I have always been interested in numbers, and the numbers generated by elections in particular. I have written about the numbers of the 2015 Canadian federal election (link), the 1984 Canadian federal election (link), and now the 2018 Ontario election. I have already written briefly about 2018 Ontario election, where I used the Globe and Mail’s coverage of it as evidence that the Globe and Mail is a left-leaning rag (link).
Spoiler: Votes matter. The difference between a majority and a minority status for the Progressive Conservatives was only 19,000 votes. The Liberals missed official party status by 81 votes.
First the big picture:
2018 PC Ontario Victory
Number of ridings 76 seats of 124 (61%) Percentage of the vote 40.5% Votes 2.3 million
While the numbers in the previous chart are fairly common summaries of an election they don’t tell the whole story. A complementary statistic comes from an analysis of the most closely contested ridings.
The Progressive Conservatives (PCs) in Ontario won 76 ridings. Since they only needed 62 for a majority, the additional fourteen ridings that they won could be considered their ‘cushion’, an indicator of how closely the election was contested.
But all victories are not created equal; the cushion is important. The chart below shows that cushion for all 76 ridings where the PCs won. Their largest was ~25,000 votes (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke). But consider the fourteen most closely contested ridings (detail in the inset); the PCs won those fourteen ridings by only 18,998 votes (ranging from a cushion of 175 votes in their most closely contested riding (Ottawa West Nepean) and a cushion of 2733 votes in the fourteenth most closely contested riding (Brampton South)).
Amazing! In an election where 5.7 million Ontarians voted, 18,998 votes were the difference between a majority and a minority government!
Digression: How does this ‘cushion’ compare to other elections? I have analysed three elections for this statistic: 248,283 votes (1984 Federal election), 14,622 votes (2015 Federal election), 18,998 votes (2018 Ontario election). It was larger than the ‘cushion’ of the 2015 federal election but much smaller than the blow-out of 1984.
I like this statistic because it emphasizes the importance of individual votes. Not all of them, but the key ones. The votes in those fourteen ridings were more ‘important’ (in this very specific sense) than the votes in the other 62 ridings; unfortunately they didn’t know the importance of their vote until after the election.
Not convinced? How about this example, buried in the details of that same election.
The Ontario Liberal party have only seven (!) seats in the current legislature, one short of official party status. And that’s a big deal: they don’t have access to provincial funding, aren’t automatically members of important committees, and aren’t allocated time in Question Period. Now consider the riding of Thunder Bay – Atikokan. The Liberals came in second, by 81 votes; they effectively lost official party status by 81 votes! Shades of nails and horses and kingdoms!!!
Digression: In the 2003 Ontario provincial election, the Liberals formed the majority government, under Dalton McGuinty, and the NDP won seven seats, one short of official party status. The NDP asked the Liberals to make an exception; they refused. So many expressions come to mind: Deja vu all over again! Hoist by their own petard! Now the shoe is on the other foot! Karma is a bitch! What goes around comes around! Schadenfreude!
Those 81 votes cost the Liberal Party millions of dollars, in an election of ten million eligible voters! The non-voting Liberals in that riding should be kicking themselves!
Bottom line: Individual votes count, even if we don’t know which are the critical ones until after the election. Vote and avoid voter’s remorse!