02 May 2011

Change is in the air… or maybe not #elxn41

In Election 2011, perhaps more so than any other recent election, people can see the shortcomings of national opinion polls.

They may capture an overall national picture but with horrendous margins of error and often limited information about voting behaviour they are all but useless in trying to project seat counts and even party standings. It’s not a problem facing one pollster;  it’s across the board.

You can also see the shortcomings of media commentary, especially as the electronic media seems to rely almost exclusively on reporters interviewing other reporters. There was a fine example of that last Friday on the CBC Radio Morning Show. There were penetrating insights into the fairly obvious: Avalon and St. John’s South-Mount Pearl might change hands.

And even some true head-scratchers like a version of the threehundredeight.blogspot.com seat projection that had Random-Burin-St. Goerges going Tory. John Ottenheimer coming on strong?  We’ll see.

There were also coments about “splits” and generalizations about how it all comes down to the “ground game”. That’s politico speak for getting vote to the polls. Again, it’s a bit like describing the intricacies of brain surgery by referring to a copy of Gray’s Anatomy of the human body.

What would have distinguished Friday’s commentary from the run-of-the-mill fare was any concrete information on what the campaigns actually look like on the ground.

And that’s where the local story starts to get interesting.  Anyone who believes that  Kathy Dunderdale’s people will be turning out en masse for the federal Conservatives, it just ain’t so. Some provincial Tory members of the House of Assembly have been working hard personally. Some have been doing only the minimum they had to in order to get by. A few more than Ed Buckingham have done exactly shag-all.

Now that may not be what you hear if you ask a Tory insider directly but the evidence of what actually happened will be clear once polling is done.

And as for the rank and file workers, that’s a whole other story. Kathy Dunderdale cannot direct them any more than Danny could actually get the blue people to vote Liberal in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl last time.  She quite obviously couldn’t lure them back from the New Democratic Party in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, let alone brow-beat them threaten them or otherwise produce the outcome some people might have been expecting.

This will NOT be a reverse ABC.

This very much will be a referendum on Kathy Dunderdale.  If Fabian Manning wins Avalon, it is a seat he won largely on his own.  If no other seats turn blue, the Dunderdale failed.  And if the Tory vote doesn’t shoot up to levels along the lines of what they saw in 2004 or 2006, then Dunderdale failed.  Monday could be a very bad night for Kathy Dunderdale.

Knowing what is happening on the ground will also tell you what odds there might be that some sort of NDP surge might have a wider effect on ridings in this province.  The national New Democrats have targeted the South.  It is getting money and bodies. They appear to have taken a strategy of minimising their candidate’s profile and played up Jack Layton very strongly.  If they are half as organized on voting day as they appear heading into the last day,  Ryan Cleary will give incumbent Siobhan Coady a very hard run for her money.  He might win.  It is close.

One potential factor to cross off your list:  Loyola Sullivan.  His angry old Rain Man routine simply turned people off.  His ego campaign – big round Loyola heads in front of a flag – simply looked ridiculous. 

Outside of St. John’s,  the Avalon is likely the only riding that will go blue and the NDP have resorted to names on ballots in every other riding other than the South. Miracles do happen but with no money and no organization, the orange people don;t stand much of a chance. 

As for the Tories, they will come in second in every seat off the Avalon. Certainly in Labrador, John Hickey has been campaigning hard for a senate seat, errr his federal friends, but odds are that Peter Penashue won’t be the new Tory member of parliament for Labrador.  Stay tuned on the senate seat.

Take that sort of stuff as a good indicator of what could be happening elsewhere.  In Quebec, people are telling pollsters they love the NDP. Problem is that the NDP only had the resources and committed the resources to Quebec that reflected their earlier appraisal that they could maybe hang on to one seat. Unless they have suddenly turned up hordes of volunteers in the past few weeks, they will have a devil of time turning those stated intentions into actual marks on a ballot. 

Again, stranger things have happened, but don’t be surprised if election results tonight coming out of Quebec don’t live up to advance billing.

The two places to watch nationally outside Quebec are the Greater Toronto Area and British Columbia. The Conservatives have targeted their energy into ridings  where they can turn them over and they could wind up squeaking out a comfortable minority or even a slim majority.

Change could be in the air.

But then again, it might not be.

You’ll only know for sure once the whole thing is done.

- srbp -