Monday, March 21, 2011

The Progressive Fiction on the Eve

In the past, I've mused aloud about a theoretical 'Progressive Party' - not one that would unite the Liberals and NDP, since I don't consider the Liberals a progressive party, but one that would unite the NDP, the BQ and the Greens. Implausible though I realise this is, I consider those three parties to represent the 'progressive voice' in Canada, and if you combine their levels of support, based on current polling, you'd have a party that would surpass the Liberals and compete very closely with the Conservatives.

Now I know, I know - such a party could never exist, and were such a theoretical beast occur anyway its levels of support would not be the current levels of support of the three parties added together: the question of Québec sovereignty obviously complicates things. As does the fact that not all Green voters (or BQ voters for that matter) are politically to the left, though as a countervailing force a strong united-left party would siphon some support from the current Liberals.

Anyway, let me have my fun. Since we might be minutes away from an election, I thought I'd use the current numbers Éric Grenier has at his sight He combines recent polls and uses his own algorithms to make seat projections. At the moment he has the following:
  • The Conservatives: 38.3% support and 149 seats.
  • The Liberals: 27.4% and 75 seats.
  • The BQ, the NDP and the Greens in combination: 33.2% and 84 seats.

So just adding Grenier's seat counts for the Bloc and the NDP gives 84 seats and official opposition status. That 84 is 52 for the BQ and 32 for the NDP (1 in Québec, the other 31 in the rest of the country). That's interesting, but it's only half of the story. Since Grenier has riding-by-riding projections, you can add the vote for those three parties (or two outside of Québec) together and see if 'vote splitting on the left' is coasting any seats at the moment, seats that Grenier has going to the Conservatives or Liberals but that would go to a united Progressive Party if their votes were combines.

The answer is yes: not as much as you might suspect, but yes. Let's take a look:

In British Columbia, Grenier has 7 NDP seats, but the "Progressives" would get nine: Elizabeth May's obviously high Green numbers in her own Saanich-Gulf Islands would tip it from the Conservatives, and Greens more modest numbers in Vancouver Kingsway, a three-way split currently looking Liberal, would still be enough to tip it.

Grenier has every Alberta riding going Tory, but a united left could pry one away: Edmonton-Strathcona, which anyway has an NDP incumbent.

Grenier gives the NDP four Prairie ridings, all in Manitoba. A united "Progressive Party" would change nothing there.

In seat-rich Ontario, Grenier currently projects 15 NDP seats. Not that much would change, actually, but the Greens could help snag three more: Guelph, a comically mutipartisan riding with great Green numbers, would tip from the Liberals. Neither Sault Ste. Marie nor Welland have particularly impressive Green numbers, but they're currently neck-in-neck CPC/NDP races. Those stray percentage points would tip them both away from the Tories.

Québec is where the story gets interesting, obviously. The Bloc dominate, of course. The Greens aren't much of a presence here, but the NDP are at an all-time high in the province. So already the vast majority of seats are progressive: 52 BQ and 1 NDP. The Conservatives and the Liberals get a measly 22 combined, and a united "Progressive Party" would wrest away a further ten of those: Four of the Tories' current nine would tip: Beauport-Limoilou, Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles and Lotbinière-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière. Fully six of the Liberals' thirteen would tip as well: Honoré-Mercier, Hull-Aylmer, LaSalle-Émard, Laval-Les Îles, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Lachine and lastly Papineau. Additionally, I should note Lévis-Bellechasse, where the combined projected BQ/NDP/Green vote equals the projected CPC vote exactly. I decided to give the advantage to the incumbent, though, so it's not in the counts.

In the Atlantic provinces, across four entire provinces, not a single seat would waver in a combined "Progressive" scenario. Grenier's numbers, 13 Conservative, 15 Liberal and 4 NDP (read: "Progressive"), woud stay completely the same.

And in the North, Grenier's numbers, giving one each to the three main federal parties, would remain.

So in total, then, a united "Progressive Party" would see the following numbers: the Conservatives with 141, the Liberals with 67 and the Progressives with 100, and either official opposition status in a Conservative minority, official opposition status against a Tory/Grit coalition, or senior partner in a Progressive/Grit coalition. Not really wonderful numbers, actually.

But that's the rub at present: Grenier's current numbers show a scenario where the "Progressives" would still trail the Conservatives in every part of Canada except Québec, where they'd be trampling all over the opposition. Almost two in every three "Progressive" seats would come from Québec. Regionally, support percentages would be as follows:
  • BC: CPC 41.5, Prog 32.3, LPC 24.0
  • Alberta: CPC 62.4, Prog 18.0, LPC 17.0
  • Prairies: CPC 51.0, Prog 26.3, LPC 21.2
  • Ontario: CPC 41.4, LPC 33.7, Prog 23.7
  • Québec: Prog 58.8, LPC 21.4, CPC 18.8
  • Atlantic: CPC 36.9, LPC 35.4, Prog 24.6
Progressives in 2011 should thank God for Québec.


  1. One of your assumptions is faulty - that the Bloc is "Progressive" (actually two, that the Liberals aren't progressive, but I'll debate that later). The Bloc is a catch-all party of sovereignists with a mix of urban progressives and rural Union nationale. A "progressive" union between the Bloc, NDP and Green would actually see the Conservative numbers increase in the province, as a significant 2nd choice among Bloc voters is Conservative - I know, all my in-laws were once Conservatives...

  2. Fully agree. The same is true of the Greens - also a 'big-tent' party. But I think the parties' platforms are progressive, outside of the single issues that define them.

    And conversely I don't deny that the Liberals have a strong progressive wing, but they also have a significant element (waning, perhaps) that is quite comfortable in Bay Street. Think Garth Turner, think Belinda Stronach. Floor-crossers both, but both were welcomed to the Liberal fold.

    Note also: