Canada 2008: election eve

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Canadians will begin voting in a few hours in their third general election in less than five years, which looks likely to result in yet another minority government.

The campaign has been split into two parts. The first part saw the Conservatives performing strongly, looking like they would make substantial gains against the BQ in Quebec while the Liberals would lose seats to the Conservatives and the NDP in British Columbia and Ontario.

The second half began with the two election debates two weeks ago. The first debate saw Dion impress with a strong result, as did Gilles Duceppe. The second debate saw the effect of having four left-of-centre opposition leaders collectively ganging up on Stephen Harper. Harper seemed constantly on the offensive, while the four others effectively worked as a team. Indeed, the only moments with serious confrontations not involving Harper occurred when the NDP and Liberal leaders argued with each other about who had been most supportive of Harper.

Even though Dion’s poor English meant he was the weakest of Harper’s critics, he benefited in the polls in the aftermath of the debate, as Harper’s poll numbers began to decline, first in Quebec, where the BQ took back its dominant position, then nationally.

The debate coincided with Canada being rocked by the global financial crisis. It appears that voters have blamed Harper’s government and turned against them on this issue, which contributed to the Conservatives’ decline. The NDP has also consistently polled between 17-22%. Since they polled 17.5%, this points to a likely increase and at the very worse a steady result. At some points during the campaign the NDP looked like they could have taken second place away from the Liberals, but that has since faded.

It’s important to bear in mind that the Conservatives have never lost their lead in the polls. At their lowest level of support the Conservatives were still 4% ahead of the Liberals.

With four left-of-centre parties running effectively all in opposition to the government, strategic voting has also been a factor. In particular, www.voteforenvironment.ca has become a central website in directing pro-environment voters to vote for the left-wing candidate considered most likely to win in marginal seats where two different left-wing candidates are running to win. In many cases the group has made a decision to support a less progressive candidate. For example, despite stating that the Greens’ policy is the best on the environment, the party is only advocating a vote for the Greens in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova, where Greens leader Elizabeth May is running against Defence Minister Peter MacKay. In two British Columbia ridings where the Greens are considered competitive the website is supporting the Liberals.

Anyway, here’s my prediction for the result:

My prediction: Conservative 120, Liberal 82, Bloc Quebecois 60, New Democrats, 40, Independents 2

This would change very little. The BQ would gain 9 seats, the NDP 11, and Independents 1. This would mostly come at the expense of the Liberals, who have had a particularly dismal performance, with the Conservatives losing a few seats. This will almost certainly result in another unstable minority government, and likely another early election. The BQ will hold the balance of power again, with the NDP and Liberals again failing to win a majority of seats combined.

Polls open at 10:00pm in Newfoundland and close in Newfoundland at 10:00am tomorrow. Last polls close in BC and Yukon at Midday tomorrow. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts from half an hour before polls close in each timezone. I expect that means you can get coverage online from 9:30am. I will try and post some updates as results come in during the day.

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