Iggy should look at the polls - there's no way he can win

Where would he pick up the 43 seats that the Liberals need to win?

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by L. IAN MacDONALD
The Gazette, Wednesday, September 9, 2009

There was another poll out yesterday confirming that the Liberals would be going into a fall election behind the Conservatives, which again makes you wonder why Michael Ignatieff wants to pull the trigger.

A Strategic Counsel poll for CTV and the Globe and Mail has the Conservatives leading the Liberals 35 to 30 per cent, with the NDP at 14 per cent and the Bloc at 12 per cent nationally, which translates to 49 per cent in Quebec, with les rouges at 23 per cent and les bleus at 16 per cent.

The Quebec part is wrong, I guarantee it. There's no way the Bloc is that high, or the Libs that low. At 49 per cent, the Bloc would repeat its exploit of 2004 and win 54 seats. Even with a larger margin of error for regional breakouts, the Bloc's support is overstated in this poll by about 10 points, while the Libs are understated by at least seven points. And the Conservatives are probably several points higher than 16 per cent here, closer to the 20 per cent threshold they need to retain most of their 10 seats in Quebec.

But neither are the Liberals leading by seven points in Quebec, as their own pollster, Michael Marzolini, told them last week at the Liberal caucus in Sudbury. While Marzolini has the Conservatives leading the Libs 37-34 overall in the country, he shows the Liberals leading the Bloc 38-31 in Quebec, with the Conservatives at 20 per cent. That's wrong, too. There isn't a Liberal in the province who believes it.

So, to summarize, one national pollster puts the Bloc 26 points ahead of the Liberals, and another, the Liberal party's pollster, puts the Libs seven points ahead of the Bloc. This is why when it comes to polling in Quebec, there's really only CROP and Léger as reliable standards of measuring public opinion.

But leaving Quebec aside, two pollsters have told the Liberals they would be going into an election three to five points down to the Conservatives, and that the Liberals are no better than tied in Ontario (40-40 in Marzolini's numbers) tied within the margin of error (Cons 41, Libs 39) in a province that holds the biggest prize, 106 seats.

In a four-party House, especially one in which the Bloc dominates Quebec, the math of a majority - 155 seats out of 308 - is very nearly out of reach from the beginning.

Then look at it this way, on the back of an envelope: It takes 120 seats to form a weak minority government.

So the question for Ignatieff is how does he get there from here? Where he is now is 77 seats, compared with 143 for the Conservatives, who are dozen seats shy of a majority.

In other words, where is Ignatieff going to pick up the 43 seats he needs to form a government, and where is Harper going to lose 23?

Again, go to the back of the envelope, and the seat numbers by region. The Liberals now have 14 seats in Quebec and hope to gain another 11. Give them 25 seats. The Conservatives would be more than happy to hold on to the 10 they have, but at this point any losses they sustain here will be to the Bloc, not the Liberals.

In Ontario, the Conservatives won 51 seats last October with 39 per cent of the vote, while the Liberals won 38 seats with 34 per cent. The polls now show them both around 40 per cent, pointing to about 50 seats each, with gains for the Liberals to be sure, but mostly from the NDP, which has 17 seats.

But for the sake of argument, give the Liberals 11 more in Quebec, and 12 more in Ontario, taking them to 100 seats. Where, then, do they find another 20 seats?

That's a very good question, because the math becomes really uphill for them from here. In British Columbia, with 36 seats, the Conservatives now hold 22 ridings, the Liberals five and the NDP nine. The Liberals might pick up five seats on the lower mainland, but again mostly at the expense of the NDP.

In Alberta, the Conservatives hold 27 of 28 seats, and the NDP has the other one. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, with 28 seats, the Conservatives have 22, the NDP four and the Liberals two. In Marzolini's regional breakout of these two provinces, the Conservatives lead the Libs by 58 to 20 per cent. Hardly a groundswell.

Which leaves the Atlantic, with 32 seats, of which the Liberals already hold 17, while the Conservatives have 10 and the NDP five.

Even if the Liberals won five more in the Atlantic, in addition to a handful more in B.C., they would still be 10 seats short of the 120 needed to form a minority government. Meanwhile, the Conservative losses in this seat projection don't add up to anywhere near the 23 seats they would need in order to lose.

The numbers don't work, unless there is a new electoral math with which we are not familiar.

 
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