Monday, January 07, 2008

On probabilities

Joan Beatty's appointment as the Libs' candidate in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River has obviously set off a couple of reactions: one of frustration among grassroots Libs, and one of feigned indignation from the Sask Party. But I haven't seen anybody look at what figures to be the most important question: namely, what kind of support will Beatty bring along with her as part of the jump, and what chance does she have to actually win the riding?

The answer about Beatty's individual impact can likely be taken from her track record. Here's the NDP share of vote in Cumberland over the last three provincial elections:

Year - Candidate - Vote
1999 - Keith Goulet - 69%
2003 - Joan Beatty - 69%
2007 - Joan Beatty - 66%

A quick look around online didn't turn up any more historical percentages of the vote. But given that the seat has stayed solidly NDP since 1975, it would seem reasonable to figure that Beatty's totals reflect the NDP's usual level for the riding. And while a typically strong candidate is likely one of the factors contributing to the NDP's historical success, there's little reason to think that Beatty herself added much to the standard party vote in the riding which now makes up half of the territory she'll have to cover.

What's more, Beatty's wins in Cumberland both came with just over 3000 votes. Which means that even if Beatty can bring some organization to the table, it still figures to fall far short of what's needed to actually make her competitive in the federal riding (where both the Libs and Cons received over 10,000 votes in 2007).

Speaking of in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River itself, all indications are that it took a combination of a high-profile candidate in Gary Merasty and a fairly pricy campaign for the Libs to to pull something close to the their peak vote in the riding in 2007 (just slightly below Rick Laliberte's 2000 percentage). And that was barely enough to give Merasty a narrow win over Jeremy Harrison.

Now, it's possible that Beatty will indeed carry a strong enough profile across northern Saskatchewan to eke out a Merasty-style win. But with the Cons figuring to make the seat a strong priority and at least some miffed Libs putting their support behind the NDP, it looks most likely that Beatty will only be added to Dion's list of losing appointments.

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