Monthly Archives: October 2011

Ontario (Canada) 2011

Provincial elections were held in Ontario on October 6, 2011. All 107 members of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly were up for reelection. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and traditionally the political and economic heart of Canada, accounting for some 38% of the country’s total GDP and 39% of the country’s population. Ontario’s manufacturing economy once made it the uncontested economic centre of the country, but the progressive decline of manufacturing in recent years has weakened Ontario’s economic and political clout within Canada and transformed it into one of those “have not” provinces while the resource-based economies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland rake in profits.

Ontario has been governed since 2003 by Dalton McGuinty of the Liberal Party. McGuinty won two straight majorities in 2003 and again in 2007, a feat unprecedented for a provincial Liberal leader since Mitch Hepburn in the 1930s. Ontario’s provincial politics between 1943 and 1985 were marked by the uninterrupted of the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) and their famous Big Blue Machine. Conservative Premiers in this 42-year dynastic rule in the province were moderate centrists, with progressive views on social issues, the welfare state and social programs. Following their defeat in 1943, the provincial Liberals shifted into a small, right-wing rural rump operating out of southwestern Ontario and roughly tied to the NDP in terms of popular support. However, the PCs shifted right with the election of Frank Miller to the party’s leadership in 1985 and the defeat of the Big Blue Machine’s dominance of provincial politics in the 1985 election when David Peterson’s Liberals and Bob Rae’s NDP came to a deal allowing Peterson to govern. Reelected with a huge majority in 1987, Peterson, however, went down to defeat in the 1990 election, during which the NDP surged out of nowhere to win a strong majority government. That stunning victory, however, proved a political anomaly as the NDP’s support dwindled in the course of Bob Rae’s five-year term due to the political costs of a recession and unpopular austerity policies of a government staffed with inexperienced first-termers. In 1995, it was not the Liberal opposition but rather the PCs, reborn on the right with Mike Harris, a populist conservative and fiery advocate of a “Common Sense Revolution”, who succeeded Rae in office. The neoliberal policies and NPM-style reforms of government associated with Harris’ Common Sense Revolution were not unusual to Canada, but Mike Harris became its most famous proponent of such policies because of his ‘in-your-face’ style of governance. Under Harris, the budget was balanced and income taxes were cut by 30%, at the cost of major cuts in social spending, deregulation of the energy sector, hospital closures, nurse layoffs and labour disputes with teachers (over education reforms). Reelected in 1999 over an inexperienced McGuinty, Mike Harris’ popularity wore off in the wake of the Walkerton water contamination scandal and when he stepped down, it was the moderate Ernie Eves who replaced him on a platform of slowly doing away with the controversy and conflict of Harris’ aggressive Common Sense Revolution. The moderate Eves, however, could not resist the tide of change and was defeated in a landslide by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals.

McGuinty was not undefeatable going into the 2007 election. He had been dinged in 2004 for breaking a 2003 promise not to increase taxes, and the Liberals were weak in polls in the run-up to the 2007 election. The PCs had also gotten somebody who, initially, proved a popular and competent leader – John Tory. Tory was, like Eves, more on the party’s left and something of a Red Tory although favouring a larger role of the private sector in health care provision. However, Tory sabotaged the PC campaign when he came out in favour of extending public funding of separate religious schools to include religious schools of all denominations. In Ontario, Catholic schools are funded by the government just like public schools. The current system is unpopular, but extending the system to use tax money to fund Muslim or Jewish schools were even more unpopular. Tory misread the popular mood on the issue, and in transforming the election into a one-issue race about religious schools, he allowed the Liberals to run away with another large majority (the Liberals supported, like the NDP, the current system). Tory, who was running against a Liberal incumbent in Toronto, lost his race but did not resign the leadership of the PCs until 2009, when he was hilariously defeated in an attempt to return to the legislature in a safe Tory seat in rural Ontario.

Tory was replaced in 2009 by Tim Hudak, a Harris-era cabinet minister and a Blue Tory on the party’s right. Hudak’s strategy was to rebuild Mike Harris’ winning coalition of the 1990s uniting rural Ontario with affluent suburban voters in Toronto and the wider GTA. That same year, the NDP chose Andrew Horwath to succeed longtime leader Howard Hampton, who had failed to produce significant gains for the NDP in his three elections at the helm of the party.

At the outset of the year and after the May federal election, it looked as if it was likely that McGuinty would be defeated by Hudak’s PCs by a wide margin. McGuinty’s approval was pegged at just 16% earlier this year, and the PCs led the Liberals by over 10 points over the early summer. After eight years in power, voter fatigue was beginning to take its toll on the provincial Liberal government, and McGuinty had grown unpopular due to high taxes, a big budgetary deficit, an unpopular harmonized sales tax (HST), rising hydro bills and a eHealth scandal.

By September, however, the Liberals had managed to turn their fortunes around and transform a large deficit into a statistical tie with the PCs. Both Liberals and Tories remained statistically tied or marginally ahead of the other until the last stretch of the election, when the Liberals picked up steam and went into the final days of the campaign with a lead of 3-6 points over the PCs. McGuinty’s fightback from dead-on-arrival to a consistent lead over Hudak’s PCs lead in the final days was a pretty impressive fightback. The NDP, which won 17% in 2007, remained over their 2007 result during the course of the campaign and saw their support increase to an impressive 24-26% in the final days of the campaign after Horwath came out of the debate strengthened.

This race was Tim Hudak’s to lose. He started the pre-campaign with a wide lead, and there was no reason why he should have had trouble defeating a government with a 16% approval rating. The entire Liberal brand, furthermore, had been dealt a pretty huge blow in May (especially in Ontario), and it wasn’t outside the realm of possibilities that the provincial Liberals awaited a fate similar to that of the federal Liberals. Hudak’s campaign, undeniably, went wrong somewhere, because he turned a big lead into a tie and later into a polling deficit. Part of it might have been his past in the Harris cabinet, which is an easy target, and part of it might have been his penchant for sound-bytes rather than coherent policy. A lot of it comes from a poor platform (Liberals talked of a $14.8 billion ‘hole’ in the PC platform which would require massive cuts in health and education) and a poorly-managed populist campaign focused way too much on wedge issues like “high hydro bills”, “tax grabs” and the “tax-man” boogeyman rather than on stronger issues like a high deficit and unemployment. His insistence on transforming the Liberal pledge to give tax credits to businesses which hire new Canadians (less than 5 years in Canada) into an issue over “foreign workers” and “foreigners” went awfully wrong. A pamphlet attacking a Liberal anti-homophobia sex-ed policy was perceived as homophobic. Hudak failed to appear as a competent economic manager who could rid Ontario of a large deficit, and instead appeared as an amateurish populist who ran his entire campaign on sound-bytes and cheap catchphrases (and defending himself and his party from controversial statements). Hudak was unknown to voters before the campaign started, but he was unable to define himself before the Liberals did it for him.

To keep his party together like John Tory before him, Hudak was forced to tack right and please the most right-wing faction of the PC Party, a rural wing led by Randy Hillier. Hillier, a former boss of the very right-wing Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) had managed to get the PC nomination in the eastern Ontario riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington in 2007. In the 2009 leadership race, Hillier’s votes had given Hudak a major boost on the second ballot. This year, the OLA’s Jack MacLaren had managed to defeat longtime PC incumbent Norm Sterling in a nomination battle in the Ottawa-area riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills. Hillier and the OLA’s influence forced Hudak to take some starkly right-wing social conservative positions such as abolishing the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This in turn alienated some moderate Red Tories and led some old Tories like Norm Sterling, Ernie Eves or John Tory to worry about the PC Party’s shift to the right, perceived by some as a transformation of the PCs into a “Canadian Tea Party”.

McGuinty, in contrast, ran a generally well-handled campaign, despite his government’s wide unpopularity. The Liberals ran very much on a series of facts which McGuinty incessantly repeated in the campaign and in the debate (to the point where it grew annoying): more jobs created in Ontario than anywhere in Canada, shorter hospital wait times, more hospitals, smaller class sizes, no teacher strikes since taking office, opening more schools and leading the country in green energy jobs (which Hudak called ‘tax grabs’). In addition, in wake of tough economic times, McGuinty, like Harper in May, ran on his experience and warned voters of uncertain change in uncertain times. Like Harper’s campaign in May, thus, McGuinty’s campaign was about the need for an experienced and proven government in tough economic times. This proved a winning strategy, as it did for Harper’s Tories in May or for the recently reelected NDP government in Manitoba.

The Liberals also had two other things helping them out. Firstly, the provincial Liberals have a much stronger organization and GOTV machine than the pathetic federal Liberals have. Secondly, Ontario voters have historically shied away from electing two governments of the same colour in Toronto and Ottawa. When Mike Harris was in power in Toronto, Ontario voted solidly Liberal federally. In the later days of the Big Blue Machine, voters placed Conservatives in power in Toronto but voted Liberal federally. After reelecting McGuinty in 2007, voters in Ontario then voted Conservative federally in 2008 and 2011.

Turnout fell to an all-time low of 49.2%, meaning that over half of voters did not go out and vote. A field of three mediocre leaders, a boring campaign with no real issue and uninspiring talking points meant an historic low in turnout, which had already been an historic low of 52.6% in the 2007 election – which, similarly, was boring with no real inspiring party or issue.

Liberal 37.62% (-4.63%) winning 53 seats (-17)
PC 35.43% (+3.81%) winning 37 seats (+12)
NDP 22.73% (+5.96%) winning 17 seats (+7)
Green 2.94% (-5.08%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 1.28% (-0.12%) winning 0 seats (nc)

With a 2.2% edge in the popular vote, the governing Liberals won a third term – the first term in nearly a hundred years that a provincial Liberal government is able to do so. However, it will be a minority government and not another of the huge majority governments of 2003 and 2007. The Liberals fell one seat short of winning another majority government, so their minority will be a ‘strong minority’ where the support of only one or two opposition MPPs will be enough to carry the day. Bringing down this government would also require all opposition PC and NDP MPPs to vote against the government on a matter of confidence. Hudak’s PCs have sternly warned McGuinty that he better heed their advice or they will bring him down, but Horwath’s NDP has taken a far more conciliatory approach, saying that all parties should work together to guarantee stability and prevent a snap election too quickly.

The Liberals won this election in seat-rich Toronto and the larger GTA region. It was Conservative gains in this same region back in May which gave them a landslide victory in Ontario and guaranteed them a majority government. This election, however, the PCs remained completely shut out of the city of Toronto and failed to gain any seats in the larger GTA region. The suburban ridings in the GTA were crucial to Harris, and Hudak’s attempt to replicate the Harris coalition of 1995 and 1999 was dependent on major gains in these ridings and similar affluent suburban ridings in the Ottawa region. The PCs did put a lot of effort into these ridings, running strong candidates in their target ridings including Rocco Rossi, a former national director of the federal Liberals, in Eglinton-Lawrence. It was thus in these must-win seats like Eglinton-Lawrence, Don Valley West, Oakville, Ottawa West-Nepean or London West that the Conservatives really lost this election.

Two people can be blamed for this: Hudak himself and Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Elected in 2010, Toronto’s conservative mayor Rob Ford (although officially non-partisan, he is openly conservative) has grown quite unpopular with Toronto voters because of his controversial efforts to trim the city’s budget by cutting local library services, among other things. Stephen Harper coming out alongside Rob Ford and calling for a “hat trick” and electing Hudak provincially to “clean up the mess” didn’t help Hudak’s cause much. But Hudak himself is the one who deserves most of the blame. His amateurish populist campaign focused excessively on sound-bytes about tax grabs and foreign workers, and stuff about how Ontario is doing very badly didn’t resonate with crucial affluent, well-educated suburban voters. These voters like Harper because they believe Canada has done well in the recession, so they don’t really like Hudak’s talk about how hard life is in Ontario these days. If he had run a well-managed and coherent campaign about the deficit and the need for a more balanced budget, and in the process appeared as a moderate and competent economic manager, Hudak would likely have carried these voters. His populist campaign of sound-bytes, talking points and jumbled up ideas with little coherence didn’t appeal to those voters.

In May, Harper had done so well in Ontario because he had won those suburban voters in the GTA and traditionally conservative voters in rural Ontario – the same thing Mike Harris had done in his two elections. Hudak only managed to do one of those things: win the traditionally conservative voters in rural Ontario, a region where his social conservatism and economic populism plays out better. The PCs scored the bulk of their gains in rural Ontario, especially rural southwestern Ontario, an historically Liberal-voting block which the provincial Liberals had carried in 2007. In a lot of these ridings, they were helped by the retirement of popular long-time Liberal MPPs. The Conservatives won rural ridings such as Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, Chatham-Kent-Essex, Elgin-Middlesex-London and Nipissing by wide margins after the retirement of incumbent Liberals. They also managed to knock off, although more narrowly, Liberal incumbents in Huron-Bruce, Perth-Wellington, Prince Edward-Hastings or Northumberland-Quinte West. They fell short, however, in the Francophone eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, an old Liberal fortress weakened by the retirement of the popular Liberal incumbent. In Essex, the death of the longtime Liberal MPP before the election helped the NDP gain the seat with a narrow margin over the PCs while the Liberals placed a distant third.

In must-win suburban ridings, however, the PCs often fell short. In much of downtown Toronto, there was a net swing towards the Liberals, and, by consequence, oftentimes a swing against the PCs or NDP. The PCs had not won a single seat in Toronto in 2007 either, but came within 6% in Eglinton-Lawrence and winning 11% in Don Valley West. This year, the Tories were 21% short in Eglinton-Lawrence a full 28% short in Don Valley West, both ridings in which the Liberal incumbent improved on his or her 2007 result by a significant amount. They came a bit closer in York Centre, but the swing against the Liberals and to the PCs in that riding was still below the provincial average. In Oakville, the Conservatives fell short by 10% and other targets such as London West or Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale weren’t even close. In Ottawa, the Conservatives failed to knock off incumbent Liberal MPP and former mayor Bob Chiarelli in Ottawa West-Nepean by a much closer 2.3% margin despite having a pretty high-profile former columnist as their candidate. In my own riding of Ottawa-Orleans, where the Liberals won by a bit less than 6%, the Conservatives could not defeat an incumbent Liberal despite a string of endorsements from newspapers and two local councillors. All of these ridings are held federally by Conservative MPs, and all of them are some of the must-win ridings for a Conservative majority in Ontario.

The result of this strange state of affairs is that the four best Liberal results in all of Ontario come from affluent, well-educated urban/suburban ridings: St. Paul’s (58.4), Don Valley West (58.3), Toronto Centre (54.9) and Eglinton-Lawrence (54.3). What’s more, both Don Valley West and Eglinton-Lawrence are held by the Tories federally. Urban voters were definitely put off by Hudak’s feisty rural populism, and similar voters in suburban ridings preferred to stay the course with the Liberals – just like they had preferred to stay the course with the Conservatives federally. In other similarly well-educated, generally affluent and urbane ridings such as Kingston, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo or Ottawa Centre there was a net swing to the Liberals. This year’s Liberal coalition is thus affluent, highly educated, very urban or suburban and whiter than before.

The NDP did well in this election, gaining seven seats and improving their popular vote by nearly 6% to win the best result for the Ontario NDP since the end of the Rae years. It was perhaps not as much as they could have hoped for, with polling giving the NDP up to 26% support, but it is still a rather significant result for them. Horwath performed strongly in the debate and her “putting people first” platform appealed to some voters who disliked both McGuinty and Hudak. The NDP’s results, however, were quite interesting. They won big in rural northern Ontario, but failed to perform as well as expected in urban areas in northern Ontario such as Sudbury or Thunder Bay. They performed well in industrial Hamilton, where they won the last Liberal held seat, or in London where they picked up London-Fanshawe. In both Windsor ridings, they fell far short of winning, but they did score a surprising upset in neighboring Essex. In Toronto, they picked up Davenport, largely on the back of a collapse in the Green vote. One of their most significant gains was Jagmeet Singh’s victory in the suburban multicultural riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton. Singh had come within 539 votes of winning the same seat in the May federal election, and managed to do so this election, in the process becoming the first NDP representative either federally or provincially from the Peel region.

There are other strong performances in the NDP’s results across the province, indicating room for growth. The NDP did well in rural Ontario, and also performed rather well in poorer, multicultural ridings in Toronto such as Scarborough-Rouge River (the NDP came within 6% of knocking off the Liberals) – a formerly solidly Liberal seat now held federally by the NDP, or York West. At the same time, poor Liberal showings in parts of Mississauga, Brampton, Scarborough and Vaughan should be cause for concern for  the Liberals. Poor Liberal showings in the bulk of rural Ontario should also concern some Liberals, but Liberal majorities without strong performances in rural Ontario are certainly not impossible.

In other ridings, however, the NDP did not do as well as expected. Former MPP Paul Ferreira failed to win back his old seat of York South-Weston, but most significantly the NDP came within 2.8% of losing the downtown Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina to the Liberals. The Liberals also performed threateningly well in other NDP-held seats in Toronto including Parkdale-High Park and Beaches-East York. Another heartbreak for the NDP was Ottawa Centre, which is held by the NDP’s Paul Dewar federally and which the NDP came within 4% of winning in 2007 against then first-time candidate Yasir Naqvi. Despite a strong NDP effort, Naqvi increased his vote by over 11% and turned a marginal hold on his seat into a 17.7% margin. The NDP also performed poorly, when compared to its May 2011 result, in next-door Ottawa-Vanier.

Why did the NDP perform so poorly in these downtown ridings in did so well in back in May? Andrea Horwath led a very populist campaign, and her key points: taking the HST off gas/hydro or cancelling a Toronto commuter rail project because the trains are made in Quebec – did not do the NDP much favours in bobo-type well educated urban ridings such as Trinity-Spadina or Ottawa Centre. Cancelling light rail didn’t go down well in downtown Toronto, and voters in such urban ridings don’t really benefit from taking the HST off the price of gas, because most of them don’t drive to work. The NDP platform appealed much more to old manufacturing towns such as Hamilton or eastern London, and not as much to downtown urban ridings where Horwath’s shift away from the NDP’s traditional pro-environment positions left some traditional NDP voters out in the dark.

The Greens, with less than 3%, returning to the 2003 lows. The Greens were hurt by the lack of media coverage for their campaign and their exclusion from the debates. The closeness of this election likely encouraged a lot of their voters to vote strategically for either the Liberals and NDP, who both benefited from a collapse in the Green vote in various constituencies. The Greens tend to perform much better when the election’s outcome is not in much doubt or when no other party is able to connect with voters. The Green leader Mike Schreiner won only 8.8% in Simcoe-Grey and the best Green result was 14.6% in Dufferin-Caledon.


Election Preview: France’s left-wing primaries 2011

Left-wing open primary elections (primaires citoyennes) will be held in France on October 9 and 16, 2011. These open primaries will nominate the candidate of the opposition Socialist Party (PS) and its small vassal, the Left Radicals (PRG), for the April 22 and May 6, 2012 presidential elections. These are the first open primaries on such an ambitious scale in France. In the past, in 1995 and 2006, the PS had nominated its candidate through closed primaries where only party members were eligible to vote. In these primaries, anybody can vote provided he/she pays a symbolic fee of €1 and signs a declaration of adherence to left-wing values (and is a registered, eligible voter). These primaries are not organized by the state or any public authorities, rather they are entirely organized by the party which must – especially in municipalities governed by the right – find its own voting locations often separate from traditional voting locations. These first open primaries were seen by the PS as a tool to overcome divisions, motivate voters by enabling them to participate (in the mode of the 2008 Democratic primaries in the US) and giving more legitimacy to the PS candidate in a crucial election for them like 2012.

Candidates needed to receive the endorsement of at least 5% of the PS’ parliamentarians, leadership, regional and general councillors in at least 10 departments and/or 4 regions and PS mayors in large cities in at least four regions. All left-wing parties were theoretically invited to primaries which are officially not PS primaries but rather open left-wing primaries, but only the PS and its tiny perennial ally, the PRG, participated. Candidacies needed to be deposited between June 28 and July 13, 2011. In the end, six candidates received sufficient endorsements to participate.

Up until May 15, the favourite for these primaries and the top-ranking potential candidate, then-IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) was arrested in New York City on counts of sexual aggression in a hotel room. Strauss-Kahn was released on bail on July 1 and criminal charges against him were dropped on August 23 (and allowed to return to France), but in both cases it was either impossible or too late for him to return to France to announce his candidacy. In an interview upon his return to France, Strauss-Kahn more or less openly confirmed that he would have been candidate in these primaries. His de-facto withdrawal on May 15 totally changed the dynamics of the race and threw the field wide open. Up until then, it was widely assumed that DSK would run and that he would rather easily win the primaries. He was the runaway favourite and he was also, at that point, the early favourite in the presidential race against President Nicolas Sarkozy. With their frontrunner out of the race, the left needed to find another candidate. For many voters on the left, their main criteria in choosing a candidate will be his or her ability to defeat Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.

In terms of policy, the PS itself has already adopted its program of sorts (most of it are general priorities) and candidates in the primaries (besides one) are tied to it. In terms of public rhetoric, all criticize Sarkozy’s economic policies and criticize banks for speculating on debt. All oppose the right’s tough immigration policies and are in favour of case-by-case regularization of illegals.

The Contenders

The top two contenders are François Hollande, president of the general council of Corrèze, deputy (MP) and former secretary-general of the PS; and Martine Aubry, Mayor of Lille and secretary-general of the PS since 2008. The other candidates are Ségolène Royal, 2007 candidate and the president of the regional council of Poitou-Charentes; Arnaud Montebourg, president of the general council of Saône-et-Loire and deputy; Manuel Valls, deputy and mayor of Evry; and Jean-Michel Baylet, senator, president of the general council of Tarn-et-Garonne and leader of the PRG.

François Hollande is the frontrunner and the favourite of the primaries. Hollande, who is 57, served as the party’s secretary-general between 1997 and 2008. He has been the deputy (MP) for Corrèze’s 1st constituency since 1997 (and before that between 1988 and 1993) and has been president of the general council of his department since 2008. He was mayor of Tulle between 2001 and 2008. A rarity among presidential candidates, he has never been a cabinet minister and, if elected, would be the first President of the Fifth Republic to never have served in any cabinet. Hollande’s tenure at the helm of the party between 1997 and 2008 has been criticized by some of his opponents, but in general it was rather successful: he won the 1999 and 2004 European elections, won a landslide in the 2004 regional and cantonal elections and saved face in the 2002 and 2007 legislative election. He was weakened by the defeat of the EU Constitution in the 2005 referendum, when his leadership backed a ‘yes’ vote against the will of part of the PS leaders and voters. In his leadership, he was perceived as generally weak-willed and with little drive, ambition or deep political talent.

Hollande announced his candidacy following his reelection as president of the general council in his department in March 2011, and overcame weak polling numbers to become DSK’s main rival in the primary field. Polls right before the DSK affair exploded on May 15 showed that Hollande had managed to significantly narrow the gap with DSK. Following his withdrawal, he surged to become the frontrunner in the field and has held the advantage in the field since then with the exception of late June and early July. He has a lead of at least ten points and oftentimes over 15 over his closest opponent, Martine Aubry.

Hollande’s success, which might surprise given his past image as a cute but ineffective gadfly, stems from his ability to incarnate himself as the “normal president” – first in contrast to the media-savvy world-traveling DSK and now in contrast to the bling-bling elitist Sarkozy. Shedding some weight, he is seen as a sincere, competent and ‘normal’ by voters. Even his lack of ministerial experience is now an asset when presenting himself to voters, as he is not as associated to “those corrupt career politicians” and those perennial cabinet ministers. Perhaps slightly amusing given his past at the helm of the PS for eleven years, he is also more or less the ‘grassroots’ candidate opposed to the candidate of the party hierarchy and leadership. He is popular with PS voters at the grassroots level, and his popularity is wider with those more likely to vote in the primaries: the older voters and the PS members (rather than all self-IDed left-wingers).

When Hollande was secretary-general, he was generally opposed from his left (Laurent Fabius, Henri Emmanuelli, Arnaud Montebourg) and generally aligned with the centrist/moderate ‘barons’. He can be seen as a reformist social democrat, not exactly on the party’s right-wing but certainly not on the party’s left. His main priorities in this campaign, policy-wise, are fiscal reform and his ‘contracts of generation’. His top fiscal measure is to merge the income tax with a social tax (CSG) to create a universal, progressive income tax paid by everybody in full equality. He is tougher than Aubry on debt reduction, and while he opposes the government’s proposed golden rule amendment, he proposes some tougher measures to reduce France’s public debt and promises to balance the books by a set date (2017). He has shown himself favourable to a regulated bank bailout if needed, on condition that the state enters the bank’s board of directors. His other main proposal is the controversial contrats de génération (contracts of generation) which is a plan to create 200,000 jobs for youths (and maintain them for seniors) through fiscal incentives for businesses. He has also proposed to re-hire over five years the 60-70k education positions abolished since 2007. He opposes the government’s policy of not replacing half of retiring public employees in education.

Polling shows that Hollande is the strongest PS candidate against Sarkozy, with 28-30% in the first round and a breezy victory in the runoff over Sarkozy with about 55% support. Of the primary candidates, Hollande is the candidate with the strongest ability to gather centrist, moderate and even centre-right voters in the first or second rounds. This might become even more important as the centre-right finds itself devoid of a candidate after Jean-Louis Borloo’s surprise withdrawal.

Hollande is backed by most of the ‘moderates’ within the party including Pierre Moscovici (a former strauss-kahnian) and a lot of equally moderate provincial or local barons such as Jean-Yves Le Drian, Alain Rousset,  François Patriat, Michel Sapin, André Vallini, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Gérard Collomb, François Rebsamen or Roland Ries. Some of them such as Collomb and Rebsamen had supported Royal in 2008 when she was more moderate, others had supported the flopped Delanoë motion then. His support, in general, both by the sections of the party elites and the left-wing base of voters, seems more provincial than Aubry’s support and also more populaire, that is, more popular with the unemployed  and employees, but also retirees (who are good voters in terms of turnout).

Martine Aubry is Hollande’s longshot rival and the First-Secretary of the PS since 2008 (temporarily replaced during the campaign by Harlem Désir). Aubry is the daughter of Jacques Delors, the former European commissioner and finance minister between 1981 and 1985. Delors, a moderate pro-European social democrat, had been the party’s favourite in the 1995 presidential election but he ended up not running. Aubry is, like Hollande and Royal, an énarque and a former public administrator. Her political career began when she became Minister of Labour, Employment and Professional Formation in the Cresson government in 1991. As the left won power in 1997, Aubry completed her political implantation in Lille (Nord) with her victory in a suburban constituency. In the Jospin government, she served as Minister of Labour and Solidarity until 2000. Her tenure in office is most famous for the 35-hour workweek, a controversial measure which has since associated Aubry with the party’s left though she is not a natural or traditional member of the party’s traditional left-wing. She was elected mayor of Lille in 2001, an office she has held since. However, she was defeated for reelection in her constituency in 2002 by a young right-winger. Her 2002 defeat made headlines when Aubry cried upon hearing the results.

Fresh from a landslide reelection in 2008, Aubry ran for the party’s leadership at the tumultuous Reims Congress. Though her motion finished third in the motions vote, narrowly behind Delanoë’s motion, she received support from most of Delanoë’s old guard base to run for the elected position of first-secretary. She defeated Royal by 102 votes in the runoff ballot, in an election marred by potential irregularities on both sides. Her leadership was feeble in 2009, especially after the disastrous European elections, but the PS victory in the 2010 and 2011 mid-term elections cemented her leadership and boosted her potential presidential candidacy.

Aubry announced her candidacy on June 28. She enjoyed a short-lived surge in support after her announcement, but this edge over Hollande soon dissipated and turned into a large deficit by the end of the summer. Aubry could have seized the advantage presented to her by her enviable position at the heart of the party, and, while holding the support of the party’s left and non-PS (PCF, Green and so forth) voters slowly moving to the centre. But Aubry is far more of a technocrat than a charismatic politician, and she is unable to convey warmth or energy. Thus her campaign has been poorly managed and overall has been boring and stale. Unlike Hollande, who can cultivate warmth with voters on the ground with talk of a “normal President”, Aubry cannot as she appears distant, cold and somewhat elitist. She is also seen much more as a “candidate by default” than as a candidate by conviction. She ran because she needed to do so after DSK’s arrest on May 15. DSK, in his record-breaking interview upon his return from the US declared that Aubry and him had indeed been party to a ‘pact’ in which Aubry had pledged not to run if DSK ran.

Aubry has usually been seen as more to the left of the party, and she is undoubtedly to Hollande’s left. The ideological differences between Hollande and Aubry are not wide, as in most PS infightings, the feud between Hollande and Aubry is personal rather than deeply ideological though the feud has pushed her to the left. Aubry also pledges to reduce France’s deficit to under 3% of the GDP by 2013 but unlike Hollande refuses to set a date for a balanced budget (Hollande has said 2017). Aubry wishes to drastically cut France’s many niches fiscales (tax loopholes or tax exemptions) which she estimates costs the state 50 billion euros. Opposed to Hollande’s contrats de génération she promises 300,000 new ‘future jobs’ over the course of the five-year term. On environmental issues, she is ‘greener’ than Hollande. While Hollande only wants to cut France’s dependence on nuclear energy from 75% to 50%, Aubry supports an eventual withdrawal from nuclear energy.

Aubry performs only a few points less than Hollande in polls and she would still defeat Sarkozy by a somewhat closer margin in a runoff today. She does not really have Hollande’s ability to win over centrist voters. In contrast, she is probably more popular than Hollande is with the wider left-wing

As party leader, Aubry is very much the establishment candidate, supported by those closest to the party’s incumbent leadership. Aubry has a very weak political base within the party, and in her 2008 election she depended very much on the support of Laurent Fabius’ far more influential faction (20% of the PS or so). Since then, she has also allied closely with the party’s left (most notably Benoît Hamon, the spokesperson of the PS who in Reims led the party’s left), the more left-leaning of the strauss-kahnians, a few moderates and some close allies of Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë. Her supporters include Fabius, Delanoë, Claude Bartolone (Fabius’ lieutenant),  Jean-Christophe Cambadélis (a close ally of DSK), Jack Lang, Henri Emmanuelli, Marie-Noëlle Lienemann and Jean-Paul Huchon.

Ségolène Royal was the PS’ 2007 standard bearer and fell 102 votes short of becoming first-secretary in 2008, but since then her fall from the top echelons of politics has been painful. She is at best a distant third now, and perhaps even fourth. Royal was Hollande’s life partner between the late 1970s and 2007, but since then relations between the two have been apparently very poor. Royal, always something of an oddball or maverick in terms of background and policies within the PS, was a young cabinet minister Bérégovoy and Jospin before being elected to the regional presidency in the Poitou-Charentes in 2004. Her victory in then-Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s native region was significant and boosted her political profile significantly in the run-up to the 2007 presidential election. Royal has no long-standing affiliation with any of the PS’s “historic” factions and her supporters within the party have been all over the place, from ‘moderates’ to left-wingers. Her 2006 primary victory (closed primary, which she won with over 60%) was caused not by her platform’s depth but rather by her standing as a refreshing, charismatic and populist outsider in a contest which pitted her against the old guardsmen Fabius and DSK. The fact that polls showed that she was the most likely to defeat Sarkozy in 2007 didn’t hurt, to say the least.

During her 2007 campaign and since then, Royal has been criticized for her utter lack of coherent political ideas and her half-bizarre/half-crazy attitude in general. In 2007, she made various gaffes on foreign policy and beyond that crafted a program which flirted with the traditionalist right on issues such as security or the family while her idea of “participatory democracy” contrasted in practice with her authoritarian style of governance in Poitou. In the runoff debate, her (pathetic) outburst of staged anger was the first sign of a bizarre erratic character which would become commonplace for her in 2008 and 2009. At times, it appeared as if she was more some sort of religious sect leader rather than a politician. Because of her populist posturing as a maverick outsider and because of her erratic populist behaviour in general, she is the enemy of most of the party’s old guard and hierarchy since at least 2007. She entertains horrible relations with Aubry, Delanoë, Fabius, Jospin and probably Hollande and DSK. To call her ‘anti-establishment’ is only half correct, however, as until 2008 she still enjoyed significant support from members of the PS’ regional establishment: Collomb, Bianco, Guérini or Queyranne.

Royal announced her candidacy in November 2010, nearly a year before the primaries. Throughout the campaign she has never been in a position where she could stand a realistic chance of winning or qualify for a potential runoff. Of the three major candidates in the primaries, she is the one who would perform the worst against Sarkozy – so badly in fact that, if she was to be the candidate, a second April 21, 2002 scenario would be a real possibility. Her erratic, opportunistic and populist half-crazy behaviour in recent years has alienated a large part of her original supporters, who no longer she in her the charismatic refreshing outsider they saw in her in 2006 but rather a crazy old politician who has no coherent ideas of her own.

To think that Royal ever had coherent political ideas is being crazy. She, as a pure opportunist, has shifted her rhetoric to adapt to the crowd and the times. In 2008, when she almost became party leader, she was rather centrist and moderate in her rhetoric with ideas such as an alliance with the centre. This year, however, she has clearly positioned herself on the leaderless left of the party as a sort of left-populist candidate with a syncretic mix of outdated socialism and weird old right traditionalism. Her economic policies include price freezes, guaranteeing lifelong minimal pay raise for workers, nationalizations in all but name for some companies and a constitutional ban mass layoffs. As in 2007, she cultivates a more law-and-order image on security and families. In 2007, she favoured military training for young offenders and talked of the family in rather traditionalist terms.

Since 2008, Royal has been crippled by the departure of most of her bigwig allies. Collomb, her close ally in Reims in 2008, supports Hollande. Guérini the crooked party boss supports Aubry. Valls is running himself. She is left with a base of unconditional ‘royalists’ including Jean-Louis Bianco, Edith Cresson, Jean-Jack Queyranne, Maxime Bono, Guillaume Garot and Delphine Batho.

Arnaud Montebourg is something of the PS’ young maverick and could be the surprise of the primaries if he outpolls Royal for third. Montebourg, who is 48, is a former lawyer who has been deputy for the Saône-et-Loire since 1997 and president of the general council of Saône-et-Loire since 2008. Montebourg, who is starkly on the party’s left, is a charismatic outsider known for his support of a Sixth Republic and his anti-corruption battle notably against then-President Jacques Chirac in 2001. Montebourg supported the NPS faction in the 2005 Le Mans Congress, but then contributed to the NPS’ slow collapse after he rallied Royal in 2006 before backing Aubry in 2008. Montebourg, an extremely media savvy and camera-craving politician, is deeply ambitious and hopes to become a leading figure in the party in coming years. His candidacy is a way of increasing his profile in national politics.

Like Royal, Montebourg announced his candidacy back in November 2010. Montebourg, a longtime standard bearer for the party’s left, is the most left-wing of the 6 candidates. He is supporter of what he calls démondialisation (deglobalization) and some sort of ‘European protectionism’. His economic policies include this aforementioned ‘European protectionism’ consisting of erecting trade barriers to protect Europe from worldwide market competition, notably from China. Domestically, he supports a ‘green reindustrialization’ of France’s economy through a ‘green industrial revolution’, wants to put banks under supervision and also talks of nationalization in all but name. Besides those policies, he supports the creation of a parliamentary Sixth Republic (an old project of his) and is the top anti-corruption candidate. Montebourg has long been popular for his positions against corrupt politicians and gained points in the second debate with his virulent attacks on Jean-Noël Guérini, the embattled corrupt president of the general council of the Bouches-du-Rhône and a thorn in Aubry’s side (he backs Aubry).

Montebourg has little high-profile supporters beside from a few deputies and senators on the party’s left. His top-ranking supporter is 2002 PRG presidential candidate and Guyanese deputy Christiane Taubira.

Manuel Valls is the party’s other “young lion” in this election and hopes to raise his political profile ahead of the next presidential elections in this primary. Valls is deputy and mayor of Evry, a rather low-income planned suburb of Paris in the Essonne department. Manuel Valls, who strongly supported Royal in 2008, gives the image of a young reformist outsider, shunned by his party’s top brass. With reason too: Valls is a critical voice within the party, questioning the party’s dogma on sacrosanct things such as the 35-hour workweek. His political future as a potential ‘rising star’ within the party is constantly checked by his controversial reformist positions on party dogma.

Valls announced his candidacy following DSK’s ‘withdrawal’ of sorts in May. His candidacy never hoped to take DSK’s place on the centre and right of the party, but rather hoped to raise the name recognition and media image of the young mayor of Evry who will certainly try another run at the top executive post. In a campaign which he says aims to “talk truth to voters”, Valls is the most right-wing of all the candidates. He is quite critical the old-style statism of Montebourg and Royal as irresponsible populism. In the past, he has called for a liberalization of the 35-hour workweek, which is very much a holy grail which cannot be touched within the party. He says his main priority would be to combat the debt and public deficit, and pledges to not undertake any new spending without first compensating for new spending by similar cuts elsewhere. He opposes overtaxation of businesses but has made clear that he sees ‘responsible’ tax increases as a necessity to lower the deficit. His economic policies were good enough for The Economist, which praised him as the most responsible of the candidates on economic and fiscal policy – while scolding the others for their overblown left-wing rhetoric. Valls has historically been an advocate of majorly reforming the PS, including changing the party’s name.

Valls’ right-wing positions by party standards might make him popular with right-wing voters, but within the party he aims for a small base which has never gathered more than 10% support in internal contests. Some observers have compared him to Michel Rocard, a moderate pragmatic centrist leader within the PS, but Valls is closer ideologically to Jean-Marie Bockel, the former standard bearer of the ‘social-liberal’ minority within the PS before joining the presidential majority in 2007.

Valls has very little grassroots support, an effect both of his position on the party’s small right-wing and his low name recognition; and low establishment support. Only a handful of parliamentarians back him.

Jean-Michel Baylet is the “nobody” candidate whom nobody knows why he’s actually running. Baylet is not a member of the PS: he is the leader of the Left Radicals (PRG), a small social-liberal party which is little more than a vassal of the PS in actual terms. Baylet is also a PRG Senator, president of the general council of the Tarn-et-Garonne and a businessman/newspaper baron. Nobody really knows who he is outside of his zone of influence in the southwest through his newspaper, the Dépêche du Midi. Baylet has little charisma and is the dictionary definition of an old Radical notable with a local business and political network but lacking the skills which make a national politician.

Baylet is running because it is the best way for his little party, the PRG, to gain a little media coverage and, in the eyes of the PS, still appear relevant and as an ally to be respected when the PS is increasingly being pulled by the Greens to give the far more electorally important Greens a larger role in internal dealings, ahead of the 2012 legislative election. Baylet’s goal seems to be to make sure that the PS still treats him as a loyal ally and gives the PRG a good number of constituencies in 2012 and not give in entirely to the Greens’ and the Left Front’s demands. Policy wise, the only thing which people know about his policy is that he supports legalizing cannabis. Besides that, he is rather moderate and overall to the right of the field. He is concerned, like Valls, about spending levels in relation to France’s deficit and he wants a federal Europe to spearhead economic reform.

He is supported by the PRG’s caucus and a few overseas deputies. He is also backed by Génération écologie (GE), an old but very small centre-right green party. Nobody knows Baylet and he has absolutely no base with those who will vote in bigger numbers (PS members), therefore he will perform very poorly.


It is hard to poll primaries in Europe, France included, because there is no widespread party registration like in the United States where it easier to identify registered partisans and independents. Polling an open primary with a wider electorate which is not limited only to party members is, however, easier and more accurate. Pollsters nowadays include two samples in their polls: leftists and socialists, sometimes expanding it to include smaller (and thus more shaky) subsamples of leftists and socialists ‘likely to vote’.  The most recent poll is from Ifop, which polled on different days between September 15 and 30 and identified 1434 leftists including 782 socialists. The breakdown I give is as follows: % among leftists/% among leftists likely to vote/% among socialists. Beware of small samples.

François Hollande 42% / 46% / 51%
Martine Aubry 27% / 26% / 26%
Ségolène Royal 11% / 11% / 9%
Arnaud Montebourg 8% / 7% / 5%
Manuel Valls 5% / 5% / 5%
Jean-Michel Baylet 1% / 1% / 1%
NOTA 5% / 2% / 2%
Undecided 1% / 2% / 1%

Ipsos between September 21 and 26 polled those likely to vote in the primary:

François Hollande 44%
Martine Aubry 27%
Ségolène Royal 13%
Arnaud Montebourg 10%
Manuel Valls 5%
Jean-Michel Baylet 1%

A Harris poll between September 28 and 29, so entirely after the second debate, said (% among leftists/% among socialists)

François Hollande 40% / 49%
Martine Aubry 28% / 26%
Arnaud Montebourg 12% / 9%
Ségolène Royal 6% / 6%
Manuel Valls 4% / 5%
Jean-Michel Baylet 1% / 0%
NOTA 9% / 5%

The guiding principle when looking at these polls should be caution and more caution. Primaries like these are new in France to hard and treacherous to poll. While Hollande is undoubtedly the favourite and will come out on top – all pollsters agree at least on this point – his performance on October 9 will affect how the runoff is played off on October 16. If he ends up polling as strongly as he polls with only PS primary voters, then he will either win outright by October 9 or he will head into October 16 as the pretty much unbeatable candidate. If, however, he polls only 40% or even, less likely, falls below 40% while Aubry manages to break 30%, the whole game could be altered pretty significantly. While recent polls on a Hollande/Aubry runoff give Hollande a big edge there too, if he enters this runoff with a weak October 9 performance he could be vulnerable to attacks from Aubry and a change in voter mobilization. Furthermore, Aubry can count on a slightly larger of potential runoff voters from first-round Royal and Montebourg voters while Hollande’s most likely sources of runoff transfers are pretty weak (Valls and Baylet). Hollande is the favourite, but given the unpredictable nature of such affairs, don’t be shocked if the polls blow this pretty badly.

Open primaries will be much less open to vote manipulation, backroom deals and unorthodox tactics on the ground than closed primaries or internal PS party business is. Party machines and the ‘big federations’ will not have as much sway over the results in an open primary, where the electorate is much wider and, for a lot probably, not tied to the power of the bosses of the big federations. While I expect the patterns to be similar to internal PS party business, with Aubry polling strongly in the Nord and in Fabiusian fiefs such as his native Seine-Maritime, it is unlikely that, like in the 2008 first-secretary runoff, the shady and unorthodox party bosses in their federations will be able to control the results. Royal has expressed concern about the power of the unorthodox party bosses, but that’s mostly because she has lost all of their support, because in 2008 she didn’t raise much concerns about the heavy-handed and behind-the-scenes manipulations of one Jean-Noël Guérini who had delivered his big federation to her with a huge (77%) majority… Beyond manipulations and unsavoury voting shenanigans, Aubry’s campaign is pretty terrible but her campaign team includes old weathered apparatchiks who could be an asset in a closely fought runoff battle: people like Claude Bartolone, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, David Assouline or Laurent Fabius.

For those who read French, I strongly recommend you to read the new Sondages 2012 blog, written by a good friend of mine who has some much more interesting analysis on all things 2012.

Manitoba (Canada) 2011

Provincial elections were held in Manitoba (Canada) on October 4, 2011. All 57 members of Manitoba’s Legislative Assembly were up for reelection. Manitoba’s Premier since 2009 is Greg Selinger of the NDP, who replaced NDP Premier Gary Doer, first elected in 1999, who resigned in 2009 to serve as Canada’s ambassador to the United States. Selinger’s NDP was seeking an unprecedented fourth term government, after winning three successive majority governments in 1999, 2003 and 2007.

Partisan politics were introduced in Manitoba by 1880, with the development of the Liberals around Thomas Greenway and then the Conservatives under Rodmond Roblin. Greenway and later Manitoba Liberals in the early twentieth century often butted heads with the federal Liberals, most significantly over the issue of separate French-Catholic schools for Manitoba’s Francophone Métis population. The Manitoba Schools Question, because of its interconnection with the issue of linguistic rights, became a national issue and led to the demise of the MacDonald Conservative coalition in 1896 and the slow emergence of the Liberal Party as a real alternative. While the federal Liberals increasingly became the party of Canadian Francophones, Greenway’s Liberals and later Liberal governments in the early twentieth century frustrated their federal counterparts attempt by their continued opposition to any separate school for Manitoba’s French-speaking minority. Greenway was defeated by the Tories in 1899, with Rodmond Roblin taking power in 1900. A scandal led to Roblin’s defeat in 1915 by a Liberal Party which had, to some extent, co-opted a good part of the nascent progressive movement’s agenda: temperance, social reform, early welfare state measures and rural credit. The progressivism of Norris’ government was not enough, however, to save the provincial Liberals from being swept over by the progressive tide by 1922 when the United Farmers/Progressives swept to power with John Bracken, a non-partisan consensus politician. The Manitoban variety of progressivism was oriented towards integrating the movement within the existing political system or even act as a vehicle to eventually take control of an existing party like the Liberals – this variety contrasted with Alberta’s radical kind of progressivism which rejected party-parliament politics and favoured laying down the grassroots of a corporatist non-partisan political system. It was thus natural that Manitoba’s progressive government would go on to become a small-c conservative government, with the Liberals merging with the provincial Progressives in 1932 and opening the doors to a grand coalition with the Tories, CCF and SoCred in 1940 (the CCF left in 1940, the Tories in 1950). Bracken went on to become leader of the federal Conservatives in 1943- which is why they became known as the Progressive Conservatives. The increasingly conservative Liberals were defeated in 1958 by the Red Tory Duff Roblin who went on to lead the PCs to four successive governments. Slowly, the Liberals were reduced to a rather right-wing rump, and definitely faded after a rural right-winger took over the Liberals ahead of the 1969 election. Similarly, the Red Tory Roblin was replaced by the rural conservative Weir as Premier in 1967. It was a perfect storm for the NDP, which in contrast abandoned its old-style socialist-labour leadership with the election of the moderate, centrist Ed Schreyer. Schreyer’s NDP won the 1969 election, forming the first NDP government in the province.

Since 1969, Manitoban politics have become more or less a two-party competition between the social democratic NDP and the Conservatives (PCs). The Liberals were shut out in 1981, and they only briefly challenged the PC-NDP polarization in 1988, when the Liberals placed second on the back of the collapse of the incumbent NDP government. But that was just an anomaly, as the NDP reemerged as the opposition to the PCs in the 1990s. Manitoba’s successive NDP governments (1969-1973, 1981-1986, 1999-) have been marked by their moderation and fiscal prudence – especially under Gary Doer. Doer’s governments balanced the budget and kept the budget balanced, while increasing or maintaing social spending and even cutting taxes at times. In style of governance, the NDP in Manitoba like that in neighboring Saskatchewan is very much centrist. In contrast, the last PC government under Gary Filmon was rather right-wing in its agenda: privatizations, spending cuts, balanced budget and tax cuts.

Gary Doer was a charismatic, popular moderate politician with support across partisan lines. After his retirement from provincial politics in 2009 to serve as ambassador, it looked as if his successor, Finance Minister Greg Selinger wouldn’t be able to hold his predecessor’s widespread popularity. A PC victory in Manitoba after being shut out of government provincially since 1999 was looking quite likely until this summer, with the PCs leading the NDP by fair margins throughout most of 2011. But it seems like the voters quickly forgot their original voter fatigue with the long-standing NDP government and decided to stick with the NDP. A few things helped: the economy is in decent shape, the government is competent and popular with voters and the popular mood shot up massively with the arrival of a NHL hockey team in Winnipeg this year: the Winnipeg Jets. Don’t underestimate the political effects on the government of the new NHL team. Major criminality in Winnipeg did not hurt the NDP much either, but on crime, both NDP and PCs share a broadly similar platform. The NDP had a narrow 2-3% lead in the final polls, making this the closest election in Manitoba since 1999.

NDP 46% (-2%) winning 37 seats (+1)
PC 43.86% (+5.97%) winning 19 seats (nc)
Liberal 7.53% (-4.86%) winning 1 seat (-1)
Green 2.52% (+1.18%) winning 0 seats (nc)

After making history in 2007 for being the first provincial NDP government to be reelected to a third term, the Manitoba NDP made history again by winning an unprecedented fourth term, an honour which voters have not bestowed on any government since Roblin’s Tories in 1966.

The popular vote indicates a much closer contest than the the seat numbers indicate: the NDP won the popular vote by only 2% and apparently at some points during the night it seemed as if the NDP would lose the popular vote narrowly while holding a crushing majority! Despite the PCs gaining over 6% support compared to 2007, it failed to win even one extra seat to improve upon its terrible 2007 result. The main problem for the PCs is that their vote is split extremely inefficiently. They managed to win absolutely mind-boggling huge margins in rural conservative southern Manitoba with results well above 60% in most cases and even reaching 85% in Mennonite outposts such as Morden-Winkler or Steinbach. Of their 19 seats, the Tories won 11 of those – 58% – with over 60% of the vote and only two with a margin of less than 10%. Most of the upswing in PC support came from rural Manitoba, where the only effect was making already safe seats into impenetrable fortresses. But even that rural upswing wasn’t good enough for the PCs to gain some vulnerably rural NDP seats such as Swan Lake, Interlake, Dauphin or Gimli. Such huge margins are nice, but you don’t win an election like that – especially in Manitoba. A majority of the province’s population (55%) lives in the capital and dominant city, Winnipeg, which holds most of the 57 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Therefore, Winnipeg is key to any party seeking to win government. Therefore, if the PCs want to form government, they need to breakthrough in Winnipeg, and their failure to do so this year sealed their fate. The PC held all of their four seats in Winnipeg, but failed to even gain very vulnerable NDP seats with weak or retiring incumbents. The NDP held on by tiny margins in Kirkfield Park and St. Norbert and by larger margins in Seine River and Southdale. In ridings such as Assiniboia where the PCs had hoped to defeat some NDP incumbents in ridings which are traditionally right-leaning, they were unable to even come close.

The Liberals won two seats in 2007, Inkster (now redistributed into Tyndall Park) and River Heights. Inkster’s Liberal MLA, Kevin Lamoureux was elected to the House of Commons in 2010 and reelected in May. His seat, held more because of his popularity than any Liberal-voting demographic, was left vacant. The Liberal leader, Jon Gerrard, was facing a tough race in his own seat of River Heights, an affluent riding targeted by the PCs. In the end, in another case of terrible PC results in Winnipeg, he won 46-33. The NDP won Tyndall Park by a margin of roughly 10% over the Liberals. The NDP won the rest of northern Winnipeg besides the PC seat of River East by huge margins, as was to be expected: north Winnipeg was the original stronghold of Canadian socialism, and remains to this day a poor working-class area though one which is nowadays far more ethnically diverse with Canada’s largest Filipino population. In downtown Wolseley, Green leader James Beddome placed a distant second behind the NDP with 19.7% in a riding which includes the University of Winnipeg. Selinger was reelected in Francophone St. Boniface with 69%.

Hugh McFayden, the hapless PC leader resigned after the results. Gerrard hinted that he would resign as Liberal leader, but hang on as MLA. If the PCs want to the win the next election in 2015, they will need to break through in Winnipeg and in doing dig its way out of inefficient vote splits.

Ontario will be voting tomorrow. This is set to be the closest and perhaps most exciting race in well over a decade, but most final polls have shown a mini-surge in Liberal support to the point where the incumbent Liberal government might very well hold a reduced majority government. Quite a reversal from June, when the Liberals were fighting to even stay second! As previously mentioned, I will not be covering the Ontarian election live but I’ll have the results by Friday or Saturday.

PEI (Canada) 2011

Provincial elections were held on Prince Edward Island (PEI) on October 4, 2011. All 27 members of the Canadian province’s Legislative Assembly were up for reelection. Since 1996, PEI uses single-member districts. Prior to that, it used two-member districts. PEI is the smallest province and the least populated of Canada’s ten provinces, with only 141,551 inhabitants. This makes PEI politics very parochial and grassroots when compared to other sub-national jurisdictions. An MLA represents roughly 5,000 people, meaning that most voters know their MLA personally. Politics on PEI is still marked by unusually high partisan identification with either of the two dominant parties, the Liberals or the Progressive Conservatives (PC), both of which are centrist parties in practice. But politics are not all that polarized: the island is relatively homogeneous, with no stark class divisions or history of labour unrest. The only main division on the island has traditionally been religious, between Catholics and Protestants who both make up roughly half of the island’s population.

In electoral terms, this relative social and political homogeniety has meant that elections in PEI tend to be very lopsided: governing parties win huge majorities with the opposition being kept to a tiny caucus. The last time the seat count was close was in 1978 (the election split 17-15 between the Liberals and PCs). Since 1959, Conservatives and Liberals have governed relatively equal lengths of time, and a government usually governs for up to three terms but never for a single term (the last single-term government was a Tory government between 1931 and 1935). The only exception to this pattern since 1959 is a four-term Liberal government between 1966 and 1978. After three terms, voter fatigue is high and the governing party loses, like the PCs did after three terms in 2007. They don’t lose in landslides, but because the island is so homogeneous, a change in government usually gives the then-opposition a huge majority. Most recently, in 2007, the PCs won 41% of the vote to the Liberal’s 53%, but the seats split 23-4 for the Liberals. Third parties are weak: the only third party to win a seat was the island’s terribly weak NDP in 1996. The PEI NDP is the weakest provincial NDP in the country, winning only 2% of the vote in 2007. It fails to run a full slate of candidates, and has no strong organization on the ground.

PEI is governed since 2007 by Robert Ghiz, a Liberal, and son of former Liberal Premier Joe Ghiz who served between 1986 and 1993. Ghiz has been a pretty decently popular Premier, and his reelection was never in jeopardy. However, a dull campaign turned violent in the last few days as opposition leader Olive Crane seized the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) scandal and used it against the Liberals. In the PNP program, immigrants invested their money into PEI businesses in return for immigrant status, but the program spun out of hand and a lot of the investment ended up in the pockets of MLAs and even Ghiz’s extended family. The PCs gained 5 points in polls in a month with the scandal, and probably spoiled Ghiz’s hope of having a clean-sweep of all 27 seats. The NDP failed to nominate a full slate (14/27, less than in 2007), and slumped in polls after peaking at 13% in June in the wake of the federal NDP’s orange crush in May.

The results are as follows. Changes from the last election, though the Liberals gained the PC seat of Belfast-Murray River in a 2007 by-election despite it being the seat of former PC Premier Pat Binns.

Liberal 51.39% (-1.54%) winning 22 seats (-1)
PC 40.18% (-1.17%) winning 5 seats (+1)
Greens 4.35% (+1.31%) winning 0 seats (nc)
NDP 3.16% (+1.2%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Island 0.91% (+0.91%) winning 0 seats

CBC has the results in its interactive map thing. Barely anything changed in this election. Despite another lopsided seat count, PEI remains very much a two-party province with the opposition accounting for over 40% of the vote despite taking only 5 seats. Ghiz’s reelection was never once in doubt as Premiers in PEI – or in the Maritimes and a lot of other provinces for that matter – usually need to try very, very hard to lose reelection after only one term in office. What is slightly surprising is his reduced majority, but the PNP scandal likely hurt the Liberals in the final days of the campaign. Ghiz will return for another term, which could be his last given the traditional cycle of government on the island. The opposition returns strengthened, which will save Olive Crane from leadership trouble within the PCs. The PCs can take this result as a victory, as they enlarged their caucus whereby in most second-term reelections for PEI governments, the opposition usually loses a seat or two.

The only major division on this homogeneous island has been religion. Traditionally, Catholics, concentrated in westernmost Prince County have voted Liberal while Protestants, who are important in easternmost Kings County voted Conservative. This is not always the rule, and sometimes you find Kings voting Liberal while Prince votes Conservative. This is actually what happened federally in 2008 and 2011: Egmont, which covers Prince County, was the only riding to elect a Conservative. But provincially, the rule holds a bit better these days. The PCs, like in 2007, did best in Kings. They did win one seat in Prince, Tignish-Palmer Road, which happens to be the former riding of federal Conservative MP Gail Shea. The Liberals did very well and had a huge swing in their favour in Evangeline-Miscouche, where their incumbent MLA Sonny Gallant won 77%. Evangeline-Miscouche is the core of PEI’s small Acadian French community and is traditionally Liberal. Overall, the PCs lost two seats they won in 2007 including Belfast-Murray River which they lost to the Liberals in a 2007 by-election and failed to win back. They gained three seats from the Liberals.

The Greens and NDP both increased their support by 1% apiece. Again, the Greens ended up ahead of the NDP likely because they ran 22 candidates to the NDP’s 14. The PEI Greens are rather left-wing and into stuff like organic food. Both parties did best in urban Charlottetown, the Green leader Sharon Labchuk received 12.9% in Charlottetown-Victoria Park while the NDP did best in Charlottetown-Lewis Point with 10%.

October 3 also saw elections in the Northwest Territories (NWT), also in Canada. NWT uses non-partisan consensus government, so it’s hard to report on elections there. A cabinet minister apparently lost his riding, while the NWT will get a new Premier as the incumbent retired this year. Nunavut also uses consensus government, but the Yukon – which votes next Tuesday – has partisan government.

Manitoba votes today, October 4. Ontario votes Thursday, October 6. Newfoundland and Yukon vote Tuesday, October 11. Saskatchewan votes in a bit over a month.