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article imageOp-Ed: Tories, NDP almost tied in prediction for party to win most seats

By Ken Hanly     Jul 18, 2015 in Politics
Ottawa - The probability of the Conservatives under leader Stephen Harper winning the next federal election is 50.4, according to a Globe and Mail model.
While the New Democratic Party(NDP) has a small lead over the Conservatives in recent polls, this does not necessarily mean the NDP will take more seats than the Conservatives. For example, almost doubling support in Alberta from the last election may do little to change the huge margins by which many federal Conservatives win in Alberta. The prediction assumes current conditions, past voting behavior and normal campaign changes.
The Liberals, who had hoped to do well with their young new leader Justin Trudeau have only a 2.9 per cent chance of winning the most seats. However, the probablity of the NDP and Liberals together winning a majority of seats is 97.2 percent. In any European country this would mean the NDP and Liberals should join in a coalition government especially since both are to left of the Conservatives. However, coalitions in Canada are seen as unpopular. Justin Trudeau has insisted he would not form a coalition with the NDP. If the Conservatives do not get a majority they might decide to rule simply as a minority government.
The NDP is often regarded as a spendthrift party since they favor expenditures on social programs. However, historically the data do not support this as shown here. The NDP has never been in power federally so the data for the NDP is of provincial governments. Another article points out that the recent NDP government in Manitoba has seen increasing debt levels and downgrading by Moody's, but there is no comparison with what is happening in other provinces and a couple of examples do not change the overall statistics.
Data from the Poll Tracker show predicted seat results if an election were held now based on a number of recent polls. There are very helpful graphs and charts with the results. There will be 338 seats up for grabs in the House of Commons. To form a majority a party needs 170 seats. The NDP would win 128 seats; the Conservatives, 118 seats; Liberals, 88; Bloc Quebecois, 3; Green Party, 1. The Bloc Quebecois is a separatist party that runs only in Quebec province. The Poll Tracker gives a different result than the Globe simulations but are in the same general range. While the NDP wins over the Conservatives, they are nowhere near a majority position being 42 seats short.
The Liberals gain 27 seats in Ontario compared to 2011. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan the NDP has gained a number of seats despite the NDP being far less popular provincially in Saskatchewan than the conservative Saskatchewan party. A fascinating article at the National Observer shows how Harper's Conservatives might win the election.
Well-known Toronto-based election consultant Warren Kinsella, a former campaign strategist for Jean Chretien predicts : “Harper is going to win [the next election]...Until the progressive side gets its act together, Harper is going to win because [the progressives] are splitting the vote. It’s a perfect cleavage." The left vote is split at least three ways in Canada between the NDP, the Liberals, and the Green Party. Often as the election nears the Liberals will urge leftists in other parties to vote for them as the only practical alternative. In third place this time, that narrative is not likely to work.
Harper is willing to use vicious tactics to win elections. Mike Casey, a veteran Democratic communications consultant in Virignia claims: “Stephen Harper is willing to burn the house down to own the lot. ‘I will bring a gun to a knife fight. You can call foul while you’re lying bleeding on the floor' — that is the kind of ethic.”
Kinsella notes however, that Conservative success is based upon extensive research:“What the Conservatives have been able to do for a decade now is high quality research – the kind of research that only previously Coca-Cola and Procter and Gamble could afford,”
Conservative ad strategists believe that their is no sense directing ads towards people who you know are not going to vote for you. Patrick Muttart, one of Harper's top advisers since 2004, said: “Close campaigns are decided by the least informed, least engaged voters. These voters do not go looking for political news and information. This necessitates brutally simple communication with clear choices that hits the voter, whether they like it or not.” Conservative strategists use an approach called "hypersegmentation" in which party polling identifies voter demands and then ads are designed to appeal to specific segments of the population often with the help of focus groups. Research identifies seniors, working-class suburbanites especially in suburbs of Vancouver and Toronto, and families as the best targets. Policies were adopted to gain their votes to with income splitting for seniors, and families were extended tax credits. The Jewish community was offered full support for Israel.
Muttart even gives names to the different group segments. There are "Zoes" who are young, single, female, progressive downtown apartment-dwellers. Zoes are a lost cause, will never vote Conservative and should be ignored. Conservatives should target their messages to "Steves and Heathers" who are married, Protestant, small business owners with children. They are in their forties and live in the suburbs. They should also target "Eunices," widows in their seventies living on modest pensions. These groups can be usefully targeted with ads designed to entice them to vote Conservative. We will know on election day whether these well-honed techniques can overcome the accumulation of negative baggage the Conservatives have accumulated and the negative effects of a slowing Canadian economy.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Conservative party canada, New democratic party, canadian federal election, Justin trudeau
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