ABC by the Numbers

Polls and elections go together like right-wingers and tax cuts, but this election campaign seems to be particularly poll-obsessed. The media’s coverage has been weak on issues with excessive attention on the horse race among the main parties.

In those polls what is most striking to me is how little has changed since the 2006 election. The Conservatives got 36.3% of the popular vote in 2006, and recent polls put them pretty much in the same range, with 36-37% the main numbers, after a brief first week spike according to some pollsters.

The difference between 2006 and 2004, when they got 29.6% of the popular vote, was a swing of about 6% of voters to the Conservatives. On the basis of that swing their seat count went from 99 in 2004 to 124 in 2006 (right after the election, anyway; don’t get me started on David Emerson).

Interestingly, for small-c conservatives in Canada, the 2004 election was an aberration. This great site has election results going all the way back to Confederation. In recent decades, the combined conservative vote has consistently been in the 35-39% range, although it was split in 1993, 1997 and 2000. The exceptions are the two Mulroney governments, where the PCs got 50% in 1984 and 43% in 1988. Both of those were special, one being the big free trade vote, and the other the end of the Trudeau era.

The point is that today’s Conservatives are pretty much at historical levels of support, and that has not really budged in a few years.

The magic number is 155 for a majority, and at the close of Parliament, the Conservatives had 127 seats. They thus need to hold all of their seats, some of which were won by narrow margins, and pick up 28 seats (29 if you bank on David Emerson’s riding not being held).

So here is where it gets interesting. Coast to coast, people are talking about Anyone But Conservative (ABC) campaigns. And not just talking, they are organizing. The Vote for Climate website, for example, is making their pitch based on electing climate-friendly parties, which includes everyone but you know who. They have graphics on key ridings and are making recommendations on who to vote for in order to avoid splits that inadvertently elect Conservatives. A similar themed site, Vote for Environment, is doing the same thing.

Personally, I think there is something unseemly about strategic voting that is undemocratic. But we have an electoral system that is not particularly democratic, and that system has led to a situation where the country could be ripped asunder by someone who lacks the support of the majority of voters. So voter cooperation is a timely innovation, but over the long term, we simply need a more democratic system with some form of proportional representation.


  • Hear, hear!

    Under the current system, most of us vote for people who do not get elected, and most MPs “represent” mostly people who voted against them!

    At least we “orphan voters” have a new home:

  • All these “strategic voting” websites add nothing that cannot be had by going to the Elections Canada site, or the counterpart provincial service. Unless, of course, it’s the mysteriously calculated adjustments based on public opinion polls, which allows for the site sponsors an opportunity for highly creative interpretations.

    The site is owned and operated by Kevin Grandia, a former assistant to Richmond BC Liberal MP Raymond Chan. He also worked in Victoria from the BC Liberal Gov’ts Public Affairs Bureau, under the direction of Martyn Brown:

    Mr Grandia assures me that his only interest these days is climate change and GHGs, but he does have a party political background that I think people should take into account in assessing his site’s recommendations.

    Consider the riding of Richmond, for example, where his site urges people to vote for his former boss. The biggest local environmental issue is the disposition of the Garden City Lands, presently in the Agricultural Land Reserve, but desired for development by federal Canada Lands Corp and the private sector. It’s been reported that Mr Chan has fully supported this project, and that all his current opponents, Tory, NDP and Green have taken the contrary position. Why then must environmentalists vote for Raymond Chan?

    This site and others like it suffer from a fundamental flaw, the notion that riding level strategic voting must consider only one thing, party affiliation. The actual views and even past actions of the candidates are to be willfully ignored.

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