Today, the Canadians vote

Hopefully, they will keep the Conservatives

Today, Canadians vote. In the last election, the Conservative
Party of Canada (CPC) achieved a minority government (meaning the
largest block in parliament without having a majority), their first
victory since the disastrous election of 1993 when the Progressive
Conservatives went from an outright majority to 2 seats.

Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s government, elected in February
2006, has been the longest serving minority government in the
history of Canada. The basic dynamic has been that the Liberal
Party of Canada (LPC, the centrist party whose supporters are
primarily students, government employees, and big business), has
been financially bankrupt and low in the polls. If they ever
brought down the government, the subsequent elections would have
been a disaster for them. So they abstained on every budget vote,
spending vote, or issue of serious policy (taxes, Afghanistan,
etc.) This has resulted in an election in which the LPC, the
historic party of government is coming into this election very
weak.


Polls

coming
into today look like about an 8-point lead for the CPC
over the LPC. The polls suggest that the CPC will end up with about
130 of 308 seats, while the LPC will end up with around 80. This is
down nearly 20 for the LPC. The Bloc Quebecois (the Quebec
seperatists) are likely to get in the mid-50s. While this is not
really progress for the CPC or Harper, this is a problem for the
LPC.

Read on after the jump for details about what to watch
tonight.

First, the rules are sometimes in the CPC’s favor because there
are constituency elections and the left is split, while there is
only one party on the right. The left is split between the LPC, the
Greens, and a socialist New Democratic Party (backed by labor
unions). To win a seat, the CPC candidate only needs a plurality.
In many seats (ridings), if one of the parties on the left would
drop out, it is likely that the left would win.

Second, the map is highly regionalized. It is looking like the
CPC is going to clean up out west. It is possible that the LPC will
lose every seat west of Ontario, the largest province, which means
mostly losing seats in British Columbia. The west will be split
between the CPC and the NDP. In Quebec, there is a 3-way race
between the Bloc, the CPC, and the LPC, in that order. This is a
historic shift, but it is likely that the CPC and the LPC will lose
seats in Quebec regardless. In Ontario, the CPC is ahead of the LPC
by a small number of points. The things to watch in Ontario are if
the CPC wins any ridings in Toronto or if we pick up seats in “the
905”, a suburban area near Toronto. Finally, in Atlantic Canada
(the English speaking provinces east of Quebec), it is unclear what
will happen. There aren’t a lot of ridings, but the CPC could make
some real progress. Tonight, you want to watch to see if the CPC
does indeed clean up out west (meaning BC, because it will dominate
the prairie provinces), how much it stops the bleeding in Quebec,
how much we pick up in Ontario, and if we make any progress in the
Atlantics.

Third, how Stephane Dion, the leader of the LPC, handles the
loss. If the LPC loses badly, he will be under pressure to resign.
There are not good procedural mechanisms for taking out the leader
of the party in the LPC (much like the British Labour Party, which
is aching to remove Gordon Brown).

Fourth, vote totals matter tonight. Going into this election,
the LPC was several million in debt. After the election, each party
gets approximately $1.75 per vote to replenish party coffers. The
LPC probably had to spend $20-30m total in additional debt. If they
have a low vote total, their funding problem can begin to be quite
acute. The details of their constituencies and Canadian campaign
finance law will make it very hard for the LPC to replenish their
coffers to anything like an operative level. Meanwhile, the CPC has
millions in the bank because they have learned direct mail
techniques from American conservatives and online fundraising
techniques from American liberals.

It is possible that something could pop tonight. There could be
a last-minute swing to the LPC because of strategic voting. The
Greens could decide that keeping the Tories out is more important
than winning a seat in Parliament.

It is also possible that LPC voters may not turn out in Ontario.
They don’t like Stephane Dion, the party leader from Quebec, who
has a lot of trouble speaking English. This would likely be
catastrophic for the LPC, perhaps beginning a process that would
destroy it over time. This would result in a left-right style
two-party system that could usher in a long period of conservative
dominance. (because the left would stay split in Quebec, but the
right-leaning parts of the LPC would break towards the CPC) This is
a long-term strategic objective of both the NDP and the CPC.