| Jan 19, 2006


Feature Article - January 19, 2006

Feature Article

January 19, 2006

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Keeping a close eye on the federal election

by Jeff Green

Gregory Morrow may live in sunny Hollywood, California, these days, but he is keeping a close watch on the political scene back in the frozen Canadian North. In fact, he spends several hours each day poring over data about the upcoming federal election.

Gregory Morrow, who was raised in Cloyne, maintains a website called DemocraticSpace.com, which includes a section devoted to providing information about the upcoming election. Using information from previous elections, polling information that he compiles daily, and information about individual ridings, Gregory Morrow provides an up to the minute assessment of which party is winning each of the 308 individual riding races that make up the federal election as a whole.

Flood

The site includes concrete predictions concerning which seats are already decided. It now has the Conservatives with 116 seats, the Liberals with 66, the Bloc Quebecois with 55, the NDP 27, and an independent candidate with one. It also lists 44 seats as too close to call.

As well, it includes projections, based on current polling, as to what will ultimately happen. At this point, one week before the election, the projections are still shifting daily. On Monday, Morrow projected the Conservatives at 141 seats, but on Tuesday the number dropped to 131.

“At this point, I would say it is a possibility, not a remote possibility, that the Conservatives will win a majority. A minority Conservative government is more likely, with increased seats for the NDP,” Morrow said from his home in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon.

Gregory Morrow makes use of five different National Pools, which include regional data as the basis for his analysis of the election. He then uses a four-step model to take into account provincial information, regional information, and sub-regional information. Finally the impact of individual campaigns is considered.

“The impact of individual candidates is less relevant than one might think, unfortunately,” Morrow said. “Sixty percent of voters say they vote for the party, and a further 25% for the national leader, leaving only 15% that are influenced by the candidates. So, the impact of an individual candidate only really accounts for a swing of a couple of percentage points. In close races this can make a difference, but most races aren’t that close.”

DemocraticSpace.com proved quite accurate for the 2004 Election, predicting that the Liberals would win 131 seats (they actually won 135), 102 seats for the Conservatives (they won 99), 19 seats for the NDP (they won 19), and 56 seats for the Bloc Quebecois (they won 54).

Gregory Morrow completed an undergraduate degree in Architecture at McGill University in Montreal after attending high school at NAEC, and got a job with architect Moshe Safedi in Boston after that. He then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying and teaching urban issues.

“Coming as I do from a rural background, I see cities differently from people who come from the city. I take a more objective view of urban problems.” Morrow is now working on his doctorate at UCLA, and would like to return to Canada, down the road.

Developing a model for accurately predicting elections results is clearly a sideline for him, but he sees it as a way to help people understand how elections work.

And the site is gaining a following. “Right now, the site is getting about 600,000 hits each day, and each time it receives newspaper or radio coverage the number of hits increases.”

Although he does not like the idea of strategic voting, Morrow does provide information on his site so people inclined to vote strategically don’t inadvertently help to elect the party they intend to defeat. He lists the ridings where strategically minded Liberal, NDP, or Conservative supporters might consider voting for their second choice in order to prevent a third party from winning.

Morrow believes that the Canadian system is flawed, and rather than continue to consider strategic voting, Canadian voters would be better served by a new electoral system. He has written a paper, which is posted on the site, advocating that proportional representation be considered for Canada.

“I prefer what is called a mixed member system, which would maintain the current riding structure, but add a regional component that would allocate extra seats based on the percentage of votes cast for each party. That way, a party like the Green Party, which polls around 6% but is not likely to elect a candidate in the foreseeable future, would have some representation in Parliament. This kind of system is in place in New Zealand and Wales and provides for a lot of flexibility.”

But Morrow is not fixed to a specific form of proportional representation.

“I just think that it is time for a debate to take place about a new form of voting. The current system was fine when there were only two major parties, but with four parties holding seats, it is time to come up with something that works better.”

For the record, in the riding of Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington, DemocraticSpace.com is calling for Scott Reid (Conservative) to receive 53.4% of the vote, Geoff Turner (Liberal) 24.5%, Helen Forsey (NDP) 15.6%, and Mike Nickerson (Green) 4.2%

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