NDP solidifies lead in latest seat projections

Published on Aug. 25, 2015, in the Global News Toronto.

The NDP is solidifying its lead over the governing Conservatives according to the latest seat projections showing the party with an 18-seat lead.

Harper’s Conservatives have suffered a net loss of five seats over the last two weeks – one in Quebec, three in Ontario, and two in British Columbia (while picking up one in the prairies).

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A desire for change is in the air

Published on Aug. 24, 2015, in the Waterloo Region Record.

Everyone remembers the three big surprises of election night, May 2, 2011.

The first surprise: after three consecutive elections had produced minority governments (Liberal in 2004, Conservative in 2006 and 2008), voters in 2011 gave the Conservatives a majority with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote. Second: propelled by their “orange surge” in Quebec, the NDP won an astonishing 103 seats (to the Conservatives’ 166) and became the official opposition in Parliament. Third: the Liberal vote collapsed and the once-mighty party dropped like a stone into third place with just 34 seats and a meager 19 per cent of the popular vote.

A smart person would not bet on anything in this 2015 election other than this: there will be more surprises on Oct. 19.

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We are already three weeks into the election with eight long weeks stretching ahead – plenty of time for multiple surprises. On the surface, nothing much has happened in the first three weeks, aside from the daily drip-drip of the Mike Duffy trial. But below the surface, out of the sight of the television cameras, something is going on.

Politicians will attest that the most potent force in an election is the desire for change. Last week, Forum Research published a national poll that reported that 71 per cent of respondents want a change of government.

Seventy-one per cent! That’s astonishing. Is the poll wrong? Maybe, but probably not by too much. A desire for change has been in the political air for many months.

How do the Harper Conservatives cope with a force like that? How do they turn it around, or throttle it back? So far, they have been campaigning against the current, presenting themselves as the party of the status quo, the party that stands against significant change in all important matters, especially their twin issues – the need for a steady hand on the economy and emphasis on law, order and public security. More of the same is the Harper mantra.

The mantra is not helping much. The latest polls put the Conservatives at, or just below, 30 per cent – in the other words, about 10 points below their 2011 vote, and perhaps four points behind the New Democrats in this campaign, with the Liberals right on the Tories’ heels.

What happens on Oct.19 if an irresistible force (the desire for change) meets an immovable object (the status quo)? I would put my money on the irresistible force, but we have eight weeks to go and anything can happen. The Tories may be able to persuade voters that change is not worth the risk, an international or domestic crisis may intervene, or one or both of the principal opposition parties may make a ghastly error.

On the same day last week as the Forum Research poll, the Montreal newspaper La Presse published a new CROP poll that put Thomas Mulcair’s NDP at 47 per cent in Quebec, which the pollsters said would enable the party to exceed its 2011 results when, under the late Jack Layton, it surged from nowhere to 59 seats in the province.

If this Quebec momentum continues and if some of it spills over into Ontario – which is possible – the NDP could pull off the biggest surprise of Oct.19 by winning the election.

As for the Conservatives, they are counting on desire-for-change voters to split roughly evenly between the NDP and the Liberals, and thereby enable the Tories to eke out at least a minority government. But that may not happen. Voters who are serious about change may flock to whichever opposition party they feel offers the best chance of getting rid of the Harper party.

It is also possible, if 71 per cent want change, that both opposition parties could attract enough voters to finish ahead of the decidedly unpopular Tories. Like the Liberals of 2011, they could slide into third place. They would be another surprise to remember!

Polling industry going through changes

Published on Aug. 22, 2015 in the Waterloo Region Record.

Election campaigns are notoriously unpredictable but one thing is certain: Canadians will be bombarded with public opinion polls until the federal vote on Oct. 19.

But how accurate and representative are the data?

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Wynne defends campaigning for Trudeau

Published on Aug. 19, 2015, in the Waterloo Region Record.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has frequently waded into federal politics through clashes with Stephen Harper, but in the midst of a federal election campaign she isn’t easing off — she has jumped in with both feet.

“I’ve also been clear that I support Justin Trudeau, and I will continue to look for a partner at the federal level that is bringing forward polices that will make sense for the people of Ontario.”

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Ontario’s Wynne jumps into federal campaign

Published on Aug. 19, 2015, in The Chronicle Herald. 

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has frequently waded into federal politics through clashes with Stephen Harper, but in the midst of a federal election campaign she isn’t easing off — she has jumped in with both feet.

Wynne has been actively campaigning for federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, but nearly as often as she promotes her federal counterpart she slams the prime minister, which could be seen as payback for Stephen Harper’s attacks against her in last year’s provincial election.

“She certainly wants to score points with the federal Liberal party and have Justin Trudeau owe her, and he will (if the Liberals win).”

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Federal Election 2015: Kathleen Wynne Wading Into Campaign

Published on Aug. 20, 2015, in the Huffington Post Canada.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has frequently waded into federal politics through clashes with Stephen Harper, but in the midst of a federal election campaign she isn’t easing off — she has jumped in with both feet.

“Maybe the personal animosity between Wynne and Harper — whatever triggered it — is governing both their behaviours,” Kay said in an interview.

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Harper needs to change campaign narrative

Published on Aug.19, 2015, in the Waterloo Region Record.

One of the surprises emerging from the federal election campaign’s early days has been Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s reluctance to shake up the status quo and introduce new ideas and themes to the electorate.

It is still early days in the election, of course, and the current period might be likened to “spring training” in this 11-week campaign where new approaches are being tried and test-marketed on a limited basis, to see what might work when the citizenry really starts paying attention later next month.

Still, so far the Conservatives seem to have been caught flat-footed, thinking they could successfully run again on the themes of fiscal competence and ethical accountability as they have in the past.

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Guelph NDP candidate target of another Conservative online ad

Published on Aug. 17, 2015, in the Guelph Mercury

The federal election campaign is not yet three weeks old but Guelph NDP candidate Andrew Seagram is already the target of two online attack ads by the national Conservatives, raising questions about the role a candidate’s digital past can play in their current campaign.

The first ad, posted on the official Conservative Facebook page on Aug. 10, lifts comments from Seagram’s personal Facebook page from 2007.

“This is all a consequence of the brave new social media world where everything is open,” he said, adding it’s interesting to see what gets a pass and what doesn’t.

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The Conservative tide turns and the election gets interesting

Published on Aug. 18, 2015 in the Waterloo Region Record.

Summer is no time for an election campaign.

People are busy doing more important things, like picnicking in the park. But while most of us are tuning politics out, a fascinating three-way race is shaping up across the country. The Liberals, New Democrats and Conservatives are in an unprecedented dead heat.

That’s what the latest polls show, and they haven’t changed much for the past two months, says Barry Kay, professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and one of Canada’s most widely respected election analysts.

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Harper not the only one eager to criticize Wynne and Ontario’s pension plan as a ‘payroll tax hike’

Published on Aug. 11, 2015 in the National Post.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was so eager to lambaste Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s pension plan announcement Tuesday, he asked himself the question.

Opposition parties and interest groups were as quick as Harper to criticize Wynne’s plans, but Barry Kay, a professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, isn’t so sure the ORPP will matter much on election day.

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Campaign’s length may not make much difference

Published on Aug. 17, 2015, in the Waterloo Region Record

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when the world was innocent and young Mike Duffy was a humble reporter dreaming of the Senate, everyone agreed that federal election campaigns were too long, far too long.

The norm in those days was 60-61 days. Campaign managers argued then that voters did not start paying attention until the last two weeks. So the early weeks were largely empty – given over to photo ops, posturing and feeding the maw of the news media, which grew desperate to find something, anything, that would make the election more interesting than it really was.

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Sixty days! I covered a bunch of those eight-week affairs. I remember listening to Pierre Trudeau make the same little speech at, if memory serves, 34 stops in one campaign. That was torture!

Eventually, legislation was introduced to abbreviate campaigns. The big change was the elimination of the door-to-door enumeration of electors. That system, in which officials would visit every household, made the Canadian voters’ list the most accurate in the world.

According to experts of the day, its replacement by the current registration system may have disenfranchised up to 10 per cent of otherwise eligible voters, but that was deemed an acceptable price to pay to get campaigns down to today’s norm of 36-37 days.

The norm until now. Following the lead of British Columbia, Stephen Harper’s government in 2007 introduced a fixed election law that stipulated federal elections be held every four years on the third Monday in October. But (loophole alert!) it left the prime minister free to call the election later or earlier (as he did in 2011).

The so-called Fair Elections Act of 2014 introduced another loophole. It enabled the government to extend the writ period and to raise the spending ceiling for parties and candidates. In a 37-day campaign, each party would be allowed to spend about $24 million. By doubling this year’s campaign to 78 days, Harper made it possible for the parties to spend roughly $50 million, a move that theoretically benefits the party with the deepest pockets – to wit, Harper’s Conservatives.

So while the prime minister is off on his campaign jet, far away from the Mike Duffy-Nigel Wright follies in Ottawa, his opponents are, figuratively, left rummaging for bus fare.

I’m not sure this imbalance will make much difference. Impertinent questions about the Senate scandal will follow Harper wherever he goes as long as the trial is in the news. His superior spending power is allowing him to recycle attacks on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau  (“He’s just not ready”), but my sense is they have lost their impact. These ads may help a bit to shore up the Tory base,  but there is no evidence they are winning back estranged soft Conservatives or attracting erstwhile Liberal or NDP voters.

The opinion polls paint a very close picture. The NDP may be one or two points ahead of the Conservatives in the popular vote, while seat projections put the Tories either ahead, or behind,  by a few seats out of  338 seats in the next Parliament. Either way, they are roughly 45 seats short of a majority government.

The Liberals are clearly the spoilers, especially in Ontario, where the electorate seems prepared to move. With redistribution, Ontario will have 121 seats (up from 106). The Liberals ran a very weak third in the province in the 2011 election. Now, pollsters agree, they have moved into second ahead of the NDP.

The projections indicate the Conservatives stand to lose 20 seats in Ontario, notwithstanding the addition of 15 new seats in the province. It is difficult to see where in the country the Conservatives could gain enough momentum to overcome their loss of seats in Ontario.

A minority government, Conservative, NDP or conceivably Liberal, seems inevitable. But these are very early days, only two weeks into an interminable 11-week election. At some point, the public will tune in.

Élections fédérales: les conservateurs pourraient perdre des plumes au N.-B

Published on Aug. 14, 2015, in the Acadie Nouvelle

Si les élections fédérales avaient lieu aujourd’hui, le Parti conservateur du Canada au Nouveau-Brunswick en prendrait probablement pour son rhume, selon la projection de sièges du Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy.

Les conservateurs de Stephen Harper ont presque tout raflé au Nouveau-Brunswick en 2011 en ne laissant au Parti libéral et au Nouveau Parti démocratique qu’une circonscription chacun parmi les dix que compte la province.

Même s’il fera probablement mieux au Nouveau-Brunswcik qu’ailleurs en Atlantique, le parti du gouvernement sortant risque de perdre une partie de ses sièges lors du scrutin du 19 octobre.

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NDP lead continues to hold across Canada, according to latest seat projections

Published Aug. 13, 2015, in the Global News Toronto

It’s been a little over a week since the start of Canada’s federal election campaign and the latest seat projections continue to show a tight race with the NDP, led by Tom Mulcair, holding a small lead over Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

“Public opinion isn’t always changing dramatically. Now we have had two months where things haven’t changed,” said Barry Kay, a politics professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. “It’s really a pick in between the NDP and the Conservatives in terms of seats.”

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The polls are bad – their accuracy, that is

Published on Aug. 13, 2015 in the University Affairs

Barry Kay, a member of the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy, or LISPOP, has been doing seat projections for upcoming elections for the past 35 years. But, he warns, “People should understand I do not have a crystal ball. The fact is the model is only as good as the polls it is based on. If the polls are off, it will be off.” And, the bad news is that the polls are getting worse, he says.

Seat projections, as opposed to party popularity, were a novelty when Dr. Kay first started out but have attracted greater interest over the past decade or so. An associate professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, where LISPOP resides, Dr. Kay says his model has been accurate to within four seats per party over the past 15 federal elections.

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Canada election 2015: Strategic voting campaign targets Kitchener Centre riding

Published on Aug. 12, 2015, in CBC News Kitchener-Waterloo.

A group called Vote Together has started a strategic voting campaign in the Kitchener Centre riding, which the group says is an important battleground in the upcoming election.

Vote Together is targeting Kitchener Centre to ask people to vote against incumbent Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, because they say the area is a swing riding that saw a close result in the last federal election.

“Generally in voting we tend to think people should vote for the candidate or the party they like the best. Strategic voting sort of turns that on its head, and suggests that you vote against the party you least want to see win,” said Barry Kay, a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Wednesday.

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