Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Waves of provincial and federal party support

A poll was just released showing 3/4 Ontarians want Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty and his party out (29% support) and Tim Hudak's PCs in (41% support).

In last night's election in New Brunswick, the PCs trounced the incumbent Liberals, 42 to 13 seats. (It could be argued though that the PCs were even to the left of the Liberals there.)

Many believe that this wave of 'conservatism' on a provincial level directly translates to votes for conservatives on a federal level.  It doesn't.  While there are numerous examples, let us look at Ontario's recent history, because how Ontario votes federally basically determines who wins for the whole country.

In Ontario in the 80's, Mulroney's federal PC government dominated Ontario, yet provincially at that time, Ontario was Liberal. And then Bob Rae's NDP came in.

Then in 1993, once Ontario went with Chretien's Liberals, a couple years later, Ontarians went with Mike Harris' provincial PCs.  Then Paul Martin (tending to be a bit more conservative than Chretien) was PM and Ontario goes Liberal provincially with Dalton McGuinty. Soon later, Ontarians support Harper's Conservatives federally.

So my theory, backed up by strong evidence mind you, is that Ontarians, feeling like they are the big province that holds the country together, generally like to balance out their politics between who's in power federally versus provincially.

So for you Ontario Conservatives who are cheering for a potential Tim Hudak PC win, keep in mind the recent history, which dictates that soon after, Ontario federally will eventually switch to the Liberals putting the Liberals back in power. 

Which is why you'd better hope to heck that after the next federal election when Ignatieff's Liberals lose, that they replace him with Bob Rae, because I don't think Ontarians are that gullible to support him again, and will hopefully make an exception to my theory.



Ted Betts said...

There is definitely something to this theory. It may be Ontario "balancing out" as you put it, or it could be a consistent theme of a feeling of "change".

I think it comes down to something more basic. As the largest province, to run an effective campaign here is unlike any other province. The number of people on the ground, the number of top talent organizers and planners, top talent politicians, the number of dollars necessary is what wins elections here.

Because it is the largest province, and because Ottawa is in Ontario, the same Ontario campaign organizers and planners and big donors make up a huge part of both the federal and provincial campaign team.

So my theory goes something like this: whenever Ontario votes, say, Liberal and forms government, say, in 1993, there is a huge "brain drain" of Liberal top talent organizers to Ottawa. Success breeds success and the dollars and interest and focus follows, leaving less for the provincial party come the next provincial election.

Same in reverse for the Conservatives. When Harris gets elected and forms government, all of the top organizing talent on the right gets swallowed up. Are you going to answer Premier Mike Harris's call to take a position as senior advisor in the Premier's office (or Min of Finance etc) or are you going to sign on to provide full-time help get Jean Charest get elected or Preston Manning unite the right?

And the evidence of this is the Harper government. Who forms the core of his best performing MPs given the most significant roles? Flaherty, Baird and Clement, all of whom were dumped provincially. They, and all their contacts and IOUs are on the outs provincially at least for 4 years and have the time and draw to get focused federally where things started to look up just about the same time.

Cut it a bit deeper and who are some of the big names in the PMO? After a year, how many in the PMO are from out west or from the Reform days?

So who goes first, McGuinty or Harper? The next election in Ontario will be a federal one.

Worrisome for both McGuinty and Harper is the "Ford phenomenon". I don't know if he will end up winning but what he demonstrates, as do the HST protests in BC and a bunch of other municipal mayoral races, is that Canadians in many pockets are fed up with the status quo and their current government.

Mike B. said...

Ted, that is very interesting--something I hadn't considered and it would equally apply to the Liberals I'm sure. But now that federal party campaign financing is limited to $1000 per individual, does this perhaps change things from going back and forth between prov and fed in Ontario or is it mostly just how much time a major organizer is willing to give up?

Ted Betts said...

I thought about that. Plus the huge gap at the federal level is not as pronounced at the provincial level.

However, I would think that the cash limit may actually entrench this rule even more.

First, remember that is a federal law. The limit provincially is much higher: $9,300 annually to the party, $6,200 annually to riding associations plus $9,300 during an election.

Second, with tighter financing limits federally, you need even more people organizing to get more dollars.

Third, the basic idea is still there: the "brain power" of conservatives in Ontario - former cabinet ministers, top staffers, top organizers - have jobs in Ottawa now and those who aren't have committed their non-work time toward the next federal election. This makes it very difficult for Hudak.

Fourth, you don't see much migration of provincial Liberals in Ontario to the federal Liberals or federal Conservatives giving up their jobs in Ottawa to go provincial. It's natural as a politico to go with the more sure thing. No politico likes to give a up a position in government for a position in opposition. Which makes it tough for Hudak and Ignatieff.

Mike B. said...

Again, excellent points, Ted.

In thinking about how it is in Alberta, because the races aren't as hotly contested, and that there is a large base of volunteers in each riding, it's easy for one to participate in all election levels without giving up too much time and money.

Luke said...

I don't agree Hatrock.

In the early nineties the Ontario government and the Canadian federal government faced literally the same core issues, debt, deficits and recession.

Both parties offered solutions to those issues.

Not as much in the case of the Liberals because I remember their campaign in 1993 was more about repealing the GST and scrapping the FTA. Of course, they reversed themselves as soon as they were elected.

Two other reasons the Liberals won in 1993. Kim Campbell was a disastrous leadership choice, who ran one of the worst federal campaigns in history, and the conservative vote was divided, allowing Chretien to win a lot of Ontario ridings he may not have won otherwise.

Of course Mike Harris offered the Common Sense Revolution in response to the Peterson/Rae years that nearly bankrupted the province.

I don't think its as simple as a balancing act. People don't vote strategically like that.

It has more to do with issues and the solutions that political parties offer. If you end up with a sort of pattern like they've had in Ontario, thats great, but the pattern doesn't dictate who gets elected.

Ted Betts said...

If my theory holds, this is not a good sign for McGuinty or Harper, if there is more exodus like it.

Politicos do not choose to leave important positions in government for staffer positions in opposition, unless they either think the chances of staying in the government of which they are a part are declining and the chances of the opposition of which they are joining forming the government are increasing.

Of course, it could also be simply a sign that he recognizes the declining influence and irrelevance of Kenney, once considered Harper's heir, and wants to moves somewhere he can have an impact.