16 May 2019

Poor Ed's Almanac - a hot summer is coming #nlpoli

The prospect of a minority government coupled with the need to pass a budget in the legislature after the election could produce a long, hot summer of political manoeuvring.
Mainstreet Research released its poll on the Newfoundland and Labrador election.  It basically shows what Abacus and Forum showed, which is a slightly Conservative lead in overall vote intention.

With that and the election due tomorrow, here's a guess at a possible seat count. This is based on the polls, observation of the campaign, and a bit of guesswork. There is no right answer and this version could be off by a seat or two for the Liberals.  You might add an extra New Democrat to the mix but no more.  There might be one fewer Independent.

Needed for Majority

New Democrat



Standing at Dissolution



- 01

Variation:  +/- 2 for Liberals, +/- 3 for Conservative,  +/- 1 for NDP,  -1 Independent


Small variations in local vote can produce a very different result than the one here.  In fact, any projections are fraught with difficulty because there is a lack of up-to-date information of all kinds.  

That said, the information that is available suggests a low turnout.  The trend since 1993 plus two separate polls taken during the campaign would put the turnout below 55% (2015) and perhaps as low as 44%.

The available information also suggests that all campaigns have been troubled by volunteers shortages and cash problems. This would make it difficult to identify supporters and get them to the polls on voting day.  

Note that the advance poll numbers were slightly lower than 2015. That said, there are 20 seats where the advance poll turnout was higher in 2019 than in 2015. Parties could still wage battles in 20 seats with fewer resources by redeploying forces into them from other districts that appear safer or under less of a threat.  

 All parties ran lacklustre campaigns with few serious efforts to engage voters generally. Signage was noticeably more sparse in 2019 than in 2015 and parties did not distribute householders and other campaign literature to every household.  Some districts appear to have been well covered by all parties while others received less attention.

Polls consistently showed dissatisfaction with the current direction of the province.  The polls also showed a discontent with the existing political leadership of three parties, although, of the two parties that could form a government, the Conservative leader fared somewhat better in public judgement.

Polls consistently showed public concern for jobs and the economy,  health care,  and public spending.  The parties did not address these concerns directly in their party platforms.


While  21 seats are within the range for both the Liberals and Conservatives, the selection or election of a Speaker potentially reduces the government tally by one and hence would put it in precarious political position. 

Such a government could survive a confidence vote. Assuming that all government members show up to vote and vote with the party, a tie is the worst outcome.  In that instance, the Speaker would vote with the government, by convention, thus breaking the tie.

The party with the larger number of seats would, in any situation, attempt to gain a working arrangement with some or all of the members to allow it to govern.  That is the objective by definition. A minority government of the type projected here would not last long.  Parties would try to entice members to join their ranks to make up a reliable majority. 

Regardless of those political manoeuvring,  the parties would likely not be able to go to the polls less than six months after the current general election.  The convention n Canada is that the existing parties must attempt to govern for at least six months.  Neither party is likely to want to return to the polls quickly since the current election has been expensive.

The Budget Challenge

Regardless of which party forms the next administration, its first order of business will be to pass a budget.  Had the Liberals waited to call the election, this would not be an issue but since they went to the polls without a budget,  one is essential.  After all, the Liberals could not afford to delay calling the House together since part of its platform was a pledge to pass the budget presented in April quickly, as is.

The other party or parties in the House and any Independent members may not be so willing to comply with the Liberal wishes.  The result would likely be discussions about changes to the budget. The Conservatives might well try to defeat the government's budget since the existing constitutional conventions would have the Premier resign after a lost confidence motion.  Instead of an election, the Lieutenant Governor would then look to someone else to form an administration. 

Ordinarily, this would be the leader of the party with the next largest number of seats.  However, if the governing party were to change leaders and find one acceptable to the other members of the House generally, it might be possible for the governing party to continue in office.  That is true regardless of whether the administration is Liberal or Conservative.  Supporters of fixed election dates should notice that this is precisely the result needed to allow the legislature to function with a strict practice of fixed election dates.  It is also the existing constitutional convention so they should have no objection to it.  That could continue for as long as it took to produce a successful budget.

It could be a long, politically-heated summer.