Sacré orange!

Quebec consumed by an orange wave. Graphic from CBC's vote results map

“It’s all orange.”

I looked at the map of Quebec ridings about 10:30 p.m., and I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t just pockets of orange, or lots of orange. It was all orange. With the exception of a few ridings on the island of Montreal, ridings in the Beauce region, and the giant Haute-Gaspésie and Roberval ridings you can see above, it was all orange.

Montérégie is all orange. Outaouais is all orange. Quebec City is all orange north of the St. Lawrence. Laval’s four ridings all orange. Gilles Duceppe’s riding orange. West Island Liberal stronghold Pierrefonds-Dollard orange.

In all, 58 of Quebec’s 75 ridings elected New Democratic Party MPs on Monday, with the Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc Québécois left to share the handful that remained.

I followed the campaign. I even commented about it for CBC’s All in a Weekend show (you can listen to my discussions with host Dave Bronstetter and community activist Sujata Dey here: March 28, April 3, April 10, April 17, May 1). I watched the news about the NDP “surge” in Quebec and saw the poll numbers at threehundredeight.com. But even as it was projecting 30 seats in Quebec for the NDP, I was convinced those numbers were too high, the result of lots of soft support from people who, when it came to the ballot box, would change their minds and vote for one of the more established parties or more recognizable candidates.

As we all know now, those numbers actually far underestimated how the NDP would do here.

My night

My regular job kept me busy on election night. I’m not complaining, in fact I love working election nights. There’s excitement, unpredictability, lots of people, free food, and free beer after the last edition is put to bed.

Unfortunately it meant I couldn’t spend much time looking at the various networks’ coverage of the results so as to make snarky judgments about them. I had the Sun News Network live streaming feed on my computer, and I could see a TV tuned to RDI at the office, but otherwise my attention was focused on the results and my page.

Election night at any journalistic outlet is crazy, and The Gazette is no exception. Almost everyone is working that day, including most of the managers, and the work doesn’t stop until the final final edition, which had people in the office past 1:30am. So many are in at once that seating is arranged in advance so they can make sure there’s room for everyone.

I was assigned Page B5, a page in the special section devoted to results from Quebec. Reporters were taken off their regular beats and assigned to key ridings in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec. With another editor sharing duties on the page, I got files from four reporters who would write three stories (one for each edition): Jason Magder covering the two West Island ridings, Alycia Ambroziak in off-island Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Monique Muise in Laval–Les Îles, and Jeff Heinrich in Denis Coderre’s Montreal-North Bourassa riding.

With the exception of Heinrich, the reporters were surprised having to write about unexpected NDP upsets. Vaudreuil-Soulanges was one of dozens of Bloc ridings that went to the NDP despite the “star killer” power of Meili Faille. Laval–Les Îles was a Liberal stronghold, and even after the surprise retirement of Raymonde Folco it was expected to stay that way. A draft story even said it was expected to hold while the adjacent riding would see the Bloc candidate cruising to victory. In fact, all four Laval ridings would turn orange quickly, forcing reporters to scramble to find the winning candidate. He invited them to his campaign headquarters – at his house.

Lac-Saint-Louis was expected to be a tough fight. The Conservatives had put star candidate (and a one-time Gazette publisher) Larry Smith there against Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia. But Smith, who briefly led early voting results a couple of times, fell to third as the riding bounced back between Liberal red and NDP orange for most of the night. Scarpaleggia eked out a win in the end. Bernard Patry, who represented my parents’ riding of Pierrefonds-Dollard since 1993 and won with huge majorities in every election since, was stunned when he lost to a New Democrat most of the people there had probably never heard of.

All fantastic stories, but then these were only a few of the crazy results in Quebec that night.

TV coverage commentary

Without the ability to surf the networks from the comfort of my living room, I can’t really evaluate how the networks did on debate night. My PVR is limited to two simultaneous recordings, and I picked CTV (for its popularity) and Sun News (because it’s the newest).

Fortunately others were watching, and I direct you to a Gazette liveblog by Mike Boone and a blog post from TV Feeds My Family’s Bill Brioux. In The Suburban, Mike Cohen also praises the work of radio stations CBC and CJAD during the campaign.

Mario Dumont’s election night show (described by some as good considering its very poor resources) is all online. It also has the best line of the night I’ve heard so far, courtesy of Caroline Proulx: Quebecers electing a wave of NDP candidates is like having a one-night stand and finding out the next day that she’s pregnant.

I will add this, which I spotted today as I reviewed the CTV coverage. Their election desk did house projection ranges early in the night, as results were coming in and after they had projected a Conservative government.

CTV election seat projection as results come in

In the end, not one of the four parties’ seat totals would fall within these projected ranges.

Pylons

You’ll be hearing a lot over the coming days and weeks about the dozens of new NDPers elected to the House of Commons:

And these are the ones whose background we know about.

What you won’t hear are the stories of all the similar candidates for the other parties in no-hope ridings. The Liberal in Jonquière who works for a moving company. The Conservative in Papineau who’s a hairstylist, a mom and helps her husband work as a real estate agent. The Bloc candidate in Pierrefonds-Dollard who just started a degree at UQAM and whose previous work experience includes a job at the library at Collège Gérald-Godin and as a cashier at IGA.

And these are based on their official biographies posted to the party websites. One can only imagine if even the slightest digging was done into their backgrounds.

The ADQ had the same problem in 2007, when they unexpectedly rode a wave of popular support into official opposition in Quebec City. We all know how that turned out: The ADQ is all but wiped out and its former leader is now a TV host.

Everyone runs whoever they can find in no-hope ridings because they’re no-hope ridings. The parties want to be able to say they’re running someone in all 308 ridings across Canada (of 75 across Quebec, in the case of the Bloc) and don’t want to give up on any vote. But this is the natural consequence of that strategy.

This isn’t to excuse the NDP putting in phantom pylon candidates in ridings they didn’t think they’d be competitive in. Surely they could have put in the effort to find locals who were interested enough to try for a seat.

But nor should this small number of candidates with questionable issues be confused with the dozens of others whose only crimes are that they are young and/or not politically experienced. Many of those elected in 1993 for the Liberals, Bloc and Reform shared those qualities. And now many of those Liberals and Blocquistes are shocked at falling to political neophytes who were barely present in their ridings, resisting the urge to appear a sore loser by saying the people in their constituencies are absolute morons for electing someone who is horribly unqualified for the job.

I feel for the losing candidates. I even feel bad for the Bloc. Maybe, if Canada had a form of proportional representation, this problem wouldn’t occur. Voting for a leader wouldn’t be so easily confused with voting for a local MP.

Anyway, the votes are cast, and we’re not turning back time. These kids have been elected. Thomas Mulcair will be busy getting his caucus educated. And as the pundits are saying, the NDP is fortunate that a majority government gives them four years to get their affairs in order.

As someone who likes good stories, I have to admit that watching these brand-new MPs figure out how to be politicians will be fun. And we’ll finally figure out if the Conservatives have that “hidden agenda”, putting that issue to rest once and for all either way.

On the other hand, the journalist in me is saddened that the minority-parliament drama we’ve had since 2004 has finally come to an end. It made for great political stories, and sold a lot of papers.

24 thoughts on “Sacré orange!

  1. Ohara

    You can start calling Quebec the swing province. I would bet the NDP will lose half their seats in four years. Four years! Considering the circumstances this was the best possible result. A majority government, a new look opposition party and, of course a return to the fringes for the BQ.

    Reply
  2. Paul in Calgary

    Quote (not mine): “My guess is that we will be seeing a few bi-elections in Quebec over the the next few months as the freshly elected crop of NDP members realize that parliament cuts into their skateboarding time.”

    Reply
  3. ladyjaye

    I live in Ève Péclet’s riding. Ok, so she’s a 21-year-old kid who went to a silly TV show in February and showed mostly that she’s a tad immature. However, she just got her law degree (if that’s an accurate info, then she really just graduated this semester). From what I could see from her official NDP biography, she doesn’t seem a dumb girl or anything, just a bit young. Wait and see is my philosophy about it.

    And besides, you rise a good point about no-hope candidates coming from all backgrounds. Péclet was running in a Bloc stronghold, so no one expected her to win. Heck, she didn’t even have pylon signs.

    Now, the case of Ruth the bartender is definitely not acceptable. Wonder what will happen if she still fails to show up? Would that mean another vote in that riding, or what?

    I’m just tired of the NDP bashing that’s going on already from Bloc supporters who are frustrated over their loss.

    Reply
    1. Irwin Block

      Isabelle Morin is not a unilingual francophone. Just had an hour-long conversation with her in English only and she is as good in English as, let’s say, Stephen Harper when he ran for the Conservative party leadership, which is good, clear, occasionally searching for a word, but a strong B. In addition, the Quebec City native is planning to take some English lessons to polish up her syntax and expand her vocabulary. She biked in Ireland by her herself and got along fine, she says.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        I’ve corrected the post on both Ms. Morin’s and Ms. Brosseau’s purported unilingualism. It seems some journalists are quick to criticize language abilities and quick to trust others’ opinions on the subject.

        Reply
        1. Irwin Block

          Thanks for the correction and kudos on placing No. 6 in Montreal Mirror’s Reader’s Poll for
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  4. AlexH

    I watched some of the coverage in french (TVA) and I have to say that the failure of the Bloc pretty much put the entire place into a massive funk. The tone was very similar to that of the lost refendum votes, as they realizes that their dreams (personal and as a people) had been dashed yet again.

    Proportional representation is pretty much a non-starter in our system. Who would your local candidate be? Who are you really voting for? I don’t feel bad for the Bloc, they got 6% of the national vote, and have 4 times as many MPs as the Green Party, which got 4% of the vote. Maybe if the Bloc came to the table with something other and an obstructionist option, they might fare better overall. It only amazes me that a single sour note drone of their “Quebec ahead of everyone else” has sustained them this long.

    I think that the real key will be to watch Harper now that he is let off the leash. He no longer has anyone else to blame for the results, no one standing in his way (except to raise a fuss in the house of commons, which blocks nothing). He will run the country as he sees fit, and will at the next election have to face the electorate without being able to blame the other side of the house for his failures (and there will likely be many). The disgraceful advertising campaigns against the opposition outside of the election period show how far this guy will go to get his way, and that will almost certainly be his downfall.

    Reply
    1. dzuunmod

      Proportional representation doesn’t necessarily mean that all 308 seats would be determined by PR. You can have a mix.

      For instance, you could enlarge the ridings across Canada (which would reduce the number of MPs) and then allocate the remaining seats in the House for PR. And those PR seats could be allocated in any number of ways:
      -Nationwide, where, if a party gets 40% of the vote, they receive 40% of the PR seats
      -Provincially, where each province gets a set number of PR seats based on its population and then, if you get 40% of the vote in a province, you get 40% of the PR seats in that province only

      And so on and so forth. Proportional representation doesn’t have to mean the end of local representation.

      Reply
      1. AlexH

        Yeah, and I can just imagine the fighitng and struggling that would go on to decide how many PR seats would be in each province, with the Western provinces trying to find a way to use the system to tip the balance out of Central Canada (Quebec / Ontario).

        It’s just something that wouldn’t add much to the game, and rather, would probably encourage the marginal parties to try to get the small percentage they would need to get a seat. It is the method used in Europe by the Pirate Party to get people in the European Parliament.

        Reply
        1. dzuunmod

          You wouldn’t have to change the number of seats that each province has – you could just stick with the current numbers, but convert a given number of seats within each province into PR seats.

          Reply
        2. dzuunmod

          “with the Western provinces trying to find a way to use the system to tip the balance out of Central Canada (Quebec / Ontario).”

          And to some extent, by the way, they’d be right to do so. Two of the three most under-represented provinces in the House of Commons (going by average population per riding) are BC and Alberta. Quebec has about 100,000 people per riding while BC and Alberta have 114,000 and 117,000 respectively.

          If we were going strictly by population, BC, Alberta and Ontario would all be entitled to several more seats (26 in total between them) and every other province would see its seat total reduced.

          Reply
        3. ant6n

          You can use the same number of seats per Province as with the FTPT system. It’s just a question of how many MPs belong to each party. Marginal parties wouldn’t get seats necessarily – many proportional systems have a 3% or 5% hurdle to get into parlaiment – and the votes of the marginal parties together are usually less than 1%. Better representation would add a lot to “the game”, because currently we are moving towards a 2-party system. Which means that always one party will have the majority and not be interested in consensus, at the same time the parties themselves will all move towards the center so that they will represent only the people that are there.

          I’ve compiled what the seat arrangement would be if Canada used the German electoral system:
          * note that Germany elects half the parlaiment via fptp, the second half from party lists so that overall there is proportional representation. So with 308 ridings, there would be 616 representatives. This means that each province is weighed exactly as before, and that rural areas get more MPs per person – it’s just that the overall party allocations are proportional, made proportional for every province. I counted YT+NT+NU as one province. In order to make results comparable, I divided the results by two, so there are “half-seats” now.
          * Germany has a 5% votes / 3 direct mandates hurdle to get the poportional candidates, so the Greens would merely get the one representative

          con, ndp, lib, bloq, green – total
          BC: 18, 12.5, 5, 0, 0.5 – 36
          AB: 20, 5, 3, 0, 0 – 28
          SK: 8, 4.5, 1.5, 0, 0 – 14
          MB: 8, 3.5, 2.5, 0, 0 – 14
          ON; 49.5, 28.5, 28, 0, 0 – 106
          QC: 13, 33, 11, 18, 0 – 75
          NB: 4.5, 3, 2.5, 0, 0 – 10
          NS: 4, 3.5, 3.5, 0, 0 – 11
          PE: 2, 0.5, 1.5, 0, 0 – 4
          NL: 2, 2.5, 2.5, 0, 0 – 7
          YT+NT+NU: 1, 1, 1, 0, 0 – 3
          total: 130, 97.5, 62, 18, 0.5 – 308

          Reply
          1. AlexH

            Yup, we need to double the number of people in the parliament. That will work. Should we double the number of (useless) Senators too?

            Reply
          2. ant6n

            Is that sarcasm? Is that an argument? The senate should probably abolished, but this is irrelevant to the discussion.

            Whether to double or not the number of seats is besides the point. The point is that with some members assigned according to proportionality, the representation becomes much more fair in the sense that there are no “wasted votes”, every vote results in the same amount of representation, and thus people could vote their conscience and know to be represented. If only ~25% of all Canadian parliaments would have been assigned with proportional candidates, then every parliament since the 1860s would’ve been proportional overall.

            With the current system, the winners got up to 1.5% of the seats for every 1% of the vote, and the runner up got down to 0.5% of the seats for every 1% of the vote – this means that during some years, winning parties’ supporters got 3x the representation per vote than supporters of the official opposition – we had about 11 majority governments who were not elected by a majority of the people.

            Considering the Canadian system does not have many checks and balances, and Prime Ministers rule like kings – how can that be considered fair elections?

            Reply
    2. ant6n

      There are voting systems that result in a more proportional representation while still maintaining local candidates. For example multi-candidate riding systems, or mixed majority/proportional systems. A proportional system could also be used to weigh rural areas more strongly – for some reason Canadians like to be ruled by rural areas diverting resources while ignoring the urban areas.

      Reply
  5. Karine

    Colour me not so surprised at the Orange surge. Not because the polls had predicted that turn, but because for the first time since I’ve started voting, I have never gotten so much sollicitation from parties, whether it’s them knocking on my door or via phone calls. When I got a call at 8:30pm on Monday morning from the Liberal candidate’s office asking me to out and vote, that’s when it finally sank in that my riding will be turning orange. At least I got an MP who, on paper, has a solid background.

    As far as TV coverage goes, I was surprised to prefer Dumont’s stripped down show on V, in fact it was my first time ever seeing his show, whether on daytime or night time. Yes it looked like a political version of 110% but I wasn’t bombarded with a ton of information with all the graphics, just talking heads commenting what was going on.

    I hope that Chapleau will do an NDP version of his cartoon where he had Mario Dumont and his MPs LOL.

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_m3LAw4ExtTg/Rz9JW-CkdeI/AAAAAAAAAPk/VxGVy3PvgYo/s400/Dumont3.jpg

    Reply
    1. ck

      Now that’s a funny cartoon. I can picture one of Mulcair leading a kindergarten class or something like that.

      Reply
  6. Fassero

    NDPer I’ll never be but, honestly, I hope the newbies shake things up on the Hill. I am so sick and tired of listening to and reading about “lack of experience” or “student” or that stuff. For years, government MPs have predominantly been “career politicians”, lawyers, accountants, and doctors and it’s not exactly that government books or that social services are operating all smoothly and efficiently thanks to their experienced presence.

    The stretching out of candidates to all ridings (not exactly accurate. The Conservatives would not run anybody against Andre Arthur who voted with them anyway), unfortunately, has little to do with cross-country rules. It has everything to do with the $1.75 per vote rule payment to the parties which used to keep the BQ financially afloat and now will give a nice little kitty for the NDP.

    The Anglos winning Francophone ridings though is kind of fun though nor can I wait for a MoWester to look for MP help in their fiefdom.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      It has everything to do with the $1.75 per vote rule payment to the parties which used to keep the BQ financially afloat and now will give a nice little kitty for the NDP.

      Not for long. The Conservatives have promised to eliminate that, and now with a majority they finally can.

      Reply
    2. ck

      I have a problem with many of those youngsters going to parliament earning more than someone who has worked their tails off for 10-20-30++ years, plus life experience and the wounds to go with that. This flies in the face of every value I was taught as a teen. For example, when I got my first job, it was at a Burger King, at night, on the corner of Ste-Catherine and Crescent (no longer exists of course). I remembered complaining, but I was told that I had to start at the bottom of the ladder as everybody must and the privilege of moving up had to be earned by sweat. It was character building, I was told. I would only understand the rationale behind that when I would be old enough to appreciate it.

      The US has it right with certain age rules: 25 to be a representative of the house and 27 to be a senator. And even then.

      I have no problem with politically inexperienced people and folks from the working class running for office and succeeding is a good thing and it’s what politics needs, besides the typical crop of millionaires, business tycoons, lawyers, and bankers, as the former can add something to politics the latter group cannot, but I do think there should be a level of maturity (which so far, many of those new MPs haven’t shown) and most importantly, life experience (which most don’t have).

      Also, like Steve, many of them are mismatches to the ridings they represent. Isabelle Morin is from Sherbrooke who will be representing the mostly Anglo riding of NDG-Lachine. Friends of mine attended the candidates’ debate there and they all told me she didn’t speak English. And of course, we all know about Ruth-Ellen Brosseau. I have a feeling there will be a by-election in Berthier-Maskinonge within the year. She is so far, proving to be more of a liability to the NDP. I know we can’t prove that many of the signatures are in fact, fake, on those papers, but apparently, she’s never even set foot in the riding, so how would she know anyone enough to vouch for her??? It’s something to think about.

      Reply
  7. Irwin Block

    Isabelle Morin is not a unilingual francophone. She speaks English well, with a few hesitations and the odd search for a word. Please correct. Thanks.

    Reply

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