Wednesday, November 01, 2006

By election day (results)

This is the post I did not expect to write - Lorraine Michael is the new MHA for Signal Hill Quidi Vidi succeeding Jack Harris in the seat.

This was the by-election that was their's to lose. The NDP were facing a high profile government candidate of an apparently very popular government and Premier.

A loss for Michael would have meant sitting out the next two or three House sessions before the next election. It would have left the NDP with only Randy Collins as the sitting MHA - a decent man who has other things on his mind right now other than fighting the good parliamentary fight. The NDP would also have lost critical staff funding for their parliamentary offices.

The next easy step could have been political extinction.

This was no small victory.

By contrast, this was government's test to win. Every surrounding seat for miles around is a very comfortable PC seat and the NDP is only a blip on provincial polls. They had all the levers of government at their disposal and all the city MHA's and ministers were brought out in a full-court press.

Nonetheless the evening belonged to Michael for a variety of reasons and associated repercussions. (Bond papers has also done an analysis worth reading.)

First, the results validates the decision made by Gerry Reid in not running a candidate. Under the circumstances, a Liberal candidate in the district would simply have handed the seat to Jerome Kennedy and the PC's. Reid gambled that the Liberal vote would go to the NDP rather than over the PC's and he was right.

This table (supplied by a poli-metrically inclined colleague) shows that to be the case: the previous Liberal vote went 8 to 1 to the NDP this time around.

Second, the by-election, from the initial announcement right from the moment of concession, had the Premier in the starring role and left candidate Kennedy as the supporting character. The campaign and campaign advertising was all about the Premier. This carried right up to when he and two staffers with Kennedy in tow appeared at the Michael headquarters to make the concession speech.

He couldn't allow his handpicked candidate the dignity of the spotlight to himself even in defeat.

By making the by-election all about him, the Premier has to be considered to have suffered a personal defeat. That would be his first political loss of any kind (unless you include the success of Fabian Manning in the last federal election) since becoming leader of his party.

Third, I believe a contributing factor was the job fair turnout of a few days before. I suspected that event might have political repercussions but little did I know how quickly they would be felt. There is no doubt in my mind that the sight of a line of 9000 people ready to head to Alberta for jobs sent a cold shiver up the spine of the city in general and the political establishment in particular.

That shiver mobilised the NDP vote to appear at the booth and made the PC vote disinclined to come out at all.

Finally, I have to tip my hat to Rick Boland and his crew. They ran a clean and (to my eye) flawless campaign in an uphill battle which met the ultimate test of quality - they won - and politics is a winner-take-all game.

This evening the Premier learned something that eluded him before: fastballs travel just as fast the other way around.

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