Wednesday, December 01, 2010

By-elections hit parties in the pocket book (Update: No they don't)

UPDATE: Actually, as two speedy commenters suggest, byelections don't count in the calculation of the subsidy. Therefore, ignore all of this post. At least I got to use a calculator, though. That's always fun. So if byelections did count, this is what would happen. Consider it the first in my series of alternate history blogging, a new genre soon to sweep the blogsphere. I wonder though, SHOULD the subsidies be recalculated based on byelections? Given that the mood of the electorate could well have changed, I'd argue yes, they should be.

I've seen lots of "by the numbers" analysis of this week's by-elections (Pundits' Guide is solid as usual, as is Calgary Grit) but there's one numerical analysis I haven't seen yet, so I thought I'd dive in: what it means for the major party's per-vote subsidy take.

As we know, parties earn a per vote subsidy for each vote they earn, once they reach a certain threshold. Currently, it's $1.95 per vote. The Conservatives are routinely proposing to kill this subsidy, which was introduced when corporate and union donations were banned. I have a campaign finance reform counter-proposal.

In the mean time though, the subsidy lives. How was it impacted by these by-elections? Well, since by-elections tend to have lower turnout, everyone tends to lose votes, and dollars, after by-elections. And this week's were certainly no exception, with every party finishing with fewer votes in totality. There were too exceptions on the riding level: the Conservatives gained 530 votes in Vaughan, and the Liberals am impressive 5,288 in Winnipeg-North. But those gains were more than offset by loses elsewhere.

Here are the riding-by riding figures, with the vote change from 2008 and the corresponding subsidy impact:

CPC: 19,920 (+530) +$1,033
LPC: 18,236 (-9537) -$18,597
NDP: 661 (-4770) -$4,768

Winnipeg North
LPC: 7,303 (+5228) +$10,194
NDP: 6,490 (-7607) -$14,833
CPC: 1,647 (-3386) -$6,602

Dauphin--Swan River—Marquette
CPC: 8,176 (-9945) -$19,392
NDP: 3,785 (-1089) -$2,123
LPC: 1,481 (-2603) -5,075

As we can see, while generally (with two exceptions) all parties lost votes, largely due to voter turn-out, those parties that saw incumbents resigning took the biggest hits in each case, even when the party of the incumbent was re-elected. The departures of Maurizio Bevilacqua, Judy Wasylycia-Leis and Inky Mark each really hurt their respective parties. Meanwhile, Alf Apps should really buy Kevin Lamoureux a beer tonight as his victory wasn't only unexpected, it was profitable.

Now, the overall results, with vote change from 2008 and corresponding subsidy impact:

NDP -13,466 (-$26,258)
CPC -12,801 (-$24,961)
LPC -6912 (-$13,478)

As we can see, everyone lost votes and, therefore subsidy dollars as a result of the by-elections this week.

The Liberals can at least claim a moral victory for having lost the least, thanks in large part to Lamourex's big swing in Winnipeg-Centre, but with budgets tight at party central this loss will definitely be felt. The Conservatives lost nearly twice as much, but as their subsidy take was bigger to begin with and they have a large edge on direct fundraising, it won't really hurt them too much. The biggest loss was taken by the NDP, and they'll probably feel the loss the most as well, as they've ramped-up their spend since the introduction of the per-vote subsidy.

*If I've gotten the math completely wrong somewhere, my apologies in advance. I was always more of an arts guy.

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BCL said...

By elections do not count in the calculation of the subsidy.

The Pundits' Guide said...

Hi Jeff, and thanks for the citation.

The subsidy, by virtue of an annual CPI factor adjustment, is now worth 2.00 (well, 2.00004 or something, to be more precise).

And I'm sure you understand this second point, but in case some of your readers don't, the formula is based on the number of votes obtained in the last federal general election, not in the most recent electoral event in each riding.

Thus, what you're presenting here is a hypothetical projection, if I understand it correctly, and not actual changes in the quarterly allowance payments. Or have I missed something?

Jeff said...

All you missed PG is that I've less smart that given credit for. ;) Didn't realize they weren't recalcualted based on byelections. I've sheepishly updated accordingly.

Does raise an interesting question, though: should they be? I'd argue yes. The subsidy is supposed to reflect the will of the electorate. If that will has changed, as demonstrated by a by-election result, so should the subsidy, IMO.

The downside is, as demonstrated, the lower turnout will cost everyone. But, c'est la vie.

The Pundits' Guide said...

And, if you calculated them based on when the incumbent MP vacated the seat, then it would have a tiny effect on the incentives for an early vs late by-election call too.

Sounds complex to me personally, but I confess I haven't thought it through at length.

Real_PHV_Mentarch said...

"Consider it the first in my series of alternate history blogging, a new genre soon to sweep the blogsphere."

Actually, this has been existing for quite some time now (one example here among so many others of the kind) ...


Unknown said...

That vote subsidy, you know it's gone after the next election, right?