Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ontario Up For Grabs

The latest EKOS poll provides further evidence of the "new norm", a statistically close battle between the two main parties. Whatever momentum the Liberals had has clearly stalled, even some slight pullback. The Conservatives have hit their floor and are pretty much staying there:
Conservatives: 31.2 (+0.2)
Liberals: 29.0 (-)
NDP: 16.5 (+1.0)
Bloc Quebecois: 8.8 (-1.5) (In Quebec: 35.9 (-5.8))
Green: 11.8 (+0.5)
Other: 2.7 (-0.1)

Nothing particularly noteworthy week to week, with one exception, and it speaks to a wider dynamic:
Ontario (MoE 2.84)
Liberals: 35.0 (-1.2)
Conservatives: 34.6 (+3.6)
NDP: 15.4 (-1.3)
Green: 12.0 (-1.6)
Other: 3.0 (+0.6)

Other pollsters have shown a tightening in the past couple weeks, after the Liberals surged in the prorogation aftermath. No real surprise here, my main thesis remains- Ontario is entirely volatile, great swaths of support move at the slightest breeze. If you pullback and look at Ontario over the last couple of years, you see this is the real "mover" in terms of vote intention. Obviously, the amount of seats in play amplifies the effect, but the core swing vote is unique.

When Ignatieff threatened an election, it was largely soft Ontario support that dumped the Liberals. Ditto for the coalition debate, and we've seen the same in reverse on this proroguing question. Both parties have shown mid 40's potential, and 30 odd bottom. That translates to a full 15% of the electorate that vacillates back and forth, either party can win their support on any given day. Factor in the relatively large and growing Green vote, which one can fairly argue is soft in nature, and you have a unpredictable brew.

I see little, between now and the next election, wherein any party can enter a campaign with confidence. In fact, no matter what the polls tell us heading into an election, it remains a very risky assumption, because a flub here, a great move there, will see a complete turnaround. Each party has their base number, but the rest have no emotional investment to either, and it is those voters who will most likely decide the next government. Canada's fate will largely be decided by an indifferent subset, of mostly disengaged fence sitters. Isn't democracy great?

33 comments:

Tof KW said...

Canada's fate will largely be decided by an indifferent subset, of mostly disengaged fence sitters. Isn't democracy great?

That line reminds me about the time Jacques Parizeau (according to journalist Graham Fraser) uttered that infamous observation about how "We are elected by idiots. In Quebec, 40% are separatists and 40% are federalists - and 20% don’t know who is prime minister of Canada. And it is that 20% that makes and breaks governments."

I absolutely loath Parizeau, but he had a point there.

JimBobby said...

Canada's fate will largely be decided by an indifferent subset, of mostly disengaged fence sitters.

True enough. We also need to recognize the effect of low voter turnout. Non-voters outnumber the supporters of either of the two big parties. If either of the two frontrunners were able to motivate even a quarter of the roughly 40% of eligible voters who are self-disenfranchised, they could win a majority, hands down.

Steve V said...

If you take that further, young NON-voters make up a disporportionate share. Add that to the fact that the Greens have a disporportionate share of young voters, and you see that the main parties have COMPLETELY alienated this portion of society. From the Lib perspective, if you want to deal with the Green emergence and voter apathy, the true target has to be younger voters. Unfortunately, our discourse is so pedestrian, tired and bland, I see nothing on the horizon to light a fire.

T

Wow, Parizeau said something coherent. Must be like that broken clock analogy.

JimBobby said...

If we treehuggin', democracy-lovin', pot-legalizin' Greenies could only get Justin Trudeau an' Ross Rebagliati to defect to the GPC, we'd be in a position to take over the Grits the way Reform took over the PC's. I keep floggin' this horse, I know, but I figger it's the best chance for uniting the left. LAGGARDS: Liberals And Greens Governing A Renewed Democratic Society.

Tof KW said...

Wow, Parizeau said something coherent. Must be like that broken clock analogy.

He was in a hotel lobby with other PQ types when he said it, probably not too liquored up yet. Get a few in him and the “money and the ethnic vote” lines spew forth. I’m dying to hear him comment on Lucien Bouchard’s statement from the other day.

Steve V said...

What if all the Green activists moved to the Libs? Most of the party membership is a pretty docile affair, plug in a sizeable percentage of engaged, motivated people, you'd be surprised the influence. Just sayin ;)

Steve V said...

T

When I first started reading, I thought I was going to hear the ethnic vote line.

As an aside, there's another important issue at play here. The way in which our political leaders, parties are covered, is largely contingent on this indifferent subset. One of the reasons I follow the polls, because our media class COMPLETELY frames story lines, based on these findings (anyone doubt for a second we would see "Iggy has new focus" stories, if not for the poll rebound?). It is somewhat disheartening to realize that much of our political coverage is determined by the whims of marginal voting intention. Sad but entirely true.

Jay said...

If we want the youth vote, a good policy would be elimination of student loan interest on current and future student loans. Danny Williams did it for the Nefoundland portion of student loans. Made a huge difference just in 7 months. Also make the period between finishing school and repayment longer since there are few jobs out there.

Besides good politics it actually helps youth get a fairer start at life in a time of fewer good paying jobs. Who wants Ottawa brrathing down your neck when the only job you can get is flipping burgers due to an inept federal government that's killing 200,000 jobs with EI payroll increases.

This is something conservatives couldn't even stomach, let alone mimic.

JimBobby said...

Unfortunately, a lot of us Greens got a bad taste left in out mouths on accounta what Dion did with teh carbon tax / tax shift policy. While we're always saying "please, steal our policies," we didn't like it when Dion, the world's worst salesman, took a perfectly good, longterm GPC policy and turned it into political poison for the foreseeable future.

If the LPC wants to win over Greens, the conditions will be onerous: drop all support for the tar sands, drop all support for nuclear energy and get serious about proportional representation. Those are the big three issues that would resonate with Greens and motivate them to at least "lend" the Grits their votes.

Despite our disappointment with Dion's political acumen, Iggy's a lot worse wrt environmental attitude. But Red-Green deals are possible and like Red Green says, "I'm a man... but I can change... if I have to... I guess."

DL said...

"If the LPC wants to win over Greens, the conditions will be onerous: drop all support for the tar sands, drop all support for nuclear energy and get serious about proportional representation."

Guess what? The NDP has taken a position against the tar sands and against nuclear power and is 100% in favour of proportional representation. So why don't all you greenies come over the the "sunny" side of the street! It will be a cold day in hell before the Liberals give you the time of day on any of those issues.

Steve V said...

Considering how you guys fear mongered on the carbon tax, in the name of political expediency, hardly an attractive option.

JimBobby said...

Good points, DL. I guess the one important thing Greenies don't get from Dippers is respect. The orange-tinged antagonism hurled our way is palpable. Insults to our leader and a condescending attitude will not win anyone over. Try a little honey; the vinegar's not working.

I do think that in a riding where the NDP is running a strong second to a CPC incumbent there's a good chance to win over some GPC support. Same thing holds true for strong second-place LPC ridings, too.

Steve V said...

On the convenient proportional representation front, funny how the NDP suddenly turned undemocratic when May wanted in the debates. It's not a principle, just a statement on inherent self interest.

I know a few Greens, and they frankly hate the NDP, even though some policy overlap. The NDP strategy towards the Greens has been a disaster, instead of courting, they react like a cornered animal. Foolish.

JimBobby said...

No more arguin' today for me. Gordon Lightfoot died. RIP.

Steve V said...

Wow.

JimBobby said...

Seems reports of Lightfoot's death may be premature. Story was on Canada.com and now gone.

Steve V said...

Leave it to Canwest to come out with a false death report. Lightfoot lives!!

DL said...

"Considering how you guys fear mongered on the carbon tax, in the name of political expediency, hardly an attractive option."

Steve, you're really grasping at straws trying to project something onto the NDP that was never there. I think its fair to say that Harper and the Tories "fear-mongered" about the carbon tax and went on about Dion's "tax on everything":. But if you look back at the 2008 federal election, the Layton and the NDP didn't talk about the carbon tax at all. They said "the Liberals have their approach - carbon tax and we have our approach - cap'n trade" and that was about it. There was nothing that anyone could call fear-mongering - unless you decide to define "lack of endorsement" as being synonymous with fear-mongering.

Steve V said...

That's not how the environmental community saw it. DL, NDP partisans see what they want, everyone else agrees that you guys worked against the carbon tax, particularly with your provincial brethen in B.C. I don't care to argue over how blue the sky is....

DL said...

We are talking about the federal NDP in the 2008 federal election. People can debate BC provincial politics elsewhere. I realize some environmentalists didn't like the fact that the NDP didn't choose to endorse the Liberal platform in the last federal election (other environmentalists thought the NDP policy on climate change was better than the Liberals). But there is a big difference between not agreeing with something and "fear-mongering" against it. If you can provide links to Youtube videos or literature from the NDP dated anytime from Sept. 1 to Oct. 18 2008 that featured a red-faced Jack Layton telling people that life in Canada as we know it would cease to exist if something as horrifying as a carbon tax were ever to see the light of day - I'd like to see it.

To me, an example of "fear-mongering" would be tea-baggers in the US going on about "death panels".

Meanwhile, since Ignatieff has killed the carbon tax once and for all - its all a moot point.

Steve V said...

They mostly shut up, as soon as the writ was dropped, OFFICIALLY anyways. That's doesn't excuse what happened prior, where most of the damage was done.

Selectively remember what you want, I frankly don't care :)

Tof KW said...

Sorry DL, but your insistence on Layton not railing against the Greenshift is just too juicy to pass up...

Echoing Harper's scaremongering, NDP Leader Jack Layton warns Canadians will be hit in the pocketbook by the Liberal proposal

Plenty more if you google the subject.

Steve V said...

Silence.

DL said...

You're quoting an editorial by the Liberal (I mean Toronto) Star where they are describing their own Liberal slant on what the various parties are proposing with regard to climate change.

In any case, its not "fear-mongering" to say that a carbon tax would cost people something. Of course it would. That's the whole idea of it. If it wasn't going to cost people something there would be no point in doing it!

Anyways, if you think that a carbon tax is such a great idea - why isn't Ignatieff promising to impose one???

Steve V said...

Wow, even your retort reads like a Con. Too funny DL.

Annie... said...

JimBobby: the Geeens care about the environment, but they are also on the Conservative side ,but not as extreme as the current government.
You will never get Justin Trudeau!!

itsmypulp said...

You wrote,
"Canada's fate will largely be decided by an indifferent subset, of mostly disengaged fence sitters. Isn't democracy great?"

That's too glib!

You can't describe these voters as indifferent or disengaged. By your own account, they respond to political events: Ignatieff's threat of an election, the abortive coalition: even Harper's prorogation of Parliament, for heaven's sake, which no voter was supposed to care about.

These aren't disengaged voters; they are voters who remain fundamentally unimpressed by either party. That's a particularly pointed criticism of Stephen Harper: it's still the case that Canadians haven't fallen in love with him, even though they have rewarded him with repeated mandates.

Ignatieff had a brief honeymoon period and then lost favour with voters. But I think he could still turn this around, whereas Canadians' opinion of Stephen Harper is set in concrete. Every time the voters warmed up to him, just a little, he gratuitously offended them again.

Canadians' default vote is with Harper because they view him as competent. (Hardly high praise.) But there's an opening there for Ignatieff and the Liberal party, if they can demonstrate that they're ready for prime time.

Omar said...

but they are also on the Conservative side

That is certainly the problemo I have with the Greens. I am not willing to support an environmentalist party at the cost of progressive policies. Lizzy May is all over the map on abortion for example.

JimBobby said...

May is not all over the map on abortion. She has unequivocally backed the longtime GPC policy of a woman's right to choose. If you choose to get your information from partisan axe-grinders, you may well think that there is some ambivalence. If you go to the horse's mouth, Vision Green, you'll get the real story.

I think this notion that the GPC is conservative springs from the party's acceptance of the idea that environmental progress depends upon fostering a positive relationship with business. Face facts. Business, big and small, is what our economy is built on. If we cannot get business on board with good environmental policy, whatever we do as individuals or institutions will be futile and meaningless.

GPC policy has been described a socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Nobody who has taken a serious look at GPC social policies says they are conservative. Here are a few GPC policies:

* Guaranteed livable income,
* strong reproductive rights,
* full legalization of marijuana,
* early supporters of gender equality and same sex marriage,
* scrapping SPP,
* income splitting for all couples,
* * support for open source software and net neutrality,
* promotion of GE-free, organic agriculture and regional food self-sufficiency,
* reform of the Divorce Act,
* phase out of nuclear power and uranium mining,
* protection of drinking water at its source and federal legislation to prohibit bulk water exports,
* a Pan-Arctic waste management strategy,
* shifting funds from mega-projects like Pacific Gateway and use the funds instead for public transit,
* "living will" legislation to give people the choice to die with dignity,
* full pay equity for women employed in the federal sector and develop tax incentives for companies to meet gender and pay equity,
* revamping CIDA to focus on developing community-based green economies, poverty alleviation and programs to combat and adapt to climate change,
* implementation the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
* reform of WTO, IMF and the World Bank, placing these under the authority of the UN General Assembly and shift the direction of international trade away from free trade to fair trade,
* declaring Canada a nuclear free zone,
* ending asbestos mining and export to developing countries.

I could go on. Those who say the GPC is conservative are really saying that they have taken some partisan hack's word for it and haven't bothered to do a shred of research.

JB

Omar said...

So has Judy Rebick climbed back on board, Mr Bobby? As I don't do any research, perhaps you could find out for me.

Steve V said...

itsmypulp

Appreciate the insights. Not sure about "glib", in that the events voters respond to are of the massive variety. Those issues that transcend Ottawa have the capacity to move, but that fact doesn't infer engagement. Look at the reaction to the coalition, the election talk, proroguing, it really revolved around the most superficial of considerations. These people are so easily swayed, because they really aren't paying attention, they have no investment in the process, any rash of big news and they vacillate.

JimBobby said...

All I'm saying, Omar, is that the GPC has written, well-defined policies and they are there for anyone to see: 133 pages worth

Whether or not a die-hard NDP supporter is backing the Greens is not what is important. Written, democratically-adopted policy is what's important. Mischaracterization of the party as conservative as a result of taking a strong partisan's word for it is exactly what I pointed out and exactly what you've countered with. I took the time to list a large number of GPC policies and your response was; "Judy Rebick says..."

Does Judy Rebick do all of your thinking for you? BTW, I've met Judy and I respect her deeply. I don't agree with Judy Rebick or Elizabeth May 100% about every single aspect of life, politics, philosophy or dietary choices.

I look at policy, history, inclusiveness and a few other criteria when I decide which candidate or party I am backing. I've voted NDP, Liberal and Green. I've never voted PC or CPC. Lately, I've found Steve's description of the NDP as "cornered animals" somewhat apt. I think there is merit in many NDP policies and there is much overlap between NDP and Green policies. The most off-putting thing about the NDP, frankly, the the we're-right-and-everyone-else-is-wrong attitude among NDP supporters. A conciliatory attitude is something that I see as absolutely necessary for political effectiveness and I don't see enough of that in the hard-nosed NDP. FWIW, I think the leadership and national spokespeople for the NDP do a far better job in this regard than bloggers and blog commenters.

Like I said above: honey, not vinegar.

JimBobby said...

Just rereading my last comment and I want to add a disclaimer. While *some* NDP bloggers and blog commenters are off-putting with their evangelical zeal, several others are exceptionally open minded. I'm thinking of POGGE and the Jurist and a couple others. I did not mean to paint them with the holier-than-thou brush.