Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On The Labrador By-Election Results

It comes as little surprise to me that Penashue was unable to regain his seat in Labrador.  Frankly, the biggest surprise was the number of votes that he was able to garner.  In my opinion, someone who stepped down for cheating on the last campaign should gather exactly zero votes.


Of course, the Conservative Spin Machine is immediately trying to turn a defeat into propaganda:

What is surprising is the collapse of the Liberal support during this by-election.  When this by-election was called the Liberals had a 43-point lead in the polls.  Since electing Justin Trudeau as leader and having him personally campaign there, they have dropped 20 points in Labrador.  That’s a significant drop in only a few weeks.  Labradorians were able to see firsthand how Justin Trudeau is in over his head. 
Objectively, this claim is utter nonsense.  Frankly, this is typical of the Karl Rove-inspired politics that Harper has been importing into Canada.  It boils down to taking anything that happens and trying to spin it into an attack on your adversaries.  The attempt to use it as an attack on Justin Trudeau smacks more of desperation to me.

 A closer look at the numbers over the last couple of elections is much more instructive:

[hide]Canadian federal election, 2008
PartyCandidateVotes%±ppExpenditures
LiberalTodd Russell5,42670.28+19.75$26,887
New DemocraticPhyllis Artiss1,37817.85+8.77$5,886
ConservativeLacey Lewis6157.97-31.70$15,728
GreenNyssa Christine McLeod3023.91+3.19
Total valid votes/Expense limit7,72199.15$81,667
Total rejected ballots660.85+0.40
Turnout7,78738.60-19.8
Eligible voters20,175
    Liberal holdSwing+5.49

[hide] Canadian federal election, 2011Labrador
PartyCandidateVotes%±pp
ConservativePeter Penashue4,25639.81+31.84
LiberalTodd Russell4,17739.07-31.21
New DemocraticJacob Larkin2,12019.83+1.98
GreenGeorge C.R. Barrett1391.30-2.61
Total valid votes10,692100.00
Total rejected ballots520.48-0.37
Turnout10,74453.44+14.84
Eligible voters20,104
Conservative gain from LiberalSwing+31.5%

[hide] Canadian federal by-election, May 13, 2013Labrador
PartyCandidateVotes%±pp
LiberalYvonne Jones5,81448.21+9.14%
ConservativePeter Penashue3,92232.52-7.29%
New DemocraticHarry Borlase2,27318.85-0.98%
LibertarianNorman Andrews500.41-
Total valid votes/Expense limit12,059100.00
Total rejected ballots
Turnout12,05959.55+6.11%
Eligible voters20,251
Called on the resignation of Peter Penashue, March 14, 2013
Liberal gain from ConservativeSwing+9.14%

What we really see in these numbers is a collapse in the voter turnout in 2008, with it dropping to 38.6%, followed by a gradual recovery to 59.55% turnout in yesterday's byelection.

Penashue barely won in the 2011 election, winning on a margin of less than 100 ballots.  Hardly a ringing endorsement of support for Penashue in the first place.

Yvonne Jones took the riding in the by-election with a 5,814 votes - slightly more than the 5,426 votes Todd Russell won with in 2008.  In comparison, Penashue took the riding in 2011 with 4,256 votes and went down to defeat with 3,922 votes last night.

Practically speaking, this sounds to me more like a greater level of voter engagement took place, and a lot of people who sat on their thumbs in either 2008 or 2011 came out and voted.

Given that this by-election was already underway when Justin Trudeau became the Liberal leader, and the lavish promises made on Penashue's behalf by the Conservatives during the latter half of the campaign, it seems to me that the Conservatives are reaching pretty far to try and spin this as some kind of voter comment on Justin Trudeau as Liberal leader.

In fact, since this is the first time that the Harper Conservatives have lost a seat on a by-election, I would say that it seems to me much more of a condemnation of the Conservative party which keeps on playing by its own arbitrary rulebook.

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