March 22nd 2013: Can the BC green party win a seat?

With the most recent polls showing no sign of a decline from the BC NDP, the upcoming BC election is becoming less and less uncertain. Let's face it, unless something major happens, the BC NDP will win and will get a majority.

Still, it doesn't mean that nothing interesting can happen. For instance, a legitimate question is whether the Green party can get MLAs. This party is indeed polling higher than its results of 2009, especially in Victoria (and Vancouver Island in general). On top of that, the candidacy of Andrew J. Weaver in Oak-Bay Gordon-Head is promising. However, in order for him (or another Green candidate) to actually win a riding, there is still a long way. Let's look at it more closely.

Using the latest Angus-Reid poll, the model doesn't currently project a win for the Green party. However, for the first time since I introduced the simulations and probabilities, the Green have actually a chance in the riding of West-Vancouver Sea-toSky. Indeed, the model would give this party a 1.4% chance of winning. Not high, but not zero. As for Andrew J. Weaver, unfortunately for him, out of 1000 simulations (taking into account the margins of error of the polls as well as the electoral system), he's not projected to win a single time. His maximum would be 26%. A nice increase compared to the result of 2009 (9.1%), but not enough to win since the NDP is never projected below 36%. Remember, these numbers are like the best case /worst case scenario for, respectively, the Green and BC NDP.

But these projections don't include any special effect, boost or bonus. The model doesn't currently give Andrew J. Weaver any special treatment. But we know this isn't right. High profiles candidates can perform significantly better than others. During the last federal election, I spent a lot of time trying to estimate the Elizabeth May effect, based on her past performance. Even though I gave her a bonus as high as 25-points, I still fell short of the actual boost she enjoyed. But it shows you what it would take for him to win his riding: a big boost. In the best case scenario, he would only need 10-points. This is quite achievable. Elizabeth May is in a clss of her own, but other high profile candidates have managed to pull off such results, more recently the small party of Quebec Solidaire in Quebec. However, 10-points is in the best case scenario. In a more realistic one, the boost would likely need to be more around 15-20 points. We enter Elizabeth May territory there. Not impossible, but quite rare in Canadian politics. Believe me, a candidate can already be happy to get an additional 5% most of the time.

What is going against the chances of the Green is also the fact that they are mostly facing the NDP. Indeed, all the ridings that the green could win are projected to go NDP (and/or have currently a NDP incumbent). This is really bad news for the Green as the BC NDP is polled incredibly high everywhere, including in Victoria and Van Island. In most ridings, Adrian Dix's party is even projected at more than 50%, meaning that even if the Green candidates could rally votes from all the other parties, they would still fall short. In other words: not only do the Green candidate need to get a boost, they would need it to come from the BC NDP, at least partially. What could help the Green though is the fact that the BC NDP is polled so high provincially, that most people will assume it'll win the election (and a mjority) for sure (and they'd be right). Therefore, there is less risk in splitting the vote and therefore voting Green.

In conclusion, the Green might have a shot in a couple of ridings, mostly on Vancouver Island. But the odds aren't really in their favor. After all, provincially, the Green are "only" polled around 3-points above their 2009 results. The model already converts this 3-points increase into a bigger one on Vancouver Island (based on past election results and swings), but it's far from being enough to overcome a 30-40-points deficits in most ridings. Of course, upsets and surprises are totally possible and don't think that I hate the Green or anything, If you know me and my blog, you now how much I like it when more parties get seats and I'd actually be happy to see the Green party represented in Victoria. But I also look at the data and probabilities. And what I see is that the Green party will need to increase more if they are to really have a shot. So I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm saying it's difficult and unlikely. And I'm showing you the kind of boost a green candidate such as Andrew J. Weaver will need.

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