Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Has anyone thought about minority governments and coalitions emerging from a dead heat Canadian general election?

Without rolling up more Ontario seats, NDP leader Tom Mulcair will need 
a coalition with the Liberals to form a government. Strategic voting 
may happen after the election dust settles.

New Democrats are polling OK along with the Liberals at the expense of the Conservative core vote of 39.6 percent.  A hung parliament could be the result on election day. That would be a new phenomenon for Canada and that situation could spawn a coalition government.

With the Federal election two and a half months away on 19 October averaging many recent polls shows that the New Democratic Party and their leader Tom Mulcair are polling not great but better. And so are the Liberals. In the new Parliament there will be 338 seats which means to get a majority government a party must get 170 seats. At this point no one party seems completely capable of a majority.

It looks like a three way split and the stuff of a minority government will be the result. In the 2011 election Stephen Harper’s Conservatives formed a majority government with 39.6 percent of the popular vote. The Liberals got 18.9 percent and the NDP formed the official opposition with 30.6 percent. The Greens took 3.9 percent. The Block Quebecois got 6.0 percent and about 1 percent went to other candidates.

This summer comparing the 2011 election popular vote the Conservatives have dropped to 31 percent for a loss of about seven percent. The Liberals have increased to 26.1 percent or gone up from 2011 by 7.2 percent. The NDP is steady from 2011 election results. The Greens show an increase of 3.7 percent from 2011.  Bloc Quebecois appear to be dropping from 6 percent in 2011 to 5.4 percent.

The potential is for a dead heat election where no party can get the majority number of 170 seems likely. Seeing this trend the voters may simply shift their vote to one party as they recently did in Alberta. The question is which party will be the recipient of the people’s favour? 

The recent Alberta provincial election of a New Democrat government was unexpected. The mood of the Canadian electorate is very intangible at the moment. It may herald change at the federal level similar to Alberta. The NDP sweep of Quebec in the 2011 Federal Election demonstrates that the electorate is volatile. However the NDP numbers in Ontario at the moment preclude them forming a government.

They may be tired of the Harper Government, wary of giving the Liberals a mandate and will want to try the New Democrats. If the people give the New Democrats a shot at government they may do so with a minority to see how it all can work. That means that the Liberals would support the NDP.

Crudely because it can only be crude since each riding is very complex about who gets first past the post but if the current percentages hold in this basic model then the Conservatives might get 95 seats. The NDP could get 100 seats and the Liberals 88 seats. That’s a total of 283 seats held by NDP. Liberals and Conservatives. That leaves 55 seats up for grabs. Several will go to the Bloc Quebecois and several more maybe to the Green Party. 

So let’s say that we spread the remaining 45 seats according to the projected  percentages of the polls. That means the Conservatives would get 13 more seats for a total of 108.  The NDP would get 14 more seats for a total of 114 and the Liberals would pick up 12 giving a total of 100.

Obviously a Parliament split this fine could only form a government with a coalition. Of course Canadians have no traditions for coalition governments. However this situation as expressed here has never happened in Canada because of first past the post wins as result of the splits seen here and in the polling numbers for 2015 and the actual results for the 2011 federal election when a Conservative majority was achieved with 39.6 percent.

And that could happen again unless the NDP and Liberals begin to eclipse the Harper Government by wider margins in more and more ridings. Can that happen? We’ll know in about 68 days.

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