Pundits' Guide to Canadian Elections

Latest Blog Post

By-Election Shocker! Conservatives retain Whitby-Oshawa

November 18th, 2014 | 17 Comments »

---- 2 ±±±± 1 ±±±± 0 ±±±± 1 ±±±± 2 ++++

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

By the time all the ballots were counted Monday night, former Whitby mayor Pat Perkins held Whitby-Oshawa for the Conservative Party with nearly 50% of the vote.

You could be forgiven for thinking this result was unlikely, given the extent to which Liberal talking points penetrated the media's pre-game analysis, egged on by some torqued analysis from the only pollster willing to give away his work for free anymore.

Forum Research polls vs Outcome, Nov 2014 by-elections

Party Whitby-Oshawa, ON Yellowhead, AB
Field Date Mon Oct 27 Tue Nov 11 Sun Nov 16 Mon NOV 17 Tue Nov 11 Sun Nov 16 Mon NOV 17
Sample Size n=894 n=811 n=919 E-Day n=406 n=311 E-Day
Cons 41 44 42 49.2% 62 51 62.6%
Lib 32 40 45 40.7% 16 24 20.0%
NDP 15 12 10 8.1% 12 13 9.5%
Grn 8 3 3 1.4%      
Oth 4 0 0 0.6% 10 13 7.9%

Conservative standard-bearer Perkins in fact exceeded the vote-share with which Jim Flaherty first wrested the riding away from Liberal MP Judi Longfield in 2006. Perkins finished the evening last night with 49.2% of the vote, as against the 43.9% earned by the beloved former Finance Minister in 2006. Her performance even exceeded Flaherty's 2008 vote-share – in the peak of the economic collapse whose handling won Flaherty international acclaim – though if you look at the raw votes, that was only because so many Liberals stayed home that year.

Whitby-Oshawa, ON - Party Vote Share, 2000 - 2014

Whitby-Oshawa, ON - Raw Party Vote, 2000 - 2014

The Conservatives' victory Monday was also notable given the effort made in particular by the Liberals to turn the by-election into a referndum on the Prime Minister's commitment to income-splitting, a policy whose redistributive impacts were criticized by Flahery in his final interviews as Finance Minister.

The Liberals certainly put in a herculean effort on the campaign, which paid off in a restored vote share and second-place standing as against their nemeses in the NDP (which presciently downplayed both its campaign efforts and expectations ahead of time).

Yet even draining the NDP of all but its most core base vote in this typical red-blue race in the 905 East, the Liberals were unable to pass the Conservatives, who again confounded Forum Research as they had done so many other pollsters in Ontario during the last federal election campaign with a substantial ballot-box bonus.

In other words, even though the Liberals have been successful in completely rebooting their field operations and adopting more modern campaign techniques for voter targeting, identification and GOTV, the Conservative ground game is still superior in Ontario and well capable of getting the job done, in spite of the Liberals' superior penetration of the media spin game.

A couple of other notes:

  • At 31.8%, the turnout in Whitby-Oshawa was as bad as that of Trinity-Spadina last June, and Yellowhead's 16.1% was nothing to crow about either after last summer's 15.4% in Fort McMurray-Athabasca. This means we have now had 3 by-elections with under 20% turnout in all of Canadian federal electoral history, all in the last six months.
  • The riding of Whitby-Oshawa, ON is not really comparable to the riding of Oshawa, ON demographically or electorally. The number of people who asserted otherwise in a paid capacity on TV in the last three days really makes me shake my head, when it's so easy to look it up. (Under the new boundaries, Whitby and Oshawa will each be their own seats, by the way.) Here are some of the major demographic differences which are significant for the relative electoral prospects of the parties:
2006 Census Measure / Other Measure Oshawa Whitby-Oshawa
Total visible minority population 8.52% 15.0%
University certificate, diploma or degree 9.04% 17.99%
Less than high school graduation certificate 27.31% 18.71%
Worked in a different census division (county) 19.57% 34.53%
Worked in census subdivision (municipality) of residence 38.79% 24.64%
Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations 18.40% 13.21%
Occupations unique to processing, manufacturing and utilities 10.46% 8.92%
Management occupations 8.08% 12.21%
Median income in 2005 – All private households $ 59,384 81,558
Median earnings – Persons 15 years and over $ 30,212 36,782
Single-detached houses – as a % of total occupied private dwellings 49.40% 71.80%
Dwellings – Built within last 20 years 22.39% 54.28%
Dwellings – Owned (vs Rented) 67.79% 83.29%
Average value of dwelling $ 223,308 304,668
 
Typical pre-2011 federal contest Cons-NDP Cons-Lib
Provincial 2014 contest NDP-Cons PC-Lib
  • Finally, some folks on Twitter were especially interested in the various parties' performance in the by-elections of the 41st Parliament. I've summarized the deltas in vote-share below, but let's also notice that any party not viewed as being "in the hunt" after Forum Research drops its typical baseline poll soon falls to the single digits or thereabouts. I'm not sure such also-ran vote-shares are predictive of what the party could expect in a general election, and I think it's a bit of sophistry to argue/spin otherwise.
Riding Contest Cons NDP Lib Grn BQ
Toronto-Danforth, ON NDP-Lib -9.0% -1.4% +10.9% -1.8%  
Durham, ON Cons-NDP -3.8% +5.2% -0.6% -1.3%  
Calgary Centre, AB Cons-Lib -20.8% -11.0% +15.2% +15.7%  
Victoria, BC NDP-Grn -9.1% -13.6% -0.9% +22.7%  
Labrador, NL Lib-Cons -7.3% -1.0% +9.1%    
Bourassa, QC Lib-NDP -4.2% -0.9% +7.2% +0.4% -3.0%
Toronto Centre, ON Lib-NDP -13.9% +6.2% +8.1% -2.1%  
Brandon-Souris, MB Cons-Lib -19.6% -17.8% +37.3% -0.8%  
Provencher, MB Cons-Lib -12.5% -9.7% +23.2% +0.8%  
Scarborough-Agincourt, ON Lib-Cons -4.9% -9.6% +14.0% -0.9%  
Trinity-Spadina, ON Lib-NDP -11.0% -20.4% +30.3% +1.1%  
Fort McMurray-Athabasca, AB Cons-Lib -25.1% -1.8% +24.9% -1.0%  
Macleod, AB Cons-Lib -8.3% -6.1% +13.3% +0.8%  
Whitby-Oshawa, ON Cons-Lib -9.2% -14.2% +26.6% -3.5%  
Yellowhead, AB Cons-Lib -14.5% -3.5% +17.1%    

 


Earlier Blog Posts

UPDATED: Conservatives pass 50% mark in nominating 2015 slate

November 10th, 2014

As of this past week, the Conservative Party reached the 50% milestone in terms of the percentage of its 2015 slate of candidates nominated on the new boundaries. The effort required to bring the governing party to this level of readiness – and before any of its competitors, though in fairness it had a lot […]

[more]

A Note on New Riding Names

November 9th, 2014

There's probably a longer post to be had on things to watch out for when analyzing post-redistribution ridings and the transposition of votes, but it seems one source of confusion that needs to be urgently ironed out is the fact that 31 new ridings have had their names changed by an Act of Parliament *after* […]

[more]

UPDATED: 2015 Federal: The Not-Running and the Not-Sure

November 9th, 2014

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!] While the number of MPs announcing their retirement at the next election might seem high, it's still not that big by historical standards. [UPDATE: The date of Liberal MP Ralph Goodale’s November 13 nomination meeting has been added below, thanks to commenter Bruce. Also, thanks to Will at National Newswatch for […]

[more]

Contested Nominations the New Normal for Non-incumbents

October 29th, 2014

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!] If you're not already in Parliament, chances are you're going to have to win a nomination contest to get there in 2015. That's because of the large number of competitive races we're seeing to carry party colours into the next federal election — especially in comparison with previous elections this century, […]

[more]

Conservative Software Project Went Into Production in 2013, Financial Statements Show

July 3rd, 2014

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!] The Conservative Party's mysterious software project was no longer listed as an "asset under development", but rather full-fledged "computer software", in financial statements the party recently filed with Elections Canada for the 2013 calendar year. This is one of several storylines to emerge from the 2013 annual financial statements just filed […]

[more]

June By-election Turnout: How low could we go? (You don’t want to know)

July 1st, 2014

Until Monday, Canada had never had a federal by-election with turnout under 20%. As of today – Canada Day – we've had two of them. Whether by accident or design, the decision by the Prime Minister to hold four federal by-elections on the Monday between a summer weekend and a statuatory holiday led to the […]

[more]

Three Strategic Lessons and Seven Kinds of Ridings from the Ontario Election

June 16th, 2014

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!] As always, the real data story is found in the cross-tabs. The Ontario Liberals and Ontario NDP each gained a percentage point in popular support in Thursday's election, but they did not do so evenly, nor in the same places. Unfortunately for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, they lost nearly everywhere. The […]

[more]

UPDATED: GUEST POST – The Morning After: Valid Minority Government Options in Ontario

June 12th, 2014

Late last month I attended some of the Canadian Political Science Association's annual meeting sessions and live-tweeted them. One session that was very interesting, but was in part too fast to live-tweet, was on the issue of constitutional conventions in the case of a minority government. The panel included Professor Peter Russell, former Ontario Premier […]

[more]

Summer By-elections to Challenge Party Organizations

May 12th, 2014

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!] What if they called a by-election and nobody came … out to vote, that is. That's the challenge now facing candidates and campaigners in the four federal by-elections called Sunday for Monday, June 30. The day before Canada Day. On what probably half the country will try to take off work […]

[more]