Friday, April 15, 2005

Reading the Polls: Atlantic Canda

Since there is no longer any doubt that we will be seeing an early summer election, it’s time to start reading the tea leaves. In response to Don’s recent posts forecasting a seat count based on the latest polls, I’m posting my own slightly more accurate and in depth look at what these polls mean in terms of seats. Unlike the American system, we don’t have swing states, rather we have swing ridings. I’m going to make six posts – one for each region, plus an extra for Ontario – where I examine each riding, pointing out which are safe and which are ‘swing’ ridings.

So here is the first in a six part series, beginning in the east, Reading the Polls: Atlantic Canada

In 2004, Atlantic Canada was split 44% Liberal, 30% Conservative and 23% NDP. EKOS has the region Conservatives 43%, Liberals 39% and NDP 17%. CBC-Environics has the region Liberals 38%, Conservatives 32.4%, NDP 29.6% (note, this introduces my method of eliminating the abstains and assuming the undecided break along the same lines as the decided).

In 2004, the Liberals claimed 5 seats (with 48% of the vote) and the Conservatives won 2 (with 32.3%) while the NDP was shut out (with 17.5% of the vote).
Avalon – Safe Liberal, they’ve held the seat since ’88 and also from ’72-’84. John Efford won with almost 60% of the vote. Safe Liberal
Bonavista-Exploits – This North-East Newfoundland region is our first ‘swing riding’ and will be an early indicator of which way the election is going to swing. The NDP is not a factor here (8% in ’04), but in recent years this has been a reasonably tight race. If the Conservatives steal the seat it could be a long night for Martin’s Grits. The Liberals held the seat from ’74-’02, before Rex Barnes won the seat in a bi-election by only 721 votes. Liberal Scott Sims won the seat last year 48.2% - 41.6%.L-C Swing Riding
Humber-St Barbe-Baie Verte – Another safe Liberal riding, the Liberals have held the riding since 1980. Gary Byrne won with 62% of the vote last year.Safe Liberal
Labrador – Another safe Liberal riding, they’ve held the seat since 1972 and Lawrence O’Briend won by almost 40% last year.Safe Liberal
Random-Burin-St. George – An interesting swing riding here, it will indicate how much of the left the Liberals have lost. The Conservatives should not be a factor in this seat as redistribution weakened their power in the area (they only got 18% of the vote after winning the seat in ’97). Liberals held the seat from ’49-’84 but this could be a tight fight between the Grits and the NDP and is another ‘swing riding’. Liberal Bill Matthews won last year with 46.7% while his NDP opponent claimed 33.2% of the vote. Leans heavily Liberal, but an upset is possibleL-NDP Swing Riding
St. John’s North – In previous years this would have been a ‘swing riding’, but this year it’s safe Conservative. Norman Doyle retained the seat last year by almost 5% of the vote and is all but certain to win a third term this year. Safe Conservative
St. John’s South – Much more so than it’s northern counterpart, this riding is rock solid Conservative. They held the riding from ’68-’88 and from ’97 until today. Loyola Hearn should win his fourth election quite handily. Safe Conservative
Newfoundland Total: Liberals 3, Conservatives 2, NDP 0, Swing 2 (Lib-Cons and Lib-NDP) My Bet: Liberals take both Bona-Vista and Random.

The Liberals won all four seats in the province last year, winning 52.5% of the vote while the Conservatives claimed only 30.7%. This ought to be a clean Liberal sweep. They won all four ridings (Cardigan, Egmont, Charlottetown and Malpeque) by more than 19% last year and the Grits have held all four since 1988. If they lose any of the four it will be a catastrophe for the Liberals and a harbinger of really bad things to come.
PEI Total: Liberals 4, Conservatives 0, NDP 0, Swing 0

Nova Scotia
Last year the Liberals won 6 seats (39.7%), the Conservatives 3 (28%) and the NDP 2 (28.4%). This is where the real battle for the Atlantic provinces will take place.
Cape Breton-Canso – This new riding ought to be safe for the Liberals. While the NDP won the seat when it was created in ’97, the Liberals won in 2000 and Roger Cuzner won by defeated NDP candidate Shirley Hartley by almost 30% last year. Safe Liberal
Central Nova – Conservative Deputy Leader Peter McKay’s seat is perfectly safe. He won by over 15% last year while the NDP and Liberals split the vote. Safe Conservative
Dartmouth-Cole Harbour – This Halifax area seat is a key ‘swing riding’, one which the Liberals must hold if they are going to form the next government. The NDP won the seat in ’97 and 2000 while the Liberals were victorious in ’88 and ’93. Last year NDP Incumbent Wendy Lill had to retire for medical reasons and the Liberals won the seat by 10% of the vote. The Conservatives shouldn’t be a fator, but if they make noise in this riding it could indicate they will form the government. L-NDP Swing Riding
Halifx – Former NDP Leader Alexa McDonough should be perfectly safe, as this looks like a prime riding in which the Liberals will take a nose dive. The Conservatives are not a factor here, winning less than 15% of the vote last year. Safe NDP
Halifax West – After redistricting the Conservatives don’t have a chance in this riding. Liberal Geoff Regan won the riding by almost 20% last year, but the NDP could be a factor. The Liberals will hold the seat, but just how close it is will indicate how tight a nationwide race we’re going to have. Safe Liberal
Kings-Hants – This is an interesting race, one which the Liberals should hold but the Conservatives will desperately want to win. Scott Brison was a member of the PCs but joined the Liberals in 2003 and won re-election by 16% (46%-30%). Unfortunately, right wing extremism won’t play well in this riding and the Liberals should cruise to victory if Brison can paint his opponent as a fanatic. Safe Liberal
North Nova – This rural riding will be a blowout as Bill Casey will win another term with ease. Last year he collected over 50% of the vote and defeated his Liberal opponent by more than 24%. Conservatives won in ’97 and 2000. Safe Conservative
Sackville-Eastern Shore – This southern riding is safe for the NDP, as Peter Stoffer collected 46% of the vote and defeated his Liberal opponent by nearly 18%. The Conservatives are not a factor here and this seat is a sure bet. The NDP won the seat in ’97 and 2000Safe NDP
South Shore-St. Margaret’s – Gerald Kennedy won the seat by just 6% over his Liberal opponent last year, but the Conservatives won the seat in every election from ’68-2004 except for 1993. The Liberals don’t have a chance here, but the NDP could make a move if Liberal support completely collapses. The riding borders on Halifax and the party claimed 26% of the vote last year. Still, this should be a lock. Safe Conservative
Sydney-Victoria – Redistribution has greatly benefited the Liberals in this riding, one in which they were already the dominant power. The Grits won every election from ’79-2004 except for 1997 when the NDP won. Mark Eyking claimed 52% of the vote last year and defeated his NDP opponent by almost 25%. Safe Liberal
West Nova – This riding has been a constant battle between the Conservatives and the Liberals for more than two decades, but recent redistricting strongly favours the Liberals. 20% of the Kings-Hants riding was added to West Nova and Roger Thibault won the riding with 42.6% of the vote over his Conservative opponent (33%). Still, a real collapse in Liberal support could swing this riding to to the Conservatives. The key for the Conservatives will be trying to split Liberal and NDP (21%) support. A toss-up, but it leans Liberal. L-C Swing Riding
Nova Scotia Total: Liberal 3, Conservatives 3, NDP 3, Swing 2 (L-C and L-NDP). My Bet: West Nova goes Liberal, Dartmouth-Cole Harbor goes NDP

New Brunswick
New Brunswick has ten seats, of which the Liberals won 7 in 2004 with 44.6% of the vote, while the Conservatives claimed 2 (31.2%) and the NDP 1 (20.54%)
Acadie-Bathurst – The NDP’s lone victory in the province in ’04 almost certain to stay in the party fold this year. Two-term incumbent Yvon Godin claimed 54% of the vote and defeated his Liberal opponent by 21% last year. It won’t be any closer this time around. Safe NDP
Beasejour – A riding which has been renamed several times during it’s existance, but has remained loyal to the Liberals despite its name. Dominic Leblanc won the seat with 53.4% of the vote last year, 25 points ahead of his Conservative challenger. If this riding is even close the Liberals are in deep trouble. Safe Liberal
Fredricton – This will be an interesting test of just how far the Liberals have fallen. In ’93 the Liberals broke the Conservative hold (’57-’93) on the seat and have claimed it ever since. The races have been quite close over the last four elections, and this one promises to be again. Liberal Andy Scott won by 4,700 votes last year and will face a stiff challenge this year. A real toss-up, look to this seat as an indication of which party will form the government. L-C Swing Riding
Fundy – The Conservatives have lost only one election in this riding since 1917, and this year will be no exception. Last year Rob Moore won the seat with 44.8% of the vote, defeating his Liberal opponent by a safe margin. Safe Conservative
Madwaska-Restigouche – Born from the old riding of Madwaska-Victoria (which the Liberals dominated for thirty years), this riding was created in 1996’s redistribution. The PCs won in ’97 and the Liberals claimed the seat in 2000 and ’04. Jean-Claude D’Amours won the seat with 44.7% of the vote by a 5,500 vote margin over nearly equally split Conservative and NDP opposition. If the Liberals lose this seat it will be a long night for Paul Martin. Safe Liberal
Miramichi – A Liberal stronghold, the Grits have only lost one election in the riding since the riding’s inception. Charles Hubbard received 48% of the vote last year and will cruise to victory again this year. Safe Liberal
Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe – The Grits have only lost this seat once since 1979 and Claudette Bradshaw won 59% of the vote last year. Safe Liberal
St. Croix-Belisle – The recently renamed riding has been historically tight, but the Conservatives dominated last year winning 53.1% of the vote and defeating the Liberals by 7,000 votes. With the dropping Liberal support it won’t be any closer this time around. Safe Conservative
Saint John – Elsie Wayne owned this riding for more than a decade, but with her retirement in ’03 the Liberal Paul Zed claimed the seat last year with 43.3% of the vote and 3,500 more votes than his Conservative opponent. The Liberals have only claimed the seat three times in the last forty years and it will be difficult for them to hold on to the seat. Leans Conservative, but still a swing riding. L-C Swing Riding
Tobique-Mactaquac – This is perhaps the toughest riding in the country to predict, history is of zero use. The riding was created in 1996 from pieces of various ridings with a different characters. Andy Savoy claimed the seat in 2000 by just 147 votes, and increased his margin to 3,000 claiming 48.23% of the vote last year. The NDP and Greens account for just 12% of the vote, so this is a two party race. Could go either way, but leans Conservative. L-C Swing Riding
New Brunswick Totals: Liberals 4, Conservatives 2, NDP 1, Swing 3 (All L-C). My Bet: Savoy holds on to Tobique, the Conservatives pick up Saint John and (flip a coin) Fredricton goes Liberal.

Overall Safe Bet Totals: Liberals 14, Conservatives 7, NDP 4, Toss-Up 7

My Bet: Liberals 19, Conservatives 8, NDP 5

Next Up, Quebec...


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