Razor-thin Liberal majority in Ontario may still be the best guess (well maybe)?

Oct 5th, 2011 | By Randall White | Category: In Brief

Pop songstress Katy Perry, shopping in Los Angeles. Light years away in Ontario Tim Hudak has tried to deliver a similar message about the prospects of a Liberal-NDP “coalition” on October 6. But it doesn’t seem to be working (although, if Angus Reid is right?).

GANATSEKWYAGON, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2011, 1:30 AM [UPDATED 12 NOON, 4:40 PM] . The Robert Ghiz Liberals have held on handsomely enough in in Canada’s least populous and geographically smallest province of Prince Edward Island (aka Abegweit and then Île Saint-Jean in earlier eras).  And Greg Selinger’s New Democrats have now done the same in Manitoba — which, while still considerably less populous than Ontario, does have a very similar current provincial flag (and an aboriginal name and a lot more people than PEI).

In Ontario we are voting tomorrow. Three new polls suggest some degree of last-minute surge toward the McGuinty Liberals — perhaps enough to push them into (albeit still quite slim or razor-thin?) majority territory. At the same time, there remains enough inconsistency in recent polling data to leave the prospects of at least something of a cliff-hanger Thursday night intact. So don’t start drafting your letters of congratulation to Premier McGuinty on his so-called “three-peat” quite yet.

In the old days Ontario Grits campaigning in rural areas liked to jump on manure spreaders, and start speeches with “apologies for speaking from the Tory platform.”

Probably the leading “majority territory” poll is from Ipsos Reid. For province-wide popular vote it suggests  Libs 41%, PC 31%, NDP 25%, Greens 3%. The latest Nanos poll (for the two days October 2–3) suggests something similar: Libs 40%, PC 33%, NDP 23% , Greens 3%.  (And the Nanos numbers for the three days October 1–3 also imply last-minute Liberal momentum, at the expense of the NDP: Libs 38%, PC 33%, NDP 26%, Greens 2%.)  Finally, a poll from Abacus, a firm that has earlier tended to show the Hudak Progressive Conservatives in the best light, now leans to the Grits as well : Libs 37%; PC 34%; NDP 24%; Greens  4%.

The strongest contrarian evidence here probably remains a Forum Research survey in this past Monday’s Toronto Star. It found the Ontario contest “really, really close … still deadlocked.” Its translation of province-wide popular vote into seats in the 107-seat Legislative Assembly “suggests Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals … would have 45 seats, Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives would also take 45 seats, with Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats holding the balance of power with 17 seats” (where a “threshold of 54 seats is required for a majority”).

Eric Grenier at ThreeHundredEight.com : the day before the day before! (And note his similar projection for Manitoba did come very close to the final result!)

More subjectively, such commentators as Adam Radwinski in the Globe and Mail continue to advise that: “With turnout likely to be very low, all parties believe the poll results — including Nanos Research figures … and Ipsos Reid ones … have to be taken with grains of salt. Much depends on the parties’ ability to get their supporters out to vote on election day.”

Similarly, even the seat projections we have that, unlike the latest from Forum Research, do show the Liberals significantly ahead of the Conservatives, are not giving the Liberals anything like a healthy comfortable majority. Based on a blending of polls from September 28–October 3 Global News election analyst Barry Kay is projecting the barest majority of 54 seats for the McGuinty Liberals, along with 32 for the Conservatives and 21 for the NDP. Eric Grenier’s recent poll aggregation model for October 4 suggests  56 seats for the Liberals, 30 for the Conservatives, and 21 for the NDP.

More subjectively again, even John Wright at Ipsos Reid has stressed that “Liberals are still far from guaranteed the 54 seats they need to form a majority … It’s not quite there yet … The Liberals still have a lot of work to do. They have to get out their vote.”

The recent track records of pollsters in Canadian politics have also left quite a lot of room for scepticism on the part of we mere voters. (Someone pointed out on TV last night that last fall Ipsos Reid predicted Rob Ford would lose the Toronto mayoralty race!) And it is us not them who will finally decide just what is going to shape Ontario government and politics over the next few years. I will take this opportunity as well to note that none of the latest polling data holds out much prospect of the kind of second-place NDP finish I was entertaining myself this past Saturday — with the Hudak PCs in third place! But I am nonetheless looking forward to an intriguing and instructive evening as the vote comes in tomorrow night. And the way things are going nowadays, I think it’s always a good idea to get ready for some kind of surprise.

UPDATE : 12 NOON, 4:40 PM, OCTOBER 5. As evidence of the (no doubt strictly accidental) wisdom of my last sentence here, the “last poll of the campaign,” from Angus Reid, came out after this piece was posted early this morning. And it does indeed suggest “election is too close to call.” The province-wide popular vote numbers are: PC 36%, Libs 33%, NDP 26%, and Greens 5%.

At the same time Eric Grenier’s ultimate words of wisdom (October 5) are suitably headlined “Liberals up in Ontario, but outcome still uncertain.” And he does note that “ this morning Angus-Reid in a poll for the Toronto Star completely demolished the consensus of a Liberal lead.” He also notes, however, a new EKOS poll today which suggests Libs 39%, PC 30%, NDP 23%, Greens 7%. And the seat projection from his latest poll aggregation is now giving the Liberals one more actual MPP than yesterday: Libs 57, PC 30, NDP 20.

Mr. Grenier nonetheless observes as well: “So what to make of this? We aren’t talking margin-of-error issues at this point. Some of the pollsters will have egg on their face on Thursday night. One might consider Angus-Reid the outlier, but they nailed the Manitoba election …”

Ontario political observer lost in thought ... and something strong to drink?

So … it really ought to be an interesting Thursday evening, October 6, 2011!  (Oh … and a very final btw, at 4:40 PM on October 5: Now the Toronto Star — which had earlier today told us that “Last poll of the campaign suggests election is too close to call” — is telling us: “Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals are poised to win at least a minority government in Thursday’s election, according to the last public-opinion poll that can be legally published before the vote … A Forum Research survey found the Liberals at 37 per cent, the Progressive Conservatives at 36 per cent, the New Democrats at 23 per cent and the Green Party at 3 per cent.”  Moreover: “the Liberal vote is ‘way more efficient’ … The Tories’ vote is all piled up in far too few seats, so even though it’s a dead heat — as we’ve been saying for almost a month now — it probably won’t end up that way,” in terms of seats in the legislature.  So … go figure. Maybe we should all buy something strong to drink tomorrow night — even if it’s just hard water?)

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