Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Safe Seat"

Quite a lot of buzz surrounding the by-election in Outremont, most of it involving the NDP's chances. Conventional wisdom argues a two-man race, so it is interesting to see how the Liberals and NDP are acting respectively. The clear underdog, the NDP braintrust is pouring energy and money into the riding, which gives the perception of momentum. Layton has visited, Muclair has been in full campaign mode for weeks, a clear message of making a statement, sending a message.

By contrast, you don't get any sense of urgency from the Liberal camp, and that fact is illustrated in a trivial point, but one that may be indicative:
Mulcair's team was already campaigning about a month before the byelection was called and they peppered the riding with signs the night the vote was announced.

Tory and Bloc signs are outnumbered by Mulcair posters on a couple of main thoroughfares and Coulon's are nowhere to be seen in some spots.

Obviously, we will see Liberal signs and presence as the campaign intensifies, but I consider it a serious blunder to be slow out of the gate. Why allow the NDP to capitalize on appearances, which suggests a tight-race and momentum on their side? The people of that riding have surely noticed the "sign" disparity, and it conveys the message that the NDP is in the game, there is a buzz around Muclair. In other words, Liberal lethargy has put wind in the NDP sail, which really is inexcusable from a tactical point of view.

Whenever someone suggest that this riding is winnable for the NDP, it is met with complete scepticism in Liberal circles, the "safe seat" mentality. This attitude is justifable, given the history and common sense, but there is a danger in that apathy hurting the Liberal chances. From the outside, all the energy and passion seems to be with the NDP, which is relevant in a by-election, where making "changes" is more common. This by-election has the potential to be a watershed moment for both the NDP and the Liberals, it would be nice to get the sense that the Liberal braintrust understands the ramifications. Early opinion, advantage NDP.


Monkey Loves to Fight said...

The seat is for the most part reasonably safe, however we should never consider any seat safe since if we take that attitude, that is how we can unexpectedly lose one. For example, Reg Alcock thought Winnipeg South was a safe seat so he spent most of his campaign campaigning for others and to everbody's surprise on election day, he lost his seat, so surprises can happen.

By the same token, we can also win ridings no one expects us to if we put in the necessary effort. In the Greater Vancouver area where I was from, most expected both North Shore ridings to go Conservative as they traditionally have, yet we won both of them last election.

Steve V said...

I think Liberals are better served to look at this riding as competitive, to ensure they take nothing for granted. Alcock is a good example.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, after several e-mails the riding has finally put up some signs. They weren't going to until after tuesday when they had their first meeting. I suggested this might be a tad off the mark. Actually I suggested a bit more than that. It does hover seem to have kicked started a response and the campaign has limped out of the starters block.

We don't just have to win this riding, we have to win it by more than last time. If we don't we're in big trouble. Tried to explain that to the riding pres. Hope he got that message

Karen said...

I completly agree with you Steve. This is boneheaded on the Lib's part if they do not come forward now.

To be smug at this stage is stupid...period.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

I agree Steve V - That this riding is not 100% safe. I am simply saying the odds favour us, but as a rule of thumb we should never treat any riding as safe. Nor should we treat anyone is unwinneable. Instead we should treat them all is competitive and that way we can win in ridings that we didn't expect to, but also avoid losing ones that are seen as safe.

Steve V said...


Thanks for the "inside" perspective.


I prefer paranoid over smug :)

ottlib said...

The Reg Alcock analogy is flawed because Mr. Coulon will not be campaigning anywhere else but Outrement during this by-election.

Remember that elections, by-elections in particular, are won on the ground. That is, identifying your supporters and then getting them out on E-day.

The Liberal Party has a very well oiled machine in Outrement, while the NDP does not have much of a machine anywhere in Quebec. The advantage is to the Liberals.

An election campaign is a marathon. Having a big start justs puts more pressure on Mr. Mulclair and the NDP to maintain that momentum. Something that is almost impossible to do for the whole by-election.

There is great danger of a political party peaking too early during the campaign and then running out of steam at the end. Stephen Harper peaked one week before the last election and that misstep in timing probably cost him a majority.

In past elections when I helped out a local Liberal MP, it was not uncommon to go a little slow in putting up signs at the beginning. However, as E-day approached the sign-crews would go on blitzes and give the appearance that the Member had gained the momentum. It worked.

If you visit the Elections Canada website you will note that the Bloc came in second in that riding with the NDP in a distant fourth. So the real threat is the Bloc. Even with all of their efforts the NDP would have to gain something like 30 points in the riding to win and all of that would have to come from the Liberals. If they gain those points but they take from all of the parties the Liberals still win.

Indeed, I would say that there is a greater chance of Mr. Mulclair taking votes away from the Bloc leading to a pretty solid win for the Liberals.

Elections being what they are the Liberals cannot be complacent but the history of the riding and the math are against the NDP in this by-election.

Steve V said...

"Elections being what they are the Liberals cannot be complacent but the history of the riding and the math are against the NDP in this by-election"

I agree with the math, but why sacrifice the intangibles? As a matter of fact, the signage issue does suggest a semblance of a ground game, and I would expect the NDP to pour all their resources into organization and GOTV- Layton wants this bad.

Anonymous said...

If Mulcair wins I can't imagine how crowded the NDP party will be with two "massive" EGO's like Layton and Mulcair.

Layton better watch out.

Anonymous said...

Mulcair used to be a Liberal, a provincial environment minister in fact, so he brings Liberal organizers with him, first of all. Second of all, the Liberal Campaign startegies have failed abysmally in both the last federal and provincial elections, especially here in Quebec. Waiting untill almost half way through a campaign is a big mistake. If we hold Outrement it will be by a slimmer margin than last time and that will be seen in the press and by the PMO as a loss. Its what Haper is waiting for. Notice the Conservative camapaign is nowhere to be seen in Outrement.

All it takes is a few BLOC votes to swing NDP and a few Liberals to stay home and we can lose this riding.

HArper may have peaked a week early but he came out strong and took an unloosable election from MArtin right off the block.

This election strategy is exactly why the Liberals are no longer in Power Ottlib, perhaps it would be better to try something else next time.

Saving some energy for the final sprint and not having an office or a phone number until two weeks into a six week campaign are two different things. I don't see fantastic organizing. I see arrogance and that aint gonna help.

Mulcair is getting al the press as well by the way. But I guess that happens when you don't have an office, a phone number, or a web site. Coulon is nowhere.

We'll see what happens in Outrement, but I think from what I've seen on the ground, we could lose it.

Anonymous said...

Um oh yeah ottlib,the math was against the ADQ in a little election we had here a few months ago. They almost formed the government. Quebec voters are probably only second to BC voters in their ability to change their votes.

This riding is not safe.

ottlib said...


Local riding organizations are organic. Political parties cannot buy them they have to develop them.

The NDP sending in a bunch of professional political operatives will not win against hundreds of local volunteers from the riding.

I fought three elections with my former Liberal MP. In the first one she attracted over 500 volunteers. Some worked throughouth the campaign and others might have only come out to help once or twice. She won with 54% of the vote. That was the 1997 election where the Liberals only won a slim majority so she bucked the trend.

In the 2004, she attracted around 200 and although she still won it was only by about 3000 votes, even though she was still extremely popular.

The Liberals have a very big, well organized and local organization in Outrement. The Bloc's organization is not too shabby either. The NDP cannot hope to field comparable organizations. And since by-elections by their very nature are local, with no over-arching national campaign to attract swing voters, a lack of a good home grown organization is a definite disadvantage. In this case it is probably fatal considering how far the NDP must climb to reach the summit.

Like I said in my previous comment the Liberals should be looking over their shoulder at the Bloc in this by-election.

ottlib said...


What you say about the ADQ is certainly true but I would point out the key part of your comment being they "almost" formed the government.

Close does not count in politics.

If the NDP almost wins against the Liberals the NDP still loses.

As well, the circumstances of the Quebec election and the Outrement by-election are completely different. There is no hugely unpopular Premier or inept Opposition leader to galvanize a protest vote.

As for Mr. Mulclair's "Liberal" organization I would suggest you read my previous comment.

As well, it will take more that a "few" Bloc votes to swing NDP for them to win. The NDP would need to take ALL of the Bloc vote in order to win. That is not going to happen.

Anonymous said...

This is totally incorrect. The NDP was actually a pretty solid third in Outremont in the last election with about 18% of the vote. The Tories were a distant fourth. The Liberals won it over the BQ 35% to 30%. I expect a good chunk of the BQ vote to shift to the NDP since the BQ has a very weak candidate and is still demoralized from the Quebec election and from propping up Harper for the last year and a half. I expect some Liberal votes to go Conservative and some to stay home since Dion is so utterly uninspiring - all of which will add up to a close race. In 2006, the NDP didn't make much of an effort in Outremont. In this byelection they will spend the maximum allowable by law and you can be sure that every NDP member within 200 miles of Outremont will be pounding the pavement.

"If you visit the Elections Canada website you will note that the Bloc came in second in that riding with the NDP in a distant fourth. So the real threat is the Bloc. Even with all of their efforts the NDP would have to gain something like 30 points in the riding to win and all of that would have to come from the Liberals."