Things to watch on election night

By Harold Jansen on Oct 14, 2008

Election night is always interesting. There are lots of things to watch and it's easy to get lost in the flurry of numbers that will fly at you while watching the results come in. Here are a few things to watch for.

The magic number is 155. That's the number of seats needed to get a majority government. It looks like no one party is going to get that tonight, but it's worth keeping that number in mind. If by some chance, the combination of Liberal seats and NDP seats is more than 155, we have an interesting possibility for a relatively stable minority government. But that looks unlikely, too, at this point.

Minority possibilities. Since a minority government is almost guaranteed tonight, the question is: who will form it? It looks at this point that the Conservatives will likely have the most seats, which means they'll continue on in government, right? Well, it's not necessarily that simple. If the combination of Liberal seats plus NDP seats is more than the number of Conservative seats, there are rumours that the two parties will work together to form a minority government. Of course, all of this depends on whom the Bloc Quebecois is willing to support. It's potentially a very fluid situation. It might be a very straightforward continuation of the last Parliament and government; it might get very messy and complicated.

Interesting battlegrounds: There are a number of interesting races across Canada, but some of the places I'll be watching are:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Premier Danny Williams has been on a mission to defeat Conservatives: what kind of impact will it have?
  • Central Nova: Peter MacKay is running for re-election for the Conservatives, but he faces Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party. There's no Liberal candidate here, as part of the Dion-May agreement not to contest each other's ridings. With all of those Liberal votes freed up, where will they go? Will the NDP benefit? I suspect MacKay will win, but who knows.
  • Quebec: This was the big hope for the Conservatives going into the election, but some campaign mis-steps and policies have seriously wounded the chances of the Conservatives here. Will they actually lose seats? What will happen to Michael Fortier, the Conservative cabinet minister/senator who gave up his senate seat to run? If he loses and there is significant carnage among Conservatives in Quebec, will this mean that the troublesome Maxine Bernier will be back in cabinet?
  • The 905 belt: For those of you not up on your Ontario area codes, the "905" area code is the suburbs around Toronto. The city itself is a bastion of NDP and Liberal strength. The Conservatives do well in the rural areas. If the party is going to make inroads and improve on its 2006 showing, it needs to do well in places like Mississauga, Oakville, Brampton, etc.
  • Wascana: Ralph Goodale, the lone Liberal in Saskatchewan and Alberta, held on here in 2006. The polls during this election have shown Conservative strength in these two provinces. Will Goodale fall this time?
  • Edmonton Strathcona: As Melanee Thomas noted, this is a close one and if the Conservatives lose a seat in Alberta, it will be Rahim Jaffer's. The NDP is pressing hard for this one. I spent some time in Edmonton this weekend, and the sign crews have certainly been busy.
  • British Columbia: The lower mainland is full of interesting three-way races. When every seat counts, like in this election, it will likely come down to the last province to vote.
  • Saanich-Gulf Islands: Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn could be in trouble here, with NDP candidate Julian West's troubles. The Liberals should benefit and this will have a big impact.

The electoral system: As has come up several times in our Mapleleafweb blog, Canada's single member plurality electoral system can do some odd things and tonight will be no exception. We could see the NDP improve its popular vote without improving its seat totals very much. We might see the Greens out-poll the BQ and get no seats while they Bloc gets about 50. Votes and seats often bear only a passing resemblance for the minor parties, and I suspect tonight will be no different.

Voter turnout: It's hard to say what it will do. As Jared Wesley noted, voting in the advance polls was down. Generally, close races like this election motivate higher turnout. However, national competitiveness can mask regional uncompetitiveness. Here in Alberta, for example, the Conservatives will likely take every seat and most of those contests will be absolute blow-outs. We're also coming off of a provincial election in the Spring, which had record low turnout. Furthermore, in Canadian history, when we have federal elections in fairly quick succession, it tends to drive down turnout. My suspicion is that turnout will be down a bit from 2006.

Women in Parliament: Many of the parties made concerted efforts to nominate more women as candidates. Will that translate into more women in the House of Commons?

It should be an interesting evening in front of the television and the computer. Remember to vote and to encourage your friends and family to vote. And check back here on the Mapleleafweb blog as we digest the results over the next several days.


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I hope Harold Jansen is wrong...

Great blog and summary of what to look for in tonight’s results. But I hope you are wrong. I hope the polls are wrong. I hope we don't have a minority government. Why? I'm sick of elections. I know this is not a popular thought on a Political web site, but does anyone remember what a nice stable majority felt like? Sure you might not like the party in power but at least you had some comfort they could get on with the business of running the country. Sure I love to follow the election as much as the next MapleLeafWeb user, but it's not just about us. With what seems like more economic uncertainty ahead I think Canada needs some stability going forward to play in the world arena. With the dire prediction of a minority government (in its many possible forms) we could be back at the voting booths in a very short amount of time. Maple Leaf Web Bloggers don’t shut those computers down quite yet…

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