Monday, March 23, 2015

2014 Firearms Licenses per capita in Canada

Province/Territory Licences per 100,000 Population
Yukon 19,698
Newfoundland and Labrador 14,249
Northwest Territories 12,638
Nunavut 9,722
Saskatchewan 9,463
New Brunswick 9,171
Nova Scotia 7,957
Alberta 7,177
Manitoba 7,010
Quebec 6,270
Nationwide 5,942
British Columbia 5,731
Prince Edward Island 4,395
Ontario 4,362

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

With a large Scottish Nationalist Party caucus in Westminster can anyone form a stable UK government?

2015 could very well be an election that changes the nature of Westminster because of the likely large number of seats that the Scottish Nationalist Party could win.   What no one is considering is that the SNP could very well go to Westminster with no intention of making parliament work.

Post world war two until 1997  only had two parties winning almost all of the seats in Parliament.  In that year the Liberal Democrats rose to 46 seats and have been over 50 seats in the next three elections.   In 2010 this lead to a hung parliament, as they call it in the UK.   This lead to the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government.   The 2015 election polls do not indicate this is likely to repeat itself.

The Parliament at Westminster has 650 MPs of which after the 2010 election 28 of them were not from one of the three main parties.  17 of the 28 are the Northern Irish MPs  

Non Major Party MPs
Nationalist MPs
6 Scottish Nationalist
3 Plaid Cymru
5 Sinn Fein

Other Northern Irish
8 Democratic Unionist Party
1 Alliance

The rest
1 Green
1 Independent

As long as all these parties together can not equal the number of seats the Liberal Democrats win they are effectively not an important factor in the formation of a government, but what we are looking at is a dramatic fall in the number of seats the Liberal Democrats are likely to win.

What various prediction sites are suggesting for the number of seats likely to be won:

  • Conservatives 282 (278-286)
  • Labour        272 (265-279)
  • SNP            48 (40-55)
  • Lib Dems       25 (22-28)
  • DUP             8 (7-8)
  • Sinn Fein       5
  • Plaid Cymru     3 (2-4)
  • UKIP            3 (1-5)
  • SDLP            3
  • Other           4

The exact numbers are not vitally important, it is the broad reality that the SNP will likely hold almost as many seats as all the other small parties that matters.   As the Lib Dems were the only crucial factor for government formation in 2010, the SNP will be the ones in 2015.

325 MPs are needed for a majority, or 323 if one does not count Sinn Fein.  What you can see from the numbers above is that only the SNP  will likely hold enough seats to be a viable coalition partner for either major party.   The problem is that neither major party is going to want to form a government with the SNP

The Conservatives are a very unionist party and a coalition with the SNP is off the table for that reason alone,   The policies of the two parties are very much at odds with each other making coalition impossible on ideological grounds.

Labour would have trouble being in a coalition with the SNP because it would give the Conservatives a wedge issue to use in England to show Labour is not for the United Kingdom.   Labour and the SNP would also have troubles working as a coalition because they are primary political adversaries in Holyrood.  

Between the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Sinn Fein, nationalist parties wanting out of the UK are likely to hold 50 to 60 seats.   For the SNP there is no upside to making the United Kingdom work because this would delay independence.   The scale of what would have to be on the table in terms of more devolution would likely be more than the public in England would accept, not that this would be a problem for the SNP.  

Canada could show the UK what may be ahead.

The Bloc Quebecois held a significant number of seats in the Canadian parliament from 1993 to 2011.  With such a large block of seats in the hands of a party not wanting to see Canada function the path to a majority government was not easy for anyone.  The Liberals barely managed a majority in 1997, they managed to luck out on how the vote split to win a number of close races.  In 2008 when it was suggested that an Liberal/NDP colaition government would govern with the support of the Bloc, there was a huge backlash in the public to the idea of a government relying on the support of separatists.

Without the SNP how does one get to 323?   If the Conservatives managed to get the Lib Dems, DUP and UKIP into one governing coalition, they would only be at 318 or so, five seats short.  Though  a coalition including both UKIP and Lib Dems is highly unlikely.

Even if both Labour and the Conservatives are at the high end of their estimates, they still do not have any clear path to majority.  One or the other of them would have to break at least 300 seats.

This leaves one option for a coalition government that would have a working majority would be a Conservative/Labour one.   This would be a more realistic government than one including the SNP.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

As many as 21 seats in BC may be won with less than 1/3 of the vote in October

The polling data for BC is indicating that there are four parties competing for the vote in the coming federal election.   The Greens look like they will achieve between 15% and 20% of the vote and the Liberals look like they will get double the vote they did in 2011.  What this means is that in various places across BC there will be serious four party races and that will lead to people winning with less than one third of the vote.

In total I think as many as half the seats in BC will be won by someone with less than one third of the vote.   One impact of having this many seats won by very low margins means there will be very surprising results.   None of the seats are entirely out of reach for any party.   It would take only a small shift in the vote to win seats for parties that are in theory in fourth.  It also means that

Vancouver Island - 6 of the 7 seats will be tight races, the only race that is not likely to be close is Elizabeth May in Saanich-Gulf Islands
  • Courtney-Alberni  
  • Cowichan-Malahat-Langford 
  • Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke 
  • Nanaimo-Ladysmith
  • North Island-Comox-Powell River
  • Victoria  
Metro Vancouver - most of the seats that will be close are in the suburbs
  • Burnaby-North Seymour
  • Burnaby South
  • Delta
  • Fleetwood-Port Kells 
  • Mission--Matsqui--Fraser Canyon
  • Pitt Meadows--Maple Ridge
  • Port Moody-Coquitlam
  • Richmond Centre
  • South Surrey-White Rock
  • Steveston-Richmond East
  • Surrey Centre
  • Vancouver Kingsway
  • West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country
Interior - given the organizational weakness of the NDP, Liberals and Greens in most of the interior, I do not think more than 2 races will be close.
  • North Okanagan-Shuswap
  • South Okanagan-West Kootenay 
There are a couple of seats that I do not think will be that close and the Liberals will win
  • North Vancouver
  • Surrey Newtown
  • Vancouver Granville
  • Vancouver South

2015 Election Stock Market for the October Federal Election

Werner Antweiler of the Sauder School of Business at UBC runs an election stock market during federal elections in Canada.   On March 1st the market for the fall federal election opened

My holdings as of March 11th
You can invest up to $1,000 in the market and buy and sell shares in how well the political parties will do in the election.   The market is an overall zero sum game.  

The concept behind the election stock market is that if people have to put their money where their mouth is they are likely to make their best estimates of the outcome of the election.  Can markets be used to predict outcomes of events?  With enough people taking part the wisdom of crowds comes into play.

One of the problems with the Sauder School of Business election stock markets is that often there have not been enough people taking part in them making the market not very liquid.   It also meant that one or two people with a few hundred dollars could significantly impact the results of the market.

In 2013 the election stock market did not do any better than most pundits in predicting the results of the BC election    The market predicted an NDP majority and had the popularity of the parties close to what the polls were showing.   In this case I do not think having a lot of traders would have made a dramatic difference to the outcome.    

If predicting the election is of interest to you, I highly recommend taking part in the election stock market.   I have averaged a 30% return over 7 elections - when I factor in 2013 it falls to 20%.

One useful thing that Werner provides is his Seat Distribution Forecaster.   You can enter in your assumptions on what the voters from the 2011 election will do in 2015     You can do the table for the whole nation, parts of the country or individual provinces.   The table reflects the new electoral boundaries in use for 2015
This is the table you enter you assumptions into about how the voters from 2011 will act in 2015
This tool has been available for numerous elections in Canada since the late 1990s.  Currently you can use it for not only the next federal election, but the next election in Alberta and Saskatchewan
This is one scenario I quickly input for BC.  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

As Oil Prices Fall, Global Oil Reserves will Fall

There is an impact of the falling oil prices no one has talked about, global oil reserves will drop.   Oil reserves are not only a function of the technology needed to extract the oil but also the economic viability of getting oil.  This means as oil prices rise the global oil reserves also rise.   When prices drop oil reserves drop.

Economics do matter.   If you do not look economics, the oil in the Canadian tar sands is enough to provide the world with 50 years of oil at current consumption levels.

Over the last five years the global oil reserves have increased a lot because of the tar sands in Canada and Venezuela.  With the falling price of oil the economics of new tar sands production becomes questionable and that reduces the oil reserves in both countries dramatically.  It also reduces the oil reserves of Brazil and the US because in both cases much of the new oil that has come online in the last five years is more expensive to extract than the current price of oil.
Notice the dramatic rise in the two tar sands countries oil reserves
With a lower price of oil this reserves go away
If I were to estimate it, the fall in the price of oil has made around one quarter of the oil reserves no longer economic to extract and therefore no longer part of the oil reserves.     This has taken the global oil reserves from a 40 year supply at current consumption levels to 30 years.

The price rise over the last decade were mainly because there was a narrow margin between oil produced and oil consumed.   The high price brought a lot of new production online which now has lead to an excess of oil in the market place and a falling price.

Where will things go?  Everything depends on the price of oil and the cost to extract it.   If  the prices falls further the oil reserves will fall further.   The cost of extraction can fall due to improved technology.  Extraction costs can also rise due to political instability.   There is no real reason to expect prices to rise much in the next five to ten years especially if we are headed towards a global recession and there are indicators out there, like the dramatic fall in the Baltic Dry Index, that show this could be possible.

Fundamental differences between the US and Canadian Supreme Courts

Canada and the US are two neighbouring countries that both mainly come out the English common law tradition.  Both countries have 9 member Supreme Courts, but the two courts are very different because the countries they are in.

  • The Canadian Supreme Court works in two languages as required by law, the decision are in English and French and in theory equal. The US Supreme Court is exclusively English but not required to be so by law though I suspect a decision written in English and Spanish would cause a shitstorm in the US.
  • The US Supreme Court has a single member under the age of 60, Canada has 4
  • The US Supreme Court has 4 members over the age of 75, Canada has none and has a mandatory retirement age of 75
  • Both courts appointed their first women at roughly the same time, the US appointed the first female justice in 1981, Canada in 1982 but what is different is that since then Canada has appointed 9 women in total to the US with only 4
  • The US Supreme Court only has 3 women on it, Canada has 4
  • The US Supreme Court has had 3 women on it since August 2010,  since September 1999 Canada has never had less than 3 women on the court
  • 5 of the US Supreme Court Justices have served more than 20 years, only 1 Canadian has served over 20
  • 4 of the US Supreme Court Justices have served less than 10 years, 7 Canadian has served less than 10 years
  • Canada has had 85 justices in 139 years, the US has had 112 in 226 years though both courts have had 17 Chief Justices
  • Religion matters a lot more to the Americans and people track the religion of the justices, currently they have 6 Catholic and 3 Jewish justices, historically there the US Supreme Court has been overwhelmingly Protestant.   In Canada 3 of the current justices are Jewish, 2 are Catholic and for 4 of them their faith is unknown.  Historically Canada has always had at least 3 Catholic background justices are any given time
  • In Canada geography matters, legally 3 justices have to be from the Quebec but by convention 3 are from Ontario, 2 from the west and 1 from Atlantic Canada.  In the US geography does not seem to matter at all with 4 justices born or raised in New York. Six of the current US justices from from the Northeast
  • In the last generation Canada has appointed three justices that had never been judges, I am unaware of the last time this happened in the US
  • The US Supreme Court is highly politicized and everyone seems to want to paint all the judges as liberals or conservatives.  In Canada the court is very apolitical even though 7 of the current court members were appointed by Stephen Harper
  • In the US the names of the justices are very well known to a large part of the population.  In Canada, outside of a small world of academics and legal geeks, virtually no one knows who the justices are
  • The US Supreme Court has been working in a well defined legal framework for the last generation, the Canadian Supreme Court has often been interpreting the meaning of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms over the last 30 years and creating the modern legal landscape of Canada 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Can Bruce Hyer be re-elected as a Green in Thunder Bay-Superior North? Maybe

This will be the fifth time Bruce Hyer runs in the riding of Thunder Bay-Superior North though this time as Green and not a New Democrat.   So what are his chances of winning?  I think he is currently likely a competitive second to the Liberals.

The riding of Thunder Bay-Superior North (and before that Thunder Bay–Nipigon) has been a Liberal/NDP horse race in eight of the last 11 elections.   In 36 years the Liberals have won the riding eight times and the NDP three times.   The Liberals lost in 1984, 2008 and 2011, their three worst elections overall in the last 36 years.   Overall it is more of a Liberal riding than an NDP one, this is borne out in the Ontario provincial elections as well.

The right wing seems to be able to get about 25% support, plus or minus 5 percentage points federally but significantly less provincially .  They have never been close to winning.

The Greens have never been a factor in the riding, but have been able to get 2,463 votes.

How much of the NDP results are due to Bruce Hyer?
Bruce Hyer was the NDP candidate in the last four elections, in first two of he lost and in teh last two he won, in each successive election he has done better than the previous one.  Not only has be improved the NDP results, he has managed to improve them more than the federal trend for the party in Ontario.     It says that at Bruce Hyer has been responsible for at least some of the increase.

If the overall federal trend for Ontario had held in Thunder Bay-Superior North, in 2008 the Liberals should have won the seat though narrowly, instead Bruce Hyer won it for the NDP by more than 3,000 votes.

The 2011 results were slightly better for the NDP and worse for the Liberals in the riding.   If the trend for Ontario had been replicated in the riding Bruce Hyer would have still won but with a significantly lower vote.

As best as I can estimate, Bruce Hyer is personally responsible for about 5,000 to 6,000 of the NDP votes in the last election.   If he can keep 5,000 of these people loyal and maxs out the the Green vote of 2,500, it puts him at 7,500 votes.  With a likely turnout of 37,000, this is about 20% of the vote, not enough to win.

The Conservative vote is likely to end up at around 25%, which leaves 55% of the vote to figure out what will happen with it.

The NDP will not drop to zero, let us say they can be certain to get about 20% of the vote.  Losing Bruce Hyer means they have no path to winning again

The Liberals should do better than in 2011, I think they can be certain of 25% of the vote.

This leaves about 10% of the vote to fight over.   I do not think the Conservatives can get any of it and I do not think the NDP will either.  This leaves Bruce Hyer and the Liberals to split it and we end up with the following
  • Liberals 30%    11,000
  • Bruce Hyer 25% 9,300
  • Conservatives 25% 9,200
  • NDP 20% 7,500
The first wildcard that comes into this race is that people that vote Liberal are much more likely to consider voting Green than NDP.   The riding could be a good places to find Green support because of the overall Liberal strength.  It is hard to estimate as it could be on a range from nothing to 20% based on past results elsewhere. For purposes of this analysis I am using 5% of Liberal vote going to Bruce Hyer

The second wildcard is that the Greens have never tried to campaign in the seat.   Simply putting in effort increases the vote for the party, and in the case of the Greens there is a positive correlation between campaign effort and an overall increase in voter turn out.  Turnout has been between 56.3% and 62.5% in the last four elections.   More people are likely to vote because there is a serious Green candidate that might win.  This could add 1,000 to 3,000 more voters to the turnout.   I am going to use 2,000 more votes.

This leads to the following result
  • Bruce Hyer   11,850 30.4%
  • Liberals     10,640 27.3%
  • Conservatives 9,200 23.6%
  • NDP           7,500 19.2%
I am not claiming this is what the result will be, it is just a possible realistic scenario.  The result says to me that the riding could be won by Bruce Hyer if the factors in play go in his direction.

Other factors to consider:
  • National trends will likely be a factor in the race.and this especially matters if the Liberal support starts to fall.      
  • The Liberals could use the threat of a Conservative winning because of a three-way progressive split and stampede people into voting Liberal
  • How hard will the NDP campaign?
  • How much of the team from the past four elections has left the team to support Bruce Hyer?
  • The increasing support for Bruce Hyer may have just been name recognition and then incumbency