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The real question should be: Why haven't the Tories been elected the last two times? The answer to that is this; Despite a Liberal party that was long in the tooth and steeped in corruption Canada is basically a center/left country.

Many Tory ridings, and the candidates they produce, are PURE "religious right dupes" - Canadians are far too sophisticated to turn over our world class "social system - social society" to the loving embrace of the "religious right's" - "starve the beast", "trickle down", "government is the enemy", "anti-women", "anti-gay", "anti-evolution", "anti-reason" morons.

Simple really.

Um, no.

The Tories were only got a minority because they were handicapped by the Bloc. It's almost impossible for either the Liberals or Conservatives to win a majority when the Bloc sits on 45+ seats.

As for the religious dupes argument, it's laughable.

Most of the Tories are Law & Order type conservatives. And they turned Keynesian as soon as as necessary.

Plus the GST cut wasn't ideology so much as a grand apology. In order to bury Mulroney's ghost Harper had to cut the GST. Canadians were lied to about the GST by two prime ministers. Harper had no choice but to give in to popular demands. That's democracy.

"It's almost impossible for either the Liberals or Conservatives to win a majority when the Bloc sits on 45+ seats."

I wouldn't go that far, given the data above. Of the 4 previous leaders of a unified Conservative party, 3 of them (Clark, Dief and Mulroney) all won enough seats in ROC to win a majority without needing much in Quebec. Harper did only fall 12 seats short last time.

It's pretty much impossible for the *Liberals* to do it (with a united right), though.

"Despite a Liberal party that was long in the tooth and steeped in corruption Canada is basically a center/left country."

I hear this a lot, but it doesn't fit the data that historically the Conservatives have been performed better in ROC than the Liberals.


Right now the conservatives are just better at politics. I see they're increasing CPP payouts and increasing premiums (the later makes sense, but why the former?). Take from the young and give to the old. Brilliant political move considering aging populations tend to become more conservative. Next it'll be take from the poor and give to the rich, since the rich also vote conservative.

And all of those campaigns were after lengthy Liberal incumbencies, the essential message was "It's time for change, down with Ottawa."

They were all populist rushes. Note that each was the first campaign for each leader.

Clark and Mulroney each tried the same strategy, except Clark failed to hold his minority government and left Mulroney to start from the same position Clark started from.

Plus the GST cut wasn't ideology so much as a grand apology. In order to bury Mulroney's ghost Harper had to cut the GST. Canadians were lied to about the GST by two prime ministers. Harper had no choice but to give in to popular demands. That's democracy.

There's one problem with your theory: Canadians weren't demanding a GST cut. They'd gotten use to the going rate such that the GST wasn't even on their radar until the Conservatives made a big deal out of it. Chances are most Canadians can't even name the two prime ministers who "lied" about the GST. Very few Canadians (except maybe prospective home- and car-buyers) jubilated at news of Harper's "grand apology" that saved them a buck or two on their cable bill each month.

As to the real subject of this post, I don't see the relevance of all this historical analysis in predicting how the Conservatives will fare in the next election. What matters is simply the most recent trend: the Liberal Party is growing less, not more, popular thanks to Ignatieff and Dion before him, while the NDP and the Greens (the Greens in particular) are gaining support. In other words, the left is more split than ever thanks to bad Liberal leadership, giving an obvious advantage to the Conservatives. Not to mention that the West supremacists are increasingly seen as the best party to manage the economy. (Canadians are easily fooled.)

The real story on the GST cut I suspect was to lay the ground work to get some of the major provinces to move on the HST which had been dead in water for years by the time of 2007 and had been something long desired by the civil service at the Department of Finance.

You are cherry picking data from the perspective of an old-man. The Liberals are the party of Ontario. Tbhey haven't domianted Quebec since 1980, 30 years ago.

The real test is if the Liberals can dominate Ontario, as is "normal", and how many non-Ontario seats do they need to win. The elections fo the 90s are the norm, the pre 1980 elections are as relevant as thje pre 1896 elections.

Maybe WCI should bring in some less superannuated bloggers.

"The real test is if the Liberals can dominate Ontario, as is "normal", and how many non-Ontario seats do they need to win. The elections fo the 90s are the norm, the pre 1980 elections are as relevant as thje pre 1896 elections."

The Liberals aren't fighting against a disunited right, though, as they were in the 1990s. And the 1980-1992 period before that? The Conservatives won 2 of 3 in Ontario (1984 and 1988, losing Ontario in 1980), winning 151 seats over the 3 elections to 109 for the Grits.

That being said, "How many seats do the Liberals need to win in Ontario to win a majority?" and/or "How many seats do the Liberals need to win in Atlantic Canada and the West to win a majority?" are interesting questions to look at.

The Liberal Party won a plurality of the popular vote in Ontario in every federal election between 1988 and 2006. In that period, they won QC once in 2000.


"The Liberal Party won a plurality of the popular vote in Ontario in every federal election between 1988 and 2006."

True, but in a first past the post system there's no benefit to racking up huge victories in downtown Toronto (or Calgary). So of those elections:

1988 - Fewer seats than the Tories.

1993, 1997, 2000 - Faced a divided right. Unless the right gets somehow re-divided, I'm not sure how instructive this is.

2004, 2006 - Won Ontario. The 2004 victory was rather large, though there's also a huge riding-level incumbency factor in their favour (which diminished by 2006 and now works against them).

Of the united right elections listed, we have 2 wins (2004, 2006) and 2 losses (1988, 2008). In the 2004 case, the Liberals dominated Ontario and managed a minority overall in Canada. They would have needed about 90-95 seats in Ontario for a majority, and I don't see how that can be considered realistic against a united right.

This is kind of an odd way to analyze the possibility of future election outcomes. A more interesting method might be to see who gets what % of women/men/under 30/over 30. Of course Ekos does those every week...although I'm pretty sure their surveys are much poorer quality than they let on. Growth rates in popularity among certain demographics might provide some insight too.

I'm hoping next election that Harper doesn't pull the blue sweater thing again, that was a bit sickening to watch...especially considering the situation we were in vis-a-vis the economy and the fact that he's...well...an economist of sorts.

Young Man,

I think you're kind of missing Mike's point. Yes, the Grits did well in Ontario in the 1990's, and that allowed them to form majority governments throughtout the period. But what's remarkable is how small those minorities were, despite the fact that they Liberals typically won all, or almost all, of the seats in Ontario. The apparent success of the Liberals in Ontario in the 1990's, driven entirely by both vote-splitting on the Right and decidedly weak (in terms of talent and resources) right-wing parties, masked the longer-term weakness of the Liberal party caused by the loss of Quebec in 1984 (or, more accurately, in 1982).

From 1896 through until 1984, Quebec was the Liberal stronghold. The only time the Tories ever won power (and held it for any length of time) was when they (or someone else, i.e., Social Credit in 1962) managed to take away a significant number of seats in Quebec from the Grits (the sole exceptions being 1957 and 1979, which were both short-lived Tory minority governments). Otherwise, the political history of Canada for that period was one of Liberal dominance interupted by the odd Tory interregnum, founded on the Liberal's base in Quebec.

Since 1984, though, that base is gone. These days, the Liberals hardly win more seats in Quebec than the Tories do (14 to 10, in the last election). So instead of starting each election with a guaranteed 60-70 seat lead over the Tories in Quebec, the Grits go into each election basically running neck and neck with the Tories in Quebec. That would be bad enough, but these days, the Tories start each election with a 55-65 seat lead over the Liberals out in Western Canada. While Liberal dominance of Quebec used to make it very hard for the Tories to form a majority (or even minority) government, now Conservative dominance out West, and the loss of Quebec, makes it very hard for the Liberals to form a minority, much less a majority, government. I mean, think about it, if the Tories win 70 seats out West, and the Bloc wins its usual 50 seats, than the Tories only need to pick up 60 of the remaining 166 seats in Eastern and Central Canada to be more or less assured of forming a minority government (since, in that scenario, even if the NDP and the Liberals formed a coalition, they wouldn't have more seats than the Tories - they could, one supposes, form a coalition with the Bloc, but that's likely electoral suicide in English Canada).

And, in some ways, looking back at past numbers really understates the magnitude of the Liberal's problem. Back in the day, if you wanted to be in government (at least for any period of time), of influence the government, you had to join the Liberals because their powerbase in Quebec meant that they would generally form the government. That made it easier for them to raise money and easier for them to recruit high profile candiates (since talented people are understandably reluctant to run for office for the opporunity to be an opposition critic). The flip side of that was that, for the Tories, losses mean internal dissention, infighting, weak fundraising and campaign planniner, difficulty attractign good candiates, and whole host of other negative traits that Perlin described as "Tory Syndrome". What this meant was that Liberal dominance in Quebec, helped the Liberals do better in the rest of Canada, while undermining the Tories in the rest of Canada.

But now, the situation has reversed. 50 seats in Quebec are off the table, and the Tories start with a massive powerbase in Western Canada. As a result, we'll likely see a scenario where the Tories have an easier go of things in terms of raising money or attracting star candidates because they're seen as being more likely to win elections. And we're probably already seeing this to a degree. The Tories are the party flush with cash who can recruit high profile candidates (in fact, in a number of instances, the Tories succeeded in recruiting start candidates who were also being sought by the Liberals - Canada's former Ambassador to Afghanistan, Chris Alexander, comes to mind), while the Grits are the ones fighting amongst themselves and failing miserably to develop their party organization and fundraising capacity. And this will tend to reinforce Tory strength and Liberal weakness over time. (Which is why current polling numbers have to be a source of real concern for the Liberals. Come election time, the Tories have a ton of cash, strong candidates and strong local organizations, and can probably improve on their current polling numbers, which, after all, are not significantly different from where they were prior to the 2008 election, say in May or June of 2008. On the other hand, the current Liberal polling numbers are far worse than they were going into the 2008 campaign, and they lack both the money and the organization to fight the Tories on an equal footing. And they're fighting amongst themselves again).

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that the loss of Quebec has had serious detrimental implications for the Liberals over the past 30 years. Those implications were masked when the Tories fell apart in the 1990's, but they didn't go away, if anything they got worse (as Liberal weakness in Western Canada continued and their support in Quebec fell away). At this point, unless the Liberals can reclaim their base in Quebec, we may be looking at a situation where the Tories are the new "natural governing party of Canada".

Thanks Bob - you said it better than I could have.

Suppose the Liberals managed to win *every* seat in Ontario - all 108. Not just the ones the Conservatives hold, but the ones the NDP currently hold as well. Here's how they would have fared in the past 3 elections:

2004 - 166 seats (155 needed for a majority)
2006 - 155 seats (155 needed for a majority)
2008 - 145 seats (155 needed for a majority)

Even with every seat in Ontario, they're not guaranteed a majority. And to do that they'd somehow have to both de-unite the right *and* totally marginalize the NDP in Ontario.

As the previous article shows, the Liberals either need to regain Quebec or win at least 55-60% of the seats in ROC to for a majority. And they haven't done the latter against a united right since the 1940s. It's going to be an uphill climb to say the least.

I generally agree with Bob. The loss of Quebec for the Liberal party after the patriation of the constitution was quicker, deeper and more permanent than the loss of the South was for the Democratic party after the signing of the civil rights act of 1964.

Today, the Tories win more Quebec francophone votes, and more Quebec francophone seats, than the Liberals. There is no sign this will change in the forseeable future. Talking about how many non-Quebec seats the Liberals need to win is a pre-1984 mindset -- an "old man" way of thinking.

(Factual correction: the Liberals do not win huge majorities in downtown toronto, which is an NDP-centric area. They win big in Scarborough and Vaughan aka the working-class suburbs)

Because of Harper's very close friendship with Premier Campbell of BC, he will get next to no votes from BC citizens. The word Liberal, strikes fear into the heats of BC people, so Iggy is out. The NDP in BC, have done nothing, to stop Campbell's pillaging. I think Alberta has the right idea, the Western provinces, should separate from the east. I do believe the Territories, would join the West, or so they say. We westerners, would be 40% better off, and we would be sovereign. In all my many years, the east has always been, their own country. The east dictated to the West, and took our tax dollars, which, had never benefited us in the West, we got only crumbs. Separated, we could keep the Wests tax dollars in the West. We are sick of Campbell, Hansen and the BC Liberals dictatorship, 93% of the BC citizens, want the BC Liberals, kicked off the planet. However, it was said, Harper, would bring Campbell down east, to be ambassador for Japan, or some such job. I saw on TV, the M.P's in the east are saying, Harper is fascist, and too stubborn to work with. So, the salvation of the West, may well rest on separating from the east. This country is, run much like the old Nazi Germany. Ask the WW11 vets, they see it, and that's why our young boys were blown to bits, so we wouldn't have dictatorships in Canada. Well, they died for nothing. Our Canadian Constitution, Civil Rights and Liberties, Democracy and Freedom, and the Charter of Rights, are buried under 3 tons of dust, they are all, null and void.

Young Man,

Not to be pedantic, but the statement that downtown Toronto is NDP centric isn't accurate. True, the NDP won 2 seats in downtown Toronto last time (Trinity-Spadina and Toronto-Danforth) out of 20 seats in Toronto proper (i.e., the city of Toronto, rather than the GTA), but the Liberals were competitive in both, and those seats were won by, arguably, the NDP's two strongest candidates (Jack Layton and Olivia Chow). On the other hand, Bob Rae won 53% of the votes in Toronto Center (downtown Toronto by definition), Carolyn Bennett took 50% of the vote in St. Paul, and Mario Silva ran up a pretty hefty plurality in Davenport - those are the five ridings that I think one would typically say make up "downtown" Toronto.

More to the point, Mike's right that between 1988 and 2006, the Liberals routinely ran up huge majorities in downtown Toronto (in 1993, 1997, 2000 and they narrowly missed winning a majority of seats in Downtown Toronto in 2004, probably because of the arrival of Jack Layton).

What's interesting though, is that if you look at the results on a riding by riding basis, you see that the claim that places like Toronto are just allergic to the Tories isn't right, not even close. In 14 of Toronto's ridings the Tories finished second to the Liberals. And while that's a distant second in places like Scarborough or Toronto Center, in 4 or 5 ridings the Tories were within 10% of the Liberals (which is pretty close once you realize that a 5% swing in votes could put them over the top).

As an aside, I'm not sure why you say that talking about how many non-Quebec seats the Liberals (or Tories) need to win is "old-man" thinking. Quite the contrary, that's the new reality of Canadian politics. With the Bloc taking 50 seats and the Tories and Liberals (and, increasingly, the NDP) splitting the rest, Quebec is now irrelevant to forming a federal government (whereas, once upon a time, it was essential). From now on the government will go to the party (or parties) who win the most seats in English Canada. How many non-Quebec seats you can win is all that matters.

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