Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Watching on election night: early indicators, and seats that matter

VICTORIA - Here's a handy guide to watching the election results roll across your TV screen Monday night, including a look at the most interesting B.C. seats.
It looks like a strong Conservative minority government - maybe 135 to 140 seats, a few more than the Liberals won in 2004.  The Liberals should win about 88, a big drop from the 135 in 2004 The NDP should gain ground, ending up with about 30 seats, and the Bloc Quebecois should stay at about 55 seats.
But who knows. This is a volatile election. People disgusted by Liberal scandals have been telling pollsters they plan to vote Conservative. But now that Paul Martin is clearly going to be punished nationally, some may support their local Liberal candidate, or opt for the NDP. The most recent Ipsos poll found nine per cent of those surveyed in B.C. say they would change their vote if a Conservative majority government seemed likely, with the Liberals most likely to gain from such a shift.
When you turn on your TV at 7 p.m., the results from Atlantic Canada should be known. The Conservatives won seven seats last time. If they're on the road to 11 seats this time, then a Harper majority government will be looking likely. Voters in the Eastern provinces have complained that Harper sees them as the slightly slow cousins in the Canadian family; if he has won them over the Conservatives will be on a roll.
The vote-counting starts in Ontario and Quebec 30 minutes before the polls close in B.C., so there won't be many results when you start watching. But if the Conservatives are leading in one or two seats in Quebec, or 45 in Ontario - they won 24 last time - then again you should start thinking majority.
But it's most likely that the outcome will still be in question as the B.C. results start coming in. The latest Ipsos poll shows almost no change in B.C. voter preference since the 2004 election, meaning about 20 close races.
Here's six seats worth extra attention.
- Skeena: The Conservatives own the Heartland's 10 seats, with two exceptions. In the Southern Interior riding Harper dumped the party's candidate over smuggling charges. The NDP will win that seat. And in Skeena incumbent New Democrat Nathan Cullen hopes to beat back a challenge from former Reform MP Mike Scott. Cullen should win; if Scott prevails, it will be a very good night for the Conservatives.
- Esquimalt: Keith Martin jumped from the Conservatives to the Liberals in 2004, and has always had a reputation as an independent MLA. But he's up against credible NDP and Conservative candidates, and has been sabotaged by the lame national Liberal campaign. (The riding has a large Canadian Forces base; Martin said his party's attack ad about soldiers in city streets was idiocy.) The riding should be a key indicator of the tide in B.C.
- Victoria: NDP candidate Denise Savoie has the highest political profile, but Robin Baird should benefit from the Conservatives' strong national campaign. David Anderson held the riding for the Liberals for 13 years, but candidate David Mulroney is much less well-known and can't argue that electing a Liberal could give the city a seat at the cabinet table. The early results could signal whether the Conservatibes or NDP will prevail in the tight two-way races.
- Fleetwood-Port Kells: Nina Grewal is trying to hold the seat for the Conservatives, hampered by the weird courtship between husband Gurmant and Ujjal Dosanjh. The Liberals have underachieving provincial Liberal Brenda Locke, rejected by voters last May, and the NDP is running the often unsuccessful candidate Barry Bell. Whoever wins, the result will signal the party's strength.
- Surrey North: Independent Chuck Cadman's riding. Based on history, it should go Conservative. But Cadman's widow Dona has endorsed former provincial cabinet minister Penny Priddy, running for the NDP. (The Conservative, David Matta, says he voted for Cadman in 2004.)
- Vancouver Centre: Svend Robinson versus Hedy Fry. Theft versus fantasies about burning crosses. I'm not sure what the results will signify, but like a car wreck it is impossible not to look.
There are others, on the Island and in Vancouver.
But focus on these six ridings, and the early returns from the East, and you'll have a sense of how this election will turn out.
Footnote: Close races, as always, could be decided by voters who stay home. The Ipsos poll found 56 per cent of those surveyed thought Harper was too extreme to be prime minister, and 64 per cent believe the Liberal Party is fundamentally corrupt. The sentiments suggest a low turnout.

1 comment:

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Still think that Harper is not intent on making radical changes to Canada?
Then read these extracts from today’s newspapers:
“For some time to come” ....
Stephen Harper moved to reassure wary voters yesterday that a Liberal-dominated Senate, judiciary and civil service would provide plenty of checks and balances should his party walk away with a majority next Monday.
"The reality is that we will have, for some time to come, a Liberal Senate, a Liberal civil service -- at least senior levels have been appointed by the Liberals -- and courts that have been appointed by the Liberals," Mr. Harper said.
"So these are obviously checks on the power of a Conservative government."

Power to stack the Senate (as Mulroney did):
Mr. Harper could accelerate the switch to Conservative control by using special powers that allow a government to appoint extra senators -- Mr. Mulroney added eight to pass the goods and services tax -- but this could trigger a political backlash.
Senator Jack Austin, the Liberal Government Leader in the Senate, declined to talk yesterday about how his party would operate in the Red Chamber should the Conservatives take power.

And Tories muzzle their extremists:

Jim Hughes, of the Campaign Life Coalition, said yesterday that he loved Ms. Gallant's attacks against abortion in 2004.
"I thought it was great, I thought it was fantastic," he said in an interview.
Mr. Hughes said that this time around, the Conservative Party has clamped down and muzzled its candidates, "hurting our democratic rights."
"They are less open than they have been in the past because they've never been on the verge of such a victory," he said. "It's great politicking on their part."

So, still think there isn’t a hidden agenda?
Wake up, Canada.