Sunday, 4 October 2015

My guide to and questions about the upcoming Canadian federal election

In just over two weeks time, Canada will have its general election, which like elections in the UK involves the use of the unfair first past the post system. The fact that there will be 30 extra ridings (for Britain read constituencies) will unfortunately help the Canadian Conservatives in terms of notional extra seats, just as extra seats added under boundary changes in the UK at each review since 1983 have notionally given the UK's Conservatives more extra seats notionally than other parties.

I know quite a few Canadians (one of my opponents in Hemel Hempstead at the last general election was Canadian himself) and I take a good interest in elections of nations all around the world, which is why I am covering this.

Opinion polls have been fluctuating substantially in the last few months, with the New Democratic Party (Canada's closest answer to our own Labour Party), the Liberals, and the Conservatives each being in the lead at least a few times with each party being within at least 10 percentage points of each other. However, in opinion polls of the last week, it has mainly been the Liberals (led by Justin Trudeau, son of the late Pierre Trudeau who was Prime Minister of Canada from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984) in the lead with the NDP slipping back slightly. Meanwhile, the Greens, I am pleased to hear, are showing a significant improvement on their 2011 performance currently, and the Bloc Quebecois could potentially lose all of their remaining 4 seats, particularly with the Strength in Democracy group splitting their vote in key ridings and with Andre Bellavance running as an independent.

1. Who is running in this election?

The Conservatives, the Liberals, and the NDP are running candidates in all 338 ridings, with the Canadian Greens running in 336 (all except Labrador and Kelowna-Lake Country). The Bloc Quebecois is running in all 78 of Quebec's ridings. Minor parties with substantial numbers of candidates include the Libertarian Party with 72, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada with 70, the Christian Heritage Party with 30, the Rhinoceros Party (similar to Die PARTEI of Germany and our own OMRLP) with 27, the Communist Party of Canada with 26, and Strength in Democracy (or Forces et Democratie in French, since it was founded by a former Bloc Quebecois MP) with 17, including two incumbent MPs who defected to it. There are also 74 independent candidates (including MPs who have resigned from their caucus or been thrown out of it), and five others who could not register their party affiliations with Elections Canada (e.g. due to their party not having enough members).

2. Where are they key electoral battlegrounds in Canada?

In the provinces of Ontario, particularly Toronto and its suburbs, and also Quebec. Within Alberta, Edmonton is the only major area where seats are likely to change hands in spite of the decisive victory the NDP managed over the Conservatives in Alberta's provincial election just five months ago. Toronto suburbs like Etobicoke and Scarborough, and also three-way marginal ridings like Avalon, Halifax West, and Winnipeg North will be ridings to watch carefully here.

3. Will the Green Party of Canada be able to pick up extra seats in this election?

Just possibly, but it is sadly unlikely despite the personal popularity of Elizabeth May, almost certain to retain her (redistricted) riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands. This is due to the fact there are very few other ridings where the Green vote is strong enough, even in British Columbia, to be in a position to win. It is unlikely that Bruce Hyer and Jose Nuniz, who defected from the NDP and Liberals to run as Greens in their ridings, will be re-elected, and the only riding that has a realistic chance to be gained by the Greens is Victoria (not far from Saanich-Gulf Islands) which they nearly won in a by-election in 2012. On other places of Vancouver Island where they are comparatively strong, there will be a tight squeeze between the NDP and Conservatives which will likely prevent their advance.

4. Are the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois likely to make a recovery?

The Liberals will likely make a strong recovery in this election, although they will find it much easier to win Conservative-held ridings than NDP-held ridings, and it is not certain Monsieur Trudeau will become Canada's next Prime Minister. The Bloc Quebecois is not only very unlikely to make any real recovery, but could potentially be eliminated from the Canadian House of Commons since the NDP is still doing well (they were the main beneficiaries of the Bloc Quebecois' near wipeout of 2011) and because there is so much disorganisation in the BQ still.

5. Is a coalition government a possibility from this Canadian election?

Yes, although whether it will be led by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair or M. Trudeau, and the consequences of such a coalition to Canadian voters, remains to be seen. It is unlikely Stephen Harper will remain Canadian PM, because the Conservatives are often behind in the polls and unlike David Cameron in Britain, Mr Harper has no coalition partner to pass the blame onto (since the Conservatives have a single-party majority at present) in order to lessen the blow. Even if the Conservatives somehow still top the poll, the Liberals and NDP could still have enough seats between them to oust them from power.

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