Just how big is this majority?

I’m hearing a lot about this 62% majority that’s being used as a talking point for the Liberal-NDP (Bloc) coalition government in Ottawa. But it’s not entirely clear where the calculation for that number comes from. Perhaps for that reason, I’ve seen numbers like 61% and 66% pop up on signs or in statements.

So I did a bit of number crunching based on the results of the 2008 election. Here’s that comes up:

The figure that really matters is seats in the House of Commons. By that measure, the coalition represents 163 of the total 308 seats, or 52.9%. If we include the two independent members (Bill Casey of Nova Scotia and Quebec’s André Arthur, both of whom are closer to the Tories than any other party) on the coalition side, that figure rises to 53.6%.

If we go by votes for coalition parties vs. total votes in the 2008 election, which would be the most obvious choice, they represent 7,528,737 out of a total 13,834,294 votes, or 54.4%.

If we go by votes for coalition parties vs. total votes for the four major parties in the 2008 election, discounting the parties with no seats (and independents), we get 7,528,737 of 12,737,533 votes, or 59.1%.

If we go by votes for coalition parties plus 937,613 Green Party votes vs. total votes in the 2008 election, we get 8,466,350 of 13,834,294 votes, or 61.1% (the “61% majority” figure comes from here). Green Party leader Elizabeth May has endorsed the coalition, so this one is plausible.

If we go by votes for coalition parties plus 937,613 Green Party votes vs. total votes for the five major parties in the 2008 election plus independents, discounting only the 64,304 whackjobs who voted for the Western Block Party and their ilk, we get 8,466,350 of 13,769,990, or 61.5%.

If we go by votes for coalition parties plus 937,613 Green Party votes vs. total votes for the five major parties in the 2008 election and exclude independents entirely, we get 8,466,350 of 13,675,146 votes, or 61.9%. This is where the “62% majority” comes from (well, either this or the next point), but it completely discounts people who voted for anyone who didn’t vote for candidates outside of the five parties, pretending like their votes didn’t exist.

If we go by votes for coalition parties plus Greens plus independents and unaffiliated candidates vs. total votes in the 2008 election, we get 8,561,194 of 13,834,294 votes, or 61.9%. But this makes the huge (and unsupported) assumption that independents support the coalition.

If we go by votes for all non-Conservative candidates vs. total votes in the 2008 election, we get 8,625,498 of 13,834,294 votes, or 62.3%. But this assumes that all third parties from the Christian Heritage Party to the Marxist-Leninists (respectively the 5th and 6th parties in total votes) support this coalition, which I think is a bit of a stretch. It also assumes that everyone who voted for independent candidates also supports the coalition.

So which of these figures is the correct one? The coalition backers want the highest number, 62%, but the more realistic numbers are 54% or 61%, depending on whether or not you include the Greens.

What do you think? Are there other ratios that make sense here? What calculation makes most sense to you?

4 thoughts on “Just how big is this majority?

  1. princess iveylocks

    Not a bad attempt at parsing the meaningless statistic, Steve, but you missed the obvious answer: 0.

    As in, 0% of Canadians specifically wrote on their ballots “I would like to see Jack Layton and whoever hastily emerges from the Liberal butthole govern the country on an unknown platform based purely on reactionary spite, please.”

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  2. Jimmy Zoubris

    Statistics, statistics…all the numbers above make sense….the number most coalition people want to use is 62. The rationale behind this is that 62 percent of the people voted for someone other that the Conservatives!
    I believe this is correct but at the same time (unfortunately) it doesn’t matter……the Bloc Quebecois gets less than 10 percent of the national vote yet they usually elect more members than the NDP ! The PC’s with Kim Campbell got 2 seats and the got over 30 Percent nationally.
    Morally and ethically, the Conservative do not have 51 % of the seats nor did they get 51% of the vote..therefore …

    Jimmy Zoubris

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