibility entirely either.
So an NDP or Liberal minority or a NDP-Liberal-Green coalition are within the realm of possibility (and not merely as far-fetched scenarios). And either scenario, I would posit, could result in a government interested in electoral reform. Andrew might be right that the long-term situation seems, right now, to favour the Conservatives. But I don’t think that means the next election result is assured. And therein lies a real opportunity for change.
Andrew proceeds to consider the options. He rules out a merger as unrealistic (I agree). He writes that a “formal coalition” also wouldn’t work (I disagree). He then arrives at his preferred option.
As it happens, however, an alternative has emerged that has found significant supporters in all three parties. It is to forge a purely temporary alliance, a one-time electoral pact. Party riding associations would agree to run a single candidate against the Conservatives, on a platform with essentially one plank: electoral reform. Were it to win it would govern just long enough to reform the electoral system, then dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections.
There are a lot of questions to ask about this proposal. Andrew acknowledges as much.
A favourite counterargument is to rattle off a number of obvious practical questions in quick succession — How would these common candidates be selected? Would this apply in all ridings, or just some? Could voters be persuaded to turn the election into a referendum on electoral reform? — in a tone that implies they could not be answered. Which is certainly true, as long as no one bothers to try.
Let’s allow that some of the finer details could be worked out. I think there are valid questions to be asked about how the parties would sort this out amongst themselves, but let’s imagine that those questions could be answered and those problems solved. Let’s just deal with that third question: could an election be turned into a referendum on electoral reform?
Are enough voters so interested in electoral reform that they would support turning the next election into a referendum on that subject? Could enough voters be convinced to momentarily suspend their concerns about other issues? Could enough voters be convinced to ignore the other policy differences between the NDP, Liberals and Greens? Could enough voters be convinced to ignore the possible ramifications of all other policy debates between the parties to vote with the hope that a real election would then be run in short order?
I’ll try to answer those questions: No. Granted, I can’t predict the future with certainty (and have just finished arguing against making such predictions). Perhaps the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens could persuade voters to make this a singular focus. But this strikes me as implausible. I don’t think voters, in general, are so interested in electoral reform that they’d go along with this. At the very least, it seems like a remarkable gamble for the three parties to make. (And, keep in mind, the Conservatives would be keen to explain, loudly and repeatedly and prominently, why this was such a terrible idea.)
But only here now do we reach what is, for me, the deal breaker. Let’s say another Conservative majority was, under the status quo, overwhelmingly likely. Let’s say voters (or enough voters) were keen (or could be convinced to be keen) to turn the next election into a referendum on electoral reform. Let’s even say that an NDP-Liberal-Green pact would win that referendum.
Fundamentally overhauling the electoral system would probably take more than a couple days. Legislation would conceivably have to be passed through the House. Legislation would conceivably have to be passed through the Senate (how would a Conservative majority in the Senate handle such legislation?).
Even if you imagine this proceeding as expeditiously as possible, this would take some period of time (A month? A few months? More?). Someone would have to be Prime Minister while this was happening. Someone would have to be governing. How would that work? Conceivably they would have no mandate beyond changing the electoral system. Would they promise to not touch anything else for as long as they were in government? Would they promise to just carry on with Conservative policy until another election could be held? (Would anyone believe them if they promised as much?) What if something bad happened? What if something came up that required government action?
This is not a rhetorical device. I’m not trying to bury the idea in questions. I honestly want to know how this would work because I honestly don’t understand how this is supposed to work. What kind of government would we have for however long it took to change the federal electoral system and what would be the ramifications of having such a government?
I basically agree that the way in which we elect MPs could be improved (I recently came down with a crush on the ranked ballot). But I don’t like complicated solutions. Complicated solutions are usually the least achievable. Which is not to say they shouldn’t ever be pursued. But, in this case, I think there are less complicated options that might be entertained first.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 2:14 PM - 0 Comments
Whatever the impact of the attack ads run against him, one historical note on the challenge facing Thomas Mulcair. He will be attempting in 2015 to do something that most leaders of the opposition fail to do: lead their parties to a general election victory on their first try.
By my count, between 1921 and 2011, 15 opposition leaders* who had not previously been prime minister led their parties into elections. Ten of those leaders failed to lead their parties to government on that first try: Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion, Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day, Preston Manning, Robert Stanfield, Lester B. Pearson, George Drew, John Bracken and Robert Manion. Only two of those ten went on to become prime minister after losing the first time: Messrs Harper and Pearson.
On the other hand, the five who won were Jean Chretien (1993), Brian Mulroney (1984), Joe Clark (1979), John Diefenbaker (1957) and Mackenzie King (1921) and all of those five defeated governments that had been in power for at least two terms.
When Mr. Chretien become prime minister, the Progressive Conservatives had been in power for nine years. When Mr. Mulroney became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 20 of the previous 21 years and won six of the previous seven elections. When Mr. Clark became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 16 years covering five elections. When Mr. Diefenbaker became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 22 years covering five elections. When Mr. King became prime minister, the Conservatives (on their own and then as a coalition) had been in power for 10 years covering two elections.
When Mr. Mulcair faces the Conservatives in 2015, the Conservatives will be at the end of their third mandate and been in power for nine years.
*Preston Manning was not technically the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in 1997. Officially that title belonged to Gilles Duceppe, but the Bloc Quebecois had no chance of forming government and at dissolution the Bloc and Reform Party had the same number of seats.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 8:44 AM - 0 Comments
With what at first seemed a rather random query, Bob Rae asked the Prime Minister yesterday about the timing of the 2015 election on account of the fact that the current fixed election date is likely to conflict with elections in several provinces. As it turns out, Mr. Rae was apparently on to something.
Stephen Harper: Mr. Speaker, I did not know the timing of the next election was still a subject in which the leader of the Liberal Party was keenly interested. We have noted, as he has just noted, that the date in law for the next election currently conflicts with several provincial elections that will occur at the same time. We are talking to our friends in the provinces about how to resolve this. I can assure parliamentarians we will bring forward a proposal on this well before the next election.