So I'm still looking at the 2008 election. I got to thinking primarily about Québec, and how the 'provincial averages' tell so little of the story, as one riding could have numbers remarkably different from another. I got to wondering where in Québec the 'average riding' might be - where 'average' can be defined as having vote percentages closest to the provincial averages. So if province-wide 38.1% of people voted BQ and 23.7% voted Liberal, in this riding as close as possible to 38.1% of voters voted BQ (sending a Bloc MP to Ottawa) and as close as possible to 23.7% of voters voted Liberal.
So for each riding, I calculated the per-party 'deviation' from the provincial average and added them together. So, in this example, if a riding saw a 36.4% BQ vote and, say, a 29.0% Liberal vote, that would be a 1.7 point deviation for the BQ and a 5.3 deviation for the Liberals, totalling 7.0 - before calculating other parties. Well, before calculating the Conservatives, the NDP and the Greens. I didn't bother with minor parties and I didn't bother with independents - which obviously screws up Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier. Actually my numbers for that riding would be doubly screwed up, since the lack of a CPC candidate doesn't mean an additional 21.7 deviation (as it probably should) - it merely means that there are no CPC numbers for the calculation at all. In any case, the extent to which votes for André Arthur can be seen as distinct from CPC votes in debatable. There are a small handful of Québec ridings that didn't have a Green candidate either.
So anyway, here are the results:
- The winner for "least deviant Québec riding" - or "best Québec microcosm"... is a tie. Both Shefford and Compton-Stanstead deviate from the Québec norm by a total of only 9.6. Those are pretty impressive numbers, really. Compare:
- BQ province-wide: 38.1%. In Shefford: 42.8%. In Compton-Stanstead: 41.9%.
- Liberals province-wide: 23.7%. In Shefford: 21.4%. In Compton-Stanstead: 22.5%.
- CPC province-wide: 21.7%. In Shefford: 19.6%. In Compton-Stanstead: 19.4%.
- NDP province-wide: 12.2%. In Shefford: 12.5%. In Compton-Stanstead: 11.3%.
- Greens province-wide: 3.5%. In Shefford: 3.7%. In Compton-Stanstead: 4.9
- Both of these ridings are in the Eastern townships, an area whose linguistic demographics are rather typical of the province as a whole (despite a minimal allophone population). Both have gone BQ in the previous two elections, and before that both supported a PC candidate in 1997 who crossed the floor to the Liberals for the 2000 election (both Jean Charest and Paul Martin are native sons, incidentally). Shefford has existed as a riding since confederation, so it might be interesting to look at older elections to see how much of a microcosm it really is. Another day, though.
- Vaudreuil-Soulanges at 10.7. This Montérégie riding has traditionally been a pretty safe seat for the Liberals, so it's impressive that star candidate Marc Garneau managed in 2006 to lose in this riding to the BQ candidate.
- Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine at 12.0. This is the easternmost riding south of the St. Lawrence, and it's a bit tough to trace its history, since the Gaspé has been carved up several times recently. But it seems to be a pretty competitve area with no real historical loyalty to anyone, having elected the Liberals, the (Progressive) Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois in recent history.
- Alfred-Pellan at 12.3. This riding in the city of Laval has tended to go BQ since the creation of that party, though like Laval as a whole has been a two-way BQ-Liberal race.
By contrast, here are the five most deviant ridings. It doesn't mean much, really: it either shows loyalty to one star candidate or another or otherwise shows location in Montréal. Still, they're five interesting ridings, wildly atypical at present:
- Beauce, at 83.2. Beauce's deviation is due to its remarkably strong support (62.4%) for local Conservative hero Maxime Bernier (which leads, of course, to relatively dimmer support for his competitors). Beauce is also an Eastern Townships riding, though it's closer to Québec City than the others we've looked at. It has also existed since Confederation and has a long and proud history of lending strong support to newsmaking MPs, including Bernier's father Gilles, elected twice as a PC and once as an independent, Fabien Roy, the last major leader of the Social Credit Party, and three-time independent MP Raoul Poulin. It has never returned a BQ MP.
- Jonquière-Alma at 79.9. This Côte-Nord riding, like Beauce, has a strong Conservative MP in Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who got 52.6% of the vote. This riding is noteworthy for having almost no Liberal presence in recent years: in 2008, they got 5.16% of the vote, and in 2006 before that, they got less than 3%, the lowest Liberal performance in the whole country.
- Mount Royal at 76.6. Réal Caouette's famous comment that a mailbox could win an election in Mount Royal (merely because it's red in colour) holds true. Mount Royal is the safest Liberal seat in the country, having returned Liberal MPs in every election since 1940. It was Pierre Trudeau's own riding. An amazingly diverse riding where Francophones are a smaller population than either Anglophones or Allophones and the largest religion is Judaism, it has never seen a BQ candidate get more than 7% of the vote (in 2008, the BQ candidate finished fifth). Current MP Irwin Cotler was first elected in a 1999 by-election with 92% of the vote.
- Outremont at 74.3. Outremont is Mount Royal's neighbour on the island of Montréal, and like it tends to return Liberal MPs, though not with such resoundng majorities, as the Bloc tend to do well too in this riding that straddles East and West Montréal. A 2007 by-election saw both parties lose support to the NDP's Thomas Mulcair, who in 2008 became the first NDP candidate ever to win a Québec riding in a general election. Obviously it is his high numbers that skew this riding.
- Westmount-Ville-Marie at 73.7. Neighbour to both Mount Royal and Outremont, this riding occupies a very 'deviant' area of Montréal. Again it's a Liberal stronghold, with high Liberal numbers by Québec standards, but it also brought in the province's second-best NDP numbers in 2008. The two parties combined for almost 70% of the vote. At 7.3%, the Bloc are no threat in this riding., where Anglos are a larger number than the statistically-tied Francos and Allos. This is where Marc Garneau in 2008 finally managed to get elected.