Reading the Polls: The Prairies
This is the Conservative hotbed, where they are hoping to pick up enough seats to make up for a dismal showing in the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec and Ontario. Last year they picked up 46 of 56 seats and garnered 53% of the vote. The Liberals claimed 6 seats with 25.4% and the NDP picked up 4 seats and 15.3%. The Environics poll unlike previous regions, however, Manitoba and Saskatchewan included some very tight races. The NDP could have easily picked up another half dozen seats in the region. The three Prairie Provinces have quite distinct heritages. Alberta is a right wing stronghold and has been for the better part of the last century. Manitoba and Saskatchewan, however, have a strong left wing tradition. So here we go, moving from West to East.
The birth place of the Alliance and the home of Stephen Harper is the Conservative stronghold. Last year they won 26 of 28 seats, losing only two close races in the Edmonton area. The Conservatives received 61.6% of the vote; the Liberals grabbed 22% and the NDP 9.5%. EKOS has the province 70% Conservative, 15% NDP and 10% Liberal. The Grits squeaked out two victories in the province last year, as David Kilgour took Edmonton-Beaumont by under 200 votes and Deputy PM Anne McLelland took Edmonton Center by under a thousand. Given the collapse in liberal support in response to adscam it seems to be a perfectly reasonable assumption to declare all 28 of Alberta’s seats ‘Safe Conservative’. Just to be on the safe side I’ll say that the Conservatives have a low of 27 while the NDP and Liberals each of a high of 1, but if Harper’s gang lost a single seat in the province I would be shocked.
The province is home to fourteen seats, all but one of which the Conservatives took last year. However, they took only 41.8% of the vote and many races were incredibly close. The Liberals took over 27% and the NDP claimed 23.4%. The EKOS poll has the NDP in the lead in Saskatchewan and Manitoba with 37% of the vote with the Conservatives hot on their tails at 35%. Taking a hit from adscam, the Grits have dropped to 23%. Of course, the Environics poll paints a much more bleak picture for the Liberals, but the NDP and Conservative numbers are about the same. Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to tell given the inclusion of Alberta in the ‘Prairies’ category in the Environics poll. It’s also key to note that Saskatchewan contains two different kinds of ridings: rural ridings where the Conservatives pull in Alberta-esque numbers and urban ridings where the NDP and Conservatives are engaged in incredibly tight races.
As such, we can call almost half the province’s ridings ‘Safe Conservative’. These are: Battlefords-Lloydminster, Blackstrap, Cypress Hills Grasslands, Prince Alberta, Saskatoon-Wanuskewin and Yorkton-Melville.
Still, there’s a lot of really tight races we need to take a look at…
Churchill River: This huge Northern Saskatchewan is almost 50% native, the third highest rate in the country. Native Rick Laliberte won with the NDP in ’97, then ran as a Liberal in 2000 and won again. Last year, he ran as an independent and claimed 10% of the vote, as Conservative Jeremy Harrison won with 37.4% of the vote while the Liberals got 30% and the NDP 20.1%. Liberal support is certain to collapse, but the Conservatives are going to take a lot of heat for the litany of racist native remarks made by members and former members. If Laliberte runs for the NDP or doesn’t run at all then the NDP could pick up the seat. A ‘swing riding’ that leans Conservative. C-NDP Swing Riding
Palliser: Last year Conservative Dave Batters took this seat away from the NDP which had held power for the last eight years. However, he only won the riding by 124 votes and the Liberals placed a strong second collecting almost 25% of the vote. Assuming they collapse (as the polls indicate they will) the NDP should be in a very strong position. The Conservatives could still be competitive, but this seat leans NDP in a big way. C-NDP Swing Riding
Regina-Lumsden-Lake Center: At first glance this looks like another seat which the NDP could pick up given the tight three way split. However, Larry Spencer ran as an independent and picked up 5% of the vote last year. The former Reform MP is a right wing lunatic who made disgusting homophobic comments (worse than the Conservative norm) and was kicked out of the party. His votes all go to the Conservatives, so we’d need a big collapse for the NDP to take the seat. This will be a swing riding, but it leans Conservative. C-NDP Swing Riding
Regina Qu’Appelle: This former NDP stronghold (20+ years in power) was taken by the Conservatives last year because of an ugly three party split. Andrew Sheer defeated Lorne Nystrom by less than a thousand votes while the Liberals posted a strong third with 28% of the vote. Assuming the Liberals drop to about 15-20%, this race is the NDP’s to lose. Still competitive, especially as the Conservatives appear to be in the driver’s seat nationally. Still, the NDP will be targeting this seat and it leans to them. C-NDP Swing Riding
Saskatoon-Humboldt: This again looks like a swing riding as the three parties were all within 435 votes of each other, but Independent Candidate Jim Pankiw picked up 20% of the vote. Pankiw was actually the incumbent and was elected with the Reform party in ’97 and 2000. He was kicked out of the party because of a dispute over Stockwell Day’s leadership and has not been allowed in the Conservative Party. Assuming he doesn’t run almost all of that support should go to the Conservatives and they should win a comfortable victory.
Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar: The Conservatives won a reasonably comfortable victory last year, but the riding has a history of going NDP and with the party polling so strongly in the province it’s impossible to rule them out. The Liberals only got 15% of the vote, so the NDP will need to steal some support directly from the Conservatives. Tough sell, might be possible but the riding definitely leans Conservative. C-NDP Swing Riding
Souris Moose-Mountain: Another riding that looks like it could be close; it should actually be a landslide. Former Conservative Premier Grant Devine ran as an independent and finished a very strong second. Assuming he doesn’t run again almost all that vote should swing to the Conservatives. This rural riding shouldn’t be close.
Wascana: Finance Minister Ralph Goodale will be fighting for his political life this time around. He’s held the seat since ’93 and won his last race by almost 12,000 votes. However, in 2000 the margin was only 1,752. The Conservatives are polling second and are unlikely to pick up much of Goodale’s lost support as the riding voted NDP twice before electing Goodale. Goodale would need to lose about half his support for him to be in serious danger. That doesn’t seem likely, but anything is possible. Leans Liberals. L-C-NDP Swing Riding
Saskatchewan Totals: Conservatives: High 13, Low 8, Likely 11, Liberals: High 1, Low 0, Likely 1, NDP: High 5, Low 0, Likely 2
Note, while I think 11/2/1 is the most likely right now this province is really volatile. We haven’t even seen the election called for christ’s sake, I personally think the NDP will end up with three seats in the end. Still, I’m basing this on the polls right now.
This is the weakest of the Prairie Provinces for the Conservatives, as they poll under 40%. Still, they collected half of Manitoba’s fourteen seats. The NDP got four seats with 23.5% and the Liberals three seats with 33.2% of the vote. The Liberals probably lost a great deal of support, and the NDP should be polling stronger while the Conservatives appear to be holding steady according to EKOS. As previously stated, Environics’ methodology makes it hard to figure out what they are getting in Manitoba, but the Conservative and NDP numbers from EKOS are probably pretty similar.
Once again, we get a situation where rural ridings vote Conservative in Alberta-esque numbers and these seats won’t even be close. We also have a number of two way Conservative-Liberal races which the Conservatives narrowly won over the Liberals which should no longer be close. As such, we can say that: Brandon Souris, Charleswood-St. James, Dauphin-Swan River, Portage-Lisgar and Provencher, Selkirk-Interlake.
However, here we can also say a few ridings are perfectly safe for the NDP, either because of massive victories last year or because of 10% victories over the Liberals with the Conservatives polling a distant third: Churchill, Elmwood-Transcona, Winnipeg-Center and Winnipeg-North.
That leaves only four ridings which ought to be competitive, and even most of those won’t be tight, I just want to play it safe. So here goes…
Kildolan-St. Paul: Last year the Conservatives took this riding for the first time ever, beating the Liberals by 278 votes and the NDP by more than 5,000. So why’s this riding in the ‘swing riding’ category? Only 8% of people in this riding list ‘Canadian’ as their ethnicity, Lorne Mahoney was a weak candidate and 39% of the riding comes from strongly NDP Winnipeg North. On top of that, the NDP held the riding from 1962-1988. The NDP came in at 22.5%, but the NDP will have momentum in the province and will have their eyes on this riding. A big Liberal collapse could hand this riding to the NDP, but it still leans Conservative. C-NDP Swing Riding
Saint Boniface: Raymond Simard won this Winnipeg riding huge last year, collecting 46% of the vote and defeating his Conservative opponent by over 15%. The NDP was a distant third with 18% and the party is not strong in this riding. The Liberals have controlled Saint Boniface since 1988 and have only lost the riding three times since 1925. The riding has a strong francophone presence and lots of immigrants, a segment of the population the Conservatives will have great difficulty picking up. The Liberals will lose support, but just how much? We could see a tight three way race here, but I think it still leans Liberal. L-C-NDP Swing Riding
Winnipeg South: The Liberals have only lost this seat twice since 1963 and Reg Alcock won last year by 6,500 votes with over 51% support. The Conservatives lagged far behind with 34% and the NDP was not a factor with only 11%. Five percent of the population in the riding is francophone and there are a large number of immigrants. If the Liberals bleed support then Alcock is in trouble, but he’s a big wig in the party and won’t go down without a fight. L-C Swing Riding
Winnipeg South-Center: This riding is essentially a new riding (as of ’86) using an old riding’s name. The Liberals have held it since it’s rebirth in ’86 and this was Lloyd Axeworthy’s seat. Anita Neville won the seat by 7,500 votes collecting 47% support and easily defeating evenly split NDP (21%) and Conservative (27%). Neville is Chair of the National Liberal Women’s Caucus and the party is going to give her a lot of backing. She’d need to lose around a third of her support to lose the seat, that seems unlikely but this is a swing seat none the less. NDP might play the role of the spoiler, simply reducing the number of votes the Conservatives will need to win, but it’s tough to imagine a scenario where they vault past both the Grits and the Conservatives. L-C-NDP Swing Riding
Liberals: High 3, Low 0, Likely 1; Conservatives: High 10, Low 6, Likely 8, NDP: High 8, Low 4, Likely 5
Liberals: High 5, Low 0, Likely 2, Conservatives: High 51, Low 41, Likely 47, NDP: High 14, Low 4, Likely 7
There ya have it folks…BC and the territories are up next.