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A plow clears a light snow from the pathways around Parliament Hill on Jan. 7, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A plow clears a light snow from the pathways around Parliament Hill on Jan. 7, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Crunching Numbers

Political deep freeze endures - even in hypothetical fantasyland Add to ...

A disunited left and an uninspiring right have conspired to elect three successive minority governments in Canada, with listless polls showing voters on track to install a fourth in 2011 or 2012. While the Conservatives have no competitors for support on the right, the existence of four parties to the left of the Tories has many musing on the possibility of various hypothetical scenarios. But estimations of what electoral results these scenarios would yield demonstrate it will take more than a merger or two to get Canada out of its political logjam.

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The results of the following four hypothetical scenarios were calculated based on a combination of ThreeHundredEight.com's projections, an EKOS second-choice poll conducted in August and the UBC's election forecaster. These estimations are not without their flaws, but give a good indication of what could be realistically expected.

1. No Greens. With the Green Party's support growing but without an electoral victory to their name, votes cast for Elizabeth May's team have been decried as lost ballots that would be better served electing Liberal or New Democratic MPs. The Greens have run candidates in the last eight elections, but were only a factor in the last three.

If they were still a non-factor, opposition parties would benefit but would still be unable to surpass the Tories, who would win 128 seats with 36 per cent of the vote. Not all Green supporters are to the left of the spectrum; according to the EKOS poll a little less than one in five voting Greens would cast their ballot for the Tories. The Liberals and New Democrats would take the bulk of the Green vote, boosting their national support to 33 and 19 per cent, respectively. But they would only make a few seat gains, the Liberals winning 12 more seats than they currently hold and the NDP only three.

2. No Bloc Québécois. The Bloc was born out of the failure of the Meech Lake Accord. Had the accord succeeded, it is plausible to assume the Bloc Québécois would never have existed.

In such a case, the social democratic NDP would take the place of the social democratic Bloc Québécois in the province, winning 30 per cent of the vote in the next election. The Liberals, at 29 per cent, would not be far behind while the Conservatives would take 24 per cent of the vote. This would result in the NDP winning 34 seats in the province, most of them coming in francophone Quebec outside of the two main cities. The Liberals would win 23 seats, mostly in and around Montreal and in the Gaspé, while the Conservatives would take 17 seats, concentrated around Quebec City and the Saguenay region.

Using current projections for the rest of the country, this change in Quebec would boost the Tories to 146 seats nationally, still short of a majority government. The Liberals would win 104 seats. With more than half of their caucus from Quebec, the NDP would win 57 seats. It would give the Liberals and New Democrats the possibility of forming a majority coalition.

3. United federalist left

What if the Liberals, New Democrats, and Greens put aside their differences and ran as one united party? A good deal of votes would drift to the Conservatives, but not enough to keep them in power.

With 44 per cent of the vote, the Liberal/NDP/Green behemoth would win 130 seats, about half of them in Ontario. The Conservatives would put up a tough fight, winning 41 per cent of the vote and 121 seats, about half of them in the western provinces. The Bloc Québécois would attract some voters unprepared to vote for a Liberal-led party, and win 56 seats in Quebec. Gilles Duceppe would hold the balance of power in such a scenario, as neither the Conservatives nor the left-wing coalition would be able to govern alone.

4. Liberal-NDP merger

Out of the four scenarios presented, this is the one that is most often cited as the solution to Canada's fragmented political situation. However, it is not without its problems.

An Angus-Reid poll conducted in May 2010 asked Canadians how they would vote if the Liberals and New Democrats merged under the leadership of Michael Ignatieff. The result was 40 per cent for the Conservatives and 34 per cent for the merged party.

The results of this exercise were only slightly different, with the Conservatives winning 38 per cent of the vote compared to 36 per cent for the merged "Liberal Democrats." The Conservatives would squeak out a plurality of seats with 127, 69 of them coming west of Ontario. The Lib-Dems would win 125 seats, including 61 in Ontario and 24 in Atlantic Canada. Passing comfortably in between the two parties would be the Bloc Québécois, winning 55 seats and again holding the balance of power.

In each of these scenarios, the margin between the Conservatives and the opposition parties is very narrow, virtually non-existent considering the limitations of the exercise. Accordingly, the results of these four hypothetical scenarios point to only one conclusion: if the parties to the left of the Conservatives hope to take power in Canada once again, it will take more than a re-arrangement of the parties or some other magic pill - they simply need to convince Canadians to vote for them.

Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobePolitics

 

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