Staying up late for the BC election back east .. and yet another big surprise!

May 14th, 2013 | By | Category: In Brief

BC Liberal leader Christy Clark casts her ballot during advanced voting in Burnaby. Wednesday, May 8, 2013. Photograph by Jonathan Hayward, THE CANADIAN PRESS.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2013. GANATSEKWYAGON, ON.  So …  here back east (well at least on the north shore of the most easterly of the North American Great Lakes, in anglophone Central Canada), we have only recently passed from May 14 to May 15.

But already it seems that the current Western Canada Provincial Politics Syndrome remains intact.  “Are we seeing a Wildrose Party-type collapse in the BC election?,” the hard-working Andy Radia asked a week and a half ago. As of 12:30 AM ET on May 15, at least the CTV election desk in Vancouver (where it is still only 9:30 PM PT on May 14) is saying YES!

Both CTV and CBC at this point are reporting that Christy Clark’s Liberals are elected or leading in 50 seats, with Adrian Dix’s New Democrats elected or leading in 33 seats, and 1 Green Party and 1 Independent seat. (Oh, wait a sec, as a sign of the continuing volatility in these numbers, one of our counterweights BC election focus junkies has just come into the computer room from the main office reception area, saying that both networks are now reporting Liberals 49, NDP 34, Green 1, Independent 1.)

The count is still far from complete. And these results are (as with the Wildrose Party collapse in Alberta, just a little over a year ago) so different from the last batch of polling and pundit collective wisdom, just before the election, that more than a few observers of various persuasions continue to urge it is still too early for altogether definitive judgments. But even the current CBC website report is saying “Liberals take strong lead in BC election … Clark on verge of historic come-from-behind victory.”

(Oh and btw, as a quick and final update before we all go to bed back east, as of 1:10 AM ET on the 15th both CTV and CBC are projecting a Liberal majority government, and the current seat results are LIB 53, NDP 30, GRN 1, IND 1.  Some ears here in Ontario also perked up when a Vancouver CTV commentator gave quite a lot of credit for Christy Clark’s big surprise – for which she herself no doubt deserves a lot of credit too – to the former Dalton McGuinty campaign wizard Don Guy. We’ll have more to say tomorrow about what we make of it all, from a cross-Canada slant. Meanwhile, for the very latest results CLICK HERE.)

(LATER THAT MORNING UPDATE: The final seat count is LIB 50, NDP 33, GRN 1, IND 1. Another  very final wrinkle was clear when we woke up. Pollsters and New Democrats did manage to exact some slight revenge on Ms Clark, when, in the midst of her astounding victory elsewhere, she lost her own seat in Vancouver-Point Grey. For more on this and on the broader significance of the big surprise, click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below.)

Final tally – Cross-province popular vote and number of seats in Legislative Assembly

LIB 44.4% pop vote, 50 seats

NDP 39.5% pop vote, 33 seats

GRN 8.0% pop vote, 1 seat

OTHERS 3.3% pop vote, 1 seat

CON 4.8% pop vote, 0 seats

Minor revenge of pollsters and New Democrats – Christy Clark’s lost seat

According to the Vancouver Sun : “David Eby snatches Vancouver-Point Grey riding from Premier Christy Clark …  By the time all 147 ballot boxes were counted around 1 a.m., Eby had beaten Clark by 785 votes – 10,162 to 9,377, according to Elections BC …

“Clark made no reference to her own battle in Point Grey during her victory speech, but Liberal advisers said on background that if Clark loses her seat to Eby they expect one of the Liberal MLA-elects will step aside to create a byelection for her …

“It’s relatively rare in Canada for a premier to lose their seat while their party gains government, but it has happened. In 1985 Robert Bourassa’s Liberal government won power but he lost to a Parti Quebecois candidate. He later was elected in a byelection in a Liberal stronghold. And in 1989 Don Getty lost his seat in Alberta. He was re-elected in a byelection in Stettler.”

What happened to the pollsters and pundits and commentators (again)!

Sign on Broadway in the Burnaby-Lougheed riding on May 1, 2013. And this is a riding the NDP actually did win on May 14. Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG.

Also according to the Vancouver Sun: “Pollsters data showed narrowing NDP lead, but failed to predict Liberal victory …  ‘I think people are going to re-examine the truthfulness of polls,’’ Premier Christy Clark said shortly after learning her party would form the next BC government …  ‘If there is any lesson in this, it’s that pollsters and pundits and commentators do not choose the government. It’s the people of British Columbia that choose the government’ …

“Innovative Research Group Inc.’s managing director Greg Lyle said that … after miscalculating recent election wins in Alberta and Quebec, polling firms must re-evaluate an online political polling system that may be inherently flawed … ‘This is actually the third one where the polls have been out (of whack),’ he said. Some of the last online polls before Tuesday’s election were almost 10 points off the actual level of support the parties received from voters …  That’s because these online poll respondents are more likely to be younger peope who enjoy sharing their points of view, which skews support in favour of the NDP Lyle said. He added that other flaws inherent in the online polls are that 20 per cent of voters can’t be found online and close to 10 per cent of BC’s population has a lower level of English that prevents them from participating … ‘I believe a big part of the problem was relying on online polls without using something like telephone weighting on something like party (affiliations),’ Lyle said. ‘The only way you can be sure you have a complete sample is with telephone’ …

“Polling also tended to dominate the discourse of media coverage during the campaign, he added …’Right off the bat it set expectations, there was basically an expectation that the Liberals would lose and the NDP would win and that other parties weren’t real players,’ Lyle said. ‘A lot of discussion about one or two point differences, and not really the depth of discussion there might have been, for example, about health care or education’ …

“Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley … said … pollsters in BC may have failed to properly account for undecided voters …  ‘The last polls I saw over the weekend said it was about 20 per cent of the electorate was undecided. It would appear that that undecided broke heavily for the Liberals,’ he said.”

What does it all mean for the rest of Canada?

Premier Christy Clark addresses BC Liberals at the Wall Centre in Vancouver after the result of 2013 provincial election. Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann , PNG.

The “What happened to the pollsters and pundits and commentators (again)!” issue probably ought to have just as many implications in the rest of Canada as it has in BC itself.  We especially liked Greg Lyle’s complaint that “Polling also tended to dominate the discourse of media coverage.” If the polling everywhere and on everything is as sketchy as recent provincial elections have seemed to suggest, it shouldn’t be dominating the discourse of media coverage at all as much as it often does (everywhere and on everything, again : and, no doubt, the discourse of we obscure bloggers is almost as guilty as that of the mainstream media).

Meanwhile, Chantal  Hébert’s column in the Toronto Star today nicely summarizes one perspective on the Canada-wide impact of yesterday’s BC provincial election. See : “NDP across Canada must be mourning stunning B.C. election loss: Hébert …   Thomas Mulcair and Ontario’s Andrea Horwath really needed British Columbians to lead by example by handing the reins of their province to the NDP.”

See also the perhaps somewhat related piece by University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz in today’s Globe and Mail: “Lessons from the BC election: The economy trumps all for voters.” One caveat we’d have here, however, is that if Professor Mintz means voters are starting to think about “the economy” the same way business leaders do, he (or more exactly the Globe editor who came up with the headline for his article) is being somewhat naive. As Christy Clark also made clear enough in her victory speech last night, the succinct four-word slogan of her winning campaign – “Strong Economy Secure Tomorrow” – means something considerably more subtle (and even vaguely social democratic) than “The economy trumps all for voters.”

BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix waves to supporters after conceding defeat in Vancouver. Photograph by Darryl Dyck , Canadian Press.

Finally, something that cropped up often enough in the TV commentary from Vancouver last night strikes us as well worth also bearing in mind when pondering cross-Canada implications. In the pre-election polls voters were comparing Christy Clark to the almighty in some perfect universe. When voting day came around they were just comparing her with the alternative. The deepest truth about May 14, 2013 in beautiful BC may just be that Ms Clark was a considerably more attractive and charismatic candidate than Adrian Dix. If the NDP leader had been the more attractive and charismatic of the two front runners, his or her party actually might have won – as all the polls and pundits were predicting.

Our earlier report, with the last batch of polling and pundit collective wisdom, just before the election, follows below:

TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2013. GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. Here in the streetcar suburbs of Canada’s most hated city, on the old Iroquois shore of the most easterly of the North American Great Lakes, the biggest political excitement today is taking place more than 3000 kilometres northwest (as the crow flies), across the Rocky Mountains.

For those among our official counterweights BC election focus junkies who like to get to bed at a reasonable hour, the worst news is that the TV coverage here won’t even start until 11 PM local time (which will of course only be 8 PM PT, out there where it really counts). Coffee and assorted non-sugar sweets will be available to help keep everyone awake.

The good news, it would seem, is that the essential election result will probably be known before the wee hours of Wednesday, May 15 ET get all that much bigger. Everyone remembers the last Alberta election, when the combined pundit and pollster wisdom finally proved to be wrong. And the lovely Christy Clark, Liberal leader (and incumbent premier), is no doubt hoping that something similar will happen in beautiful BC on May 14, 2013.

For a time, deep into the campaign, it did almost seem as if Ms. Clark’s fantasies might actually come true. Her Liberals were suddenly gaining in the polls! But this trend has apparently now abated. According to The Tyee’s Election Hook : “ POLL: Latest Angus Reid stays steady, giving NDP nine-point lead … POLL: EKOS puts NDP lead at six points among likely voters.” And according to the Final Prediction of the Sauder School of Business Prediction Markets, Adrian Dix’s New Democrats will wind up with 52 seats in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, compared with a mere 30 seats for Ms Clark’s Liberals.

BC NDP leader Adrian Dix stops to try on a hat as he tours a historic site in Barkervile. Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Photograph by JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS.

As  Vaughn Palmer at the Vancouver Sun has put the current collective wisdom: “Hungry NDP likely to win …  but Christy Clark has earned a consolation prize … the odds continue to favour a change of government … But it now appears as if the voters will award Clark the consolation prize of electing a good-sized Liberal Opposition to hold the New Democrats to account.”

As of 11 PM ET, we BC election focus junkies here back east at counterweights HQ will be glued to the office TV sets, just to see how close to the ultimate truth the collective expert wisdom beforehand proves to be this time. And we will be reporting the final verdict of the people of Canada’s Pacific Coast (and Interior etc) in this space, as soon as it becomes clear. Stay tuned, etc, etc.

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