Hello Ontario, Some Poll-erizing Thoughts on Polls.

I’m having a bit of a conversation with someone who appears to be a supporter of the PC party of Ontario.

Currently the polls are showing the Ontario PCs and Liberals to be in a dead heat in terms of support. However the seat count favours the Liberals by 5.

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Now the person I’m talking with thinks this is terrible, and thinks that there is some kind of scam taking place here. He has convinced himself that Ontario has some special electoral system that is changing the numbers in the Liberal favour.

Sorry Bud, it’s not.

It is part and parcel of our First Past the Post (FPTP) system of electing representatives.

I have no doubts that if I offered to change the electoral system in Ontario to a Proportional Representation system or a Ranked Ballot my new friend would throw a fit. For some reason most PC supporters have a blind allegiance to the FPTP system that we’ve used for the last, well who knows how long we’ve used it. It’s the system we know, it’s the system that some of us love and some of us hate.

The conversation that I walked in on was about the recent polling numbers showing a lead for the Liberals and my friend was saying that there was something going on. The seat count, in his opinion should be the same. I pointed out that the ridings in Ontario were the same as the ones that put the Harper Party into power in Ottawa in 2011. He doesn’t believe this.

Since the last seat assessment in 2005, Ontario has had 106 seats in Ottawa, but when the redistribution occurred, the Provincial government of the day opted to maintain the same number of seats in Northern Ontario which lost one seat Federally due to declining population density in the North.

So basically, the counts for the rest of the ridings are about the same as for the 2011 National Election.

What my new friend can’t see, or refuses to see is that in order to win a riding, a candidate does not need to win 50%+1 of the vote, a candidate needs to carry just one more vote than his or her nearest competitor.

I doubt that it would ever happen, but if a constituency consists of 100,000 people (all voters in this case) you could win your riding with 33,334 votes.

That’s 33.334% of the vote. Most people would call that 1/3rd.

Here’s how it works. Just about every riding in Ontario will have at least 3 candidates on the ballot, one from each of the major parties. Some ridings will have more, but let’s just ignore them for the time being. When Election Day rolls around, the three candidates in this imaginary riding are in a dead heat. When the ballots are finally counted, Candidate A has 33,333 votes, Candidate B also has 33,333 votes, and Candidate C wins the day with a whopping 33,334 votes.

Now this is the extreme case, but it has happened that elections have been decided by differences in the double digits. I think the closest race in 2011’s National Election was 26 votes.

If this imaginary scenario happened across Ontario, we could have a party theoretically sweep every seat in an election with nowhere near the majority of the vote. This is what the supporters of Proportional Representation are going on about. And they are right.

The thing in Ontario is that if you can win the seats close to Queen’s Park, say within a one hour drive of QP, you don’t need to win another seat to take a majority. The population density in the Toronto/GTA/Hamilton region is enough to carry the day.

Any you only need to win them by one vote.

Taken to another extreme, if a party wins those seats close to Queen’s Park in squeakers and another party romps through the balance of the remaining constituencies we could (again in theory) have a majority government that came in second place in the popular vote.

Is this fair? It must be, it’s what the rules allow.

Is Ontario special in this regard? No, not really. A number of provinces have “vote rich” major cities and if you can carry the seats in the biggest city and a good chunk of the second largest you’ll likely rule the roost in those provinces as well.

***

I’m no fan of Tim Hudak. I remember when he sat on the government side in Queen’s Park. When the ruling PCs sold off our assets to pay for their plans and in the case of Ontario Hydro, they just left the debts owed in a drawer for someone else to deal with later.

That debt repayment that you see on your electric bill each month? That was Mike Harris and Tim Hudak that saddled us with that.

The other two leaders leave me cold as well. Sorry folks, just the way it is.

I won’t tell you who to vote for, I’m not sure who I’m going to vote for. I won’t even tell you who to vote against, that’s a decision you get to make for yourself too.

***

We’re closing in on Election Day. I want you to think about one other thing. There are people who are fighting for the ability to vote, there are people dying because they want to vote, get your butt out there and do those people proud and cast your vote.

Don’t like any of the candidates or any of the parties? Go to the polling station and decline your ballot. Or take your ballot and spoil it. This tells the powers that be that you bothered to voice your opinion on them and their policies. Staying home tells them that you are either too lazy to bother or that you just don’t care.

Thus endeth the sermon

Peace

BC

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