Riding changes likely ‘a wash’, says pollster

Thirty more seats have been added to the House of Commons since the last election but no one party is likely to gain them all

There are 30 more seats up for grabs in the federal election Oct. 19 and as Canadians watch the third week of electioneering, some don’t know the name of their new riding.

Electors will have ample time to discover that information in the course of a 78-day campaign, the longest in modern Canadian history.

The additional seats resulted from the 10-year review mandated by Canada’s constitution. It means that 338 MPs will be elected this fall, compared to 330 in the 2011 election, but it’s doubtful the additions will favour any one party.

“If you just redistribute the votes from last time to the new boundaries, it does give the Conservatives a relatively considerable number of more seats,” said political scientist Paul Fairie of Centrality Data Science.

“At the same time, because they’re redrawing the boundaries, it means that incumbent candidates have to run in slightly different ridings, so I think it ultimately ends up being a wash.”

Alberta and British Columbia each gained six seats in the electoral district distribution. They now have 34 and 42 ridings respectively.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba, each with 14 ridings, retained the same number as in the last election but some boundaries were redrawn and riding names were changed to reflect that.

The bulk of the seat increase came in Ontario, which gained 15 additional ridings. Quebec gained three.

Last week, the most recent polls showed the NDP leading the race with 39 percent of the decided vote, followed by the Conservatives at 28 and the Liberals at 25.

Changes, if any, that followed a televised Aug. 6 leaders’ debate were not available at press time.

Fairie, who is managing election forecasts for the Globe and Mail, said his figures at this stage in the game indicate a minority government is the most likely outcome.

“It will definitely be a minority government, unless something dramatic changes,” he said Aug. 6.

“It seems like it’s more a battle between the Conservatives and the NDP than the Liberals, even if the Liberals do much better than they did in 2011. … They seem a little bit further behind the Conservatives than the NDP.”

Fairie predicts voters won’t pay much attention to the election campaign until Labour Day, and possibly not until near Thanksgiving, and that could be a problem as parties attempt to publicize their platforms.

Higher spending limits associated with the longer campaign will likely produce more advertising and not all ads will be positive, he added.

As for social media’s effect on the electorate, Fairie suggested it is indirect.

“There have been some studies about whether (social media) affects voter behaviour and it doesn’t particularly tend to, but what it can affect is media coverage. Certainly the media traditionally loves social media so it’s a way of sort of developing stories.”

Fairie is based in Calgary and he thinks the political sea change that saw the NDP form government in Alberta after four decades of Progressive Conservative rule could translate to federal changes.

“One thing we know about voters is that they’re often sort of put off from voting for a third or fourth place party that they don’t feel has a chance of winning.

“But because now it seems possible, for the first time in however long, that there could be some change in Alberta, I think it will really motivate, especially non-Conservative supporters.”

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