NORTHERN ECONOMIST

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20 Posts with tag "election"

Why Premier McGuinty is Not in Thunder Bay Today

Today is the NOMA provincial party leaders debate in Thunder Bay between Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath.  Premier McGuinty has declined to attend.  The premier apparently has a previous engagement and furthermore probably believes that as the premier for all Ontario, debates should be held with the entire province rather than a single region as the stage.  The outrage in the North has been palpable but in simple cost-benefit terms, if I were the premier, I would have made the same decision. I probably also would have added that the debate seemed exclusionary and elitist given that according to my last look it required a 95 dollar conference admission fee.  But then what do I know, I'm an economist, not a political advisor. (By the way, the charge of elitism can be deflected by the fact the debate is being webcast on the NOMA site.  NOMA stands for Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association. Web Coverage is also available on Netnewsledger.).

For Dalton McGuinty, coming to Northern Ontario for a regional debate is fraught with high costs and little in the way of benefits.  This is a region - that usually tends to vote Liberal or NDP anyway.  It generally is not an arena for rational and open debate with a reasonable chance that you can change someone's mind, but a highly partisan political herd environment.  In some ridings, the tradition is to vote Liberal and when you want to punish the Liberals you vote NDP.  Given the anger over what many see as a weak response to the forest sector crisis by the provincial Liberal government, the desire to publicly punish is high.  Having Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath pummel the premier on forestry job losses when they have not had that much to say about forestry policy themselves is probably not how the premier wants to spend his day.

The debate is also being held in a region that is relatively marginal compared to the vote rich GTA.  It is difficult to see the premier turning down a similar chance to debate the other two leaders in Toronto on the issue of the GTA as Ontario's economic driver.  The media is clustered in Toronto as are the voters.  In the case of the Northern debate, not too many people in Toronto will be paying attention to the debate anyway unless he makes a major gaffe that is trumpeted in the evening newscasts. 

The result of the political calculus?  Coming to the Northern debate has high costs and very low benefits.  Given the very small number of seats at stake particularly in the Northwest where the debate will receive the greatest coverage, he is willing to take his chances. 

 

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Ontario Twitter Election Update

It has now been almost two weeks since the Ontario election was called and during that time the number of Twitter followers the four party leaders have has started to grow at a faster rate but the overall rankings have not shifted since I began keeping track on June 30th.  Currently, Tim Hudak has 10,671 followers (up from 7,889 on June 30th), Andrea Horwath has 6,930 (up from 4,518), Dalton McGuinty has 15,356 (up from 11,477) and Mike Schreiner has 2034 (up from 1,286).  

 

 

What has changed a bit is the distribution since the end of the summer.  Andrea Horwath has increased her share of Twitter followers from 18 to 20 percent.  Essentially, her followers have grown at a faster rate than any of the other three leaders.  Since June 30th, Tim Hudak's share has declined from 31 to 30 percent and Dalton McGuinty's share has declined from 45 to 44 percent while Mike Schreiner's share has remained fixed at 6 percent.  Much of this distributional change has occurred since the end of August and may be a reflection of the "Orange wave" that so many have remarked about.  If the seats in the legislature broke up along the lines of the Twitter distribution, you would have 47 Liberals, 21 NDP and 32 Conservative and 6 Greens - a minority Liberal government.  However, based on Twitter counts, the overall picture still seems the same.  Moreover, electoral ridings are first past the post meaning it is unlikely any Greens will be elected.This of course is in marked contrast to some of the poll results which have picked up some remarkably varying results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is interesting to note that the Ontario Election Prediction Project web site currently has the following prediction of the 107 Ontario seats: Liberals 18, Conservatives 29, New Democrats 15 and 45 too close to call.  If the too close to call seats break along the others, you would be looking at a minority Conservative government.  In terms of Northwestern Ontario ridings, it predicts Thunder-Bay Atikokan as going NDP, Kenora-Rainy River as going NDP and Thunder Bay-Superior North as too close to call.  For the 11 northern Ontario riding as a whole, 5 are currently predicted to go NDP, 2 Conservative, 1 Liberal and 3 are too close to call. There are still almost three weeks to go.  Its going to be exciting.  My call right now is for a minority provincial government.

 

Employment, Political Regime and Ontario

According to a recent Nanos poll conducted for the Globe and Mail, after health care, the economy/jobs is the top concern of Ontario voters.  Ontario voters may be interested on how employment growth has fared in their particular neck of the woods under various political regimes.  I’ve calculated from Statistics Canada data the average annual growth rate in employment for Ontario as a whole and for each Ontario economic region for three time periods: the NDP regime for the period 1990 to 1995, the Conservative era from 1995 to 2003 and the Liberal epoch from 2003 to 2011.  I've included a graph with all of Ontario and its regions as well as one highlighting the North.

Of course these figures do not take into account the length of term, the state of the business cycle (for example the NDP period from 1990 to 1995 was the shortest of the three periods and more dominated by recession) or control for particular regional conditions.  Yet, they do provide an average indicator of economic performance via employment growth. 

For Ontario as a whole average employment growth was greatest during the period of Conservative rule from 1995 to 2003, which of course also coincided with a long and spectacular economic boom.  It was, not surprisingly, lowest during the recessionary period from 1990 to 1995 – a period of NDP governance.  As for the Liberal period, it saw employment growth greater than the NDP but lower than the Conservatives.  This period caught the tail end of the boom era as well as the Great Recession.

What is more interesting is the regional variation.  During the NDP era, though Ontario as a whole saw negative employment growth, some regions weathered the recession reasonably well – namely, Muskoka-Kawarthas, Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie, London and Northwestern Ontario.  However, vote-rich regions like Ottawa, the GTA, Hamilton Niagara and Windsor-Sarnia saw negative growth, which upon reflection may have been yet another factor in the defeat of the Rae government.

During the Conservative era, a rising tide lifted all boats in terms of employment growth rates but growth was the greatest in the GTA, Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie, Hamilton-Niagara, Ottawa and the Muskokas.  As for the Liberal period, growth is again the greatest in these regions but there was also negative employment growth in Windsor-Sarnia and the Northwest.

 

 

 

 

For the most part, whatever the regime, the Muskoka region, the GTA and Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie has tended to do better than the provincial average when it comes to employment growth.  All the other regions have generally performed more poorly.  This may be more a reflection of the concentration of economic activity in central Ontario than any specific comment on the effect of political party in power on the economy.  I suppose it would be even more interesting to see how these regions actually voted but it may not be as important as you think.  For example, Northwestern Ontario did not elect Conservatives during the 1995-2003 period and elected mainly Liberals for the 2003 to 2011 period and yet performed much worse during the latter period.  I suppose political representation is ultimately no protection from exogenous economic shocks.

 

 

 

 

 

The results for the North are interesting. Under the NDP and Conservative eras, the Northwest did better than the Northeast when it came to employment growth.  During the Liberal government period, the Northwest has done very poorly while the Northeast has still seen employment increases on average.  Compared to Ontario as a whole, in terms of employment growth, the North did more poorly than Ontario as a whole during the Conservative and Liberal regimes - it did marginally better than Ontario as a whole under the NDP regime.  However, its average employment performance was best during the Conservative era.  Yet, voting patterns in the North do not reflect this performance difference.  Again, it would appear that in politics, the voter equation is more complicated than simple economics. 

Ontario Election: Not Hares, Mainly Tortoises

With the month of September dawning, Ontario's election is about to heat up dramatically as the campaign intensifies towards the October 6th election day.  At the start of the summer, polls suggested Tim Hudak's Conservatives were poised to win with an 11 point poll lead over the government McGuinty Liberals. However, the polls of recent weeks suggest that the gap has narrowed and that there is now a much tighter race with the Conservatives at 38 percent, the Liberals at 36 percent and the NDP at 23 percent.  After an early forward dash as the speedy hare, the Conservatives may be about to be surpassed by the Liberal tortoise. 

While the last few years have been economically tumultuous for Ontario, it may not necessarily translate into a win for the Conservatives.  First, despite dissatisfaction with Liberal policies and polls that say there is a desire for change, a clear alternative has not really been articulated by either major opposition party.  For example, despite the rhetoric, how the parties will differ in dealing with high electricity prices and the debt and deficit will likely not be any different when push comes to shove.  In the end, the three parties are fundamentally so centrist that the election becomes a personality contest which is why campaign ads often feature such nasty personal attacks devoid of policy.  This lack of real alternatives in policy is probably also a reason why voter apathy has increased over time and turnouts declined. As well, there is now a Conservative government federally and Ontario voters may decide to counterbalance the federal conservatives with a different regional voice. 

However, the number of Twitter followers the party leaders have suggest not so much a sudden shift in voter preferences but a slow and steady increase in followers that has left the distribution fundamentally unchanged.  After nearly two months of monitoring, McGuinty still has about a 45 percent share of the party leader Twitter followers followed by Tim Hudak still with 31 percent and Horwath at 18 percent with Schreiner of the Greens at about 6 percent. Growth rates of Twitter followers have differed only marginally over the last two months thus preventing any sudden shift.  Between August 2nd and August 25th, Hudak's Twitter followers grew the least at 7.7 percent.  The next highest was Schreiner at 9.4 percent, then McGuinty at 9.7 percent and finally Horwath at 11.4 percent.  The Twitter scores do not pick up a fundamental shift in support and suggest that if anything all the candidates are all tortoises, plodding along at rates of growth not significantly different to affect their vote share over the next five weeks.  Indeed, based on these Twitter scores, the McGuinty Liberals have been ahead all along with a substantial lead.

 

 

 

 

 

If one were to forecast based on the Twitter scores, it looks like we are heading for a Liberal government again though whether it might be a majority or minority is not really possible to tell.  However, based on the opinion polls, the vote is close enough that we might end up with either a Conservative or Liberal minority government.  That would not be such a bad thing.  A minority government forces politicians to be much more cooperative with one another and can create a more moderate and diverse government.  At the same time, the quest for a majority might result in some serious work among the parties on policy that would create some policy differentiation that might be attractive and interesting to voters.  At present, Ontarians may be content remaining with the devil they know but there are potential wild cards.  Voter interest is still rather low at this point and the Conservative platform may spark some interest going into September if a desire for change takes hold.  Then there is always the possibility of an Orange wave taking hold at the provincial level especially in the wake of the death of Jack Layton.  The situation is still fluid.

 

 

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Ontario Election Twitter Update

Well, I took another look at the number of Twitter followers for the four Ontario provincial political party leaders and the distribution has not shifted very much.  Dalton McGuinty still has about 45 percent of the followers followed by Tim Hudak at just over 31 percent, Andrea Horwath next at 18 percent and Mike Schreiner at about 5 percent.   However, what is interesting is the growth rate in the number of followers between June 30th and my tally as of about 3pm August 2nd.  As the table down below shows, while Dalton McGuinty still has the largest number of followers,  the highest growth rate in the number of followers over the June 30-Aug 2nd period belongs to Andrea Horwath at 10.4 percent.  Mike Schreiner of the Greens was second at 9.1 percent followed by Tim Hudak of the Conservatives at 8.7 percent and finally Dalton McGuinty was last at 8.2 percent.  Apparently the Liberals have begun focusing on the NDP just as much as the PCs in their electioneering efforts.  Does the growth in Twitter followers signal the start of a surge?  We shall see what the next few weeks brings.