Charting paths to victory for Yukon’s political parties

Look out Hillary and Donald, here comes Darrell, Liz, Sandy and Frank. Actually, I hope attention stays on the US campaign, which increasingly reminds me of a bush party gone horribly wrong.

Look out Hillary and Donald, here comes Darrell, Liz, Sandy and Frank.

Actually, I hope attention stays on the US campaign, which increasingly reminds me of a bush party gone horribly wrong.

Sometimes, it’s good to be boring.

I’m sure our candidates will get around to making a few vicious personal attacks, but so far, campaigning has been surprisingly focused on the issues. Candidates have been in the papers talking about carbon taxes, economic growth (or the lack thereof) and relations with First Nations. Perhaps they have not always done so with logical rigour and confirmed facts, but they’ve been a lot better than Donald and Hillary.

I am not expecting any of our party leaders to take a cue from Donald Trump and promise to have the Rangers put his or her opponents in jail after the election.

So, until our candidates start behaving more like Donald Trump, I’m afraid we newspaper columnists are going to have to focus on the issues and traditional political analysis.

In the absence of someone really shaking up the Yukon political landscape, the place to start is the current legislature. Let’s have a look at how many seats each party has now and, based on the 2011 election results, how many votes the opposition parties have to shift to win.

Unlike the US, with its huge number of polls, we can’t use fresh Yukon polling data to calculate sophisticated Nate Silver-style probabilities that a certain party will win. So, as a thought exercise, let’s steal the BBC’s simpler “Swingometer” method and look at the numbers from 2011 to see what kind of territory-wide swing would be needed for another party to win enough seats to take power.

It’s a back-of-the envelope approach, since it ignores what’s happening on the ground in each individual riding, the immigration of new Yukoners with different political heritages from Canada and abroad, the advantages of incumbency and the impact of star (and dog) candidates. But it gives you a general idea of what kind of political wave has to happen for each party to win.

In the 2011 election, the Yukon Party won government with 40 per cent of the vote. This translated into 11 seats. The NDP took six seats with 33 per cent of the vote. The Liberals had 25 per cent of the vote, and won two seats (to keep things simple, I’ll use the actual election results and treat Old Crow like a Liberal “win,” ignoring that Darius Elias later switched to the Yukon Party).

The Yukon Party needs to keep its current seats, or pick up replacements for any they lose. Their backup seat is Copperbelt South, which they lost by just a handful of votes to Lois Moorcroft and the NDP in 2011. Veteran cabinet minister Scott Kent is running for them there this time. Riverdale South would be next, requiring a five-point swing to the Yukon Party.

The NDP are the official Opposition and have the shortest path to victory among the opposition parties, at least mathematically. They only have to keep their current seats and bring down four Yukon Party incumbents to win a majority. Based on 2011 results this would require just a six-point swing. By this, I am assuming the NDP vote goes up six percentage points, and that the new NDP votes come equally from the two other major parties.

The four Yukon Party ridings most at risk are Watson Lake, Riverdale North, Porter Creek Centre and Kluane. Interestingly, neither Riverdale North nor Porter Creek Centre have incumbent Yukon Party veterans running in them. Scott Kent moved to Copperbelt South, as mentioned above, and Dave Laxton is no longer a Yukon Party candidate. Yukon Party incumbents Patti McLeod in Watson Lake and Wade Istchenko in Kluane will be on the NDP wish list, especially since both ridings have had NDP members for extended periods in the last few decades.

As for the Liberals, they need at least an 11 percent swing to get to 10 seats and a majority.

This outcome would have the Liberals repeating their 2011 wins in Old Crow and Klondike. They would also have to defeat the candidates (mostly incumbents) in, listed from smallest swing to biggest, Porter Creek South and Centre, Riverdale North, Kluane, Copperbelt North, Riverdale South, Mayo-Tatchun and Watson Lake.

This would require the Liberals to defeat well-established NDPers Jan Stick and Jim Tredger. And if they happen to miss any of the 10 most likely Liberal seats under the Swingometer method, the next few seats look quite challenging. The Liberals lost the next three likely seats by more than 20 points last time, to Lois Moorcroft, Kate White and Darrell Pasloski.

The Greens do not have a path to victory, since they are only running five candidates. That is three more than 2011, however. My crude Swingometer analysis above does not take them into account. A strong Green showing could affect the results in several of the key ridings discussed above, particularly Copperbelt South, Riverdale North and Porter Creek North.

Another flaw is in the Swingometer method is the potential impact of star candidates. In Tamara Goeppel and John Streicker, the Liberals have two candidates who have garnered a lot of media attention. The big question is whether this will make the party competitive in races that, based on 2011 results, look like tough sledding. Goeppel is running in Whitehorse Centre where the Liberals got 13 per cent in 2011, compared to the NDP’s 63 per cent. Streicker is running in Mount Lorne, where the Liberals scored 11 per cent last time versus the NDP’s 47 percent.

It’s not impossible, but these are big gaps to close.

So much for statistics. In next week’s election column, we’ll look at another key election topic: money.

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He won last year’s Ma Murray award for best columnist. You can watch his election interviews with all four party leaders on the Northwestel Community Channel website. Full disclosure: Keith is a member of the Yukon Liberal Party. He is not involved in their campaign.

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