15 October 2008

St. John's East: a quick look at the results

sje Jack Harris was the beneficiary of a double whammy on Tuesday.

First of all, Danny Williams' former law partner profited from the near total collapse of the Conservative vote as a result of the Family feud.

Well known Provincial Conservative Ed Buckingham's appearance at Jack's campaign launch foretold a considerable movement of Blue to Orange.

It was no accident.

Provincial cabinet ministers supported Harris publicly.  Even without turning out at Jack's headquarters, they could easily mobilise their own teams to drive votes to the polls for Harris.

Second of all, Harris profited from the  collapse of the Liberal vote, attributable almost entirely to Walter Noel's candidacy. While less dramatic than the Conservative drop, the Liberal candidate shed over 9000 votes all of which appear to have moved to the New Democrats on their own.

In some media interviews Harris pointed to an increased voter turnout in the riding, as if that showed some ground swell of support for his candidacy beyond the Family Feud effect.

Horse hockey.

The increase in turnout from 2006 was 875, a mere 2% jump.

The tale of the electoral tape in St. John's East is easy to see. Add the NDP 2006 number to the difference in votes for the Liberals and Conservatives.  You'll find yourself close as can be to Harris' vote count.

Early commentary suggested that Harris' win and the strong showing of former Independent editor Ryan Cleary in St. John's South-Mount Pearl marked some radical new age for the province's New Democrats:

“I think one of the stories of this election is the real dawning of a new day for the NDP in this province,” said [Memorial University political science professor Christopher] Dunn. “It really has firm urban roots here now.”

In fact, the NDP’s Ryan Cleary was neck in neck with Liberal Siobhan Coady in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl for most of the night, before Coady pulled away taking the seat by 1,047 votes, a mere three per cent difference in the popular vote between the two.

“It also shows the NDP is becoming very serious about its choice of candidates. When they run candidates with high profiles, they do very well,” continued Dunn who called Harris a “force to be reckoned with.”

That's not the case if one assesses where the vote came from.

In both St. John's East and St. John's South-Mount Pearl, the surge in New Democrat votes came predominantly from Provincial Conservatives.  Of Harris' total vote, about half came from the Provincial Conservatives. Another political alignment will rob the NDP of that support just as easily as it was delivered.

One point doesn't make a trend, but another kind will burst a few bubbles.