Where do voters get their politics news? TV and the Internet, mostly

In this new digital age, how do you reach voters? Increasingly, parties need to go online. But for now TV is still king.

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Abacus conducted the survey by talking to 2,002 Canadians over the age of 18 through a mix of online panels and live telephone interviews. The data were demographically weighted in line with the general population, and the margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The poll was conducted in January and February of this year.

Ask The Globe: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Globe reader Greg Bennett asks: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

Energy reporter Shawn McCarthy says yes – it’s true. But the answer is a little more complicated:

Conservatives’ attacks on Mulcair not too effective, survey suggests

As explained in today’s story, new survey data from Innovative Research Group suggests the Liberals are having some success with advertising rebutting Conservative attacks against Justin Trudeau. But of course, they wouldn’t need to do so if those attacks hadn’t been effective in branding the Liberal Leader as a “not ready” lightweight to begin with.

To the much more limited extent that the Tories are going after NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, it appears they’re struggling to find an angle that’s similarly effective.

In the same early-August  survey in which it found the Liberals’ new ad has a significant impact on those who see it, the polling company also tested a pair of anti-Mulcair Conservative ads. Both use the same “job interview” format as the ones against Mr. Trudeau, but the attempts to cast Mr. Mulcair as an opportunistic career politician seemed to have more limited effect.

In fact, when Innovative Research screened the first of those spots (above) – asking respondents a series of questions both before and after they saw it – it found no statistically significant impact on either voting intentions or impressions of Mr. Mulcair relative to the other party leaders.

The second ad, which is slightly more focused on alleging Mr. Mulcair has wasted taxpayers’ money and less so on using his longevity in politics and his past as a (Quebec) Liberal to suggest he’s an opportunist, proved somewhat more effective. Among respondents who hadn’t seen it before, support for the NDP went down by five percentage points after they saw it, although it’s not clear whether that went to the Tories or the Liberals. And the share of respondents who chose Mr. Mulcair as the leader who most “cares about people like me” went down by seven points.

While significant, neither of those hits is huge when an ad is viewed in isolation. And on other perceptions of leaders’ qualities, such as competence and who cares most about the middle class, there was again no clear impact.

Considering how little these two ads have been airing so far, it’s possible the Tories aren’t using their best stuff against the NDP yet. But it’s worth remembering that, even with Mr. Trudeau, they spent a while running spots that didn’t really work before they hit their target. If they decide before this campaign is over to make Mr. Mulcair their main target, they’ll have a much smaller window to get it right.

(Full methodology for Innovative Research’s surveys are available from its website.)

Ask The Globe: Which parties favour proportional representation?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Our third selected question comes from reader @stefanie__92 If elected, (which candidates would)fight for a proportional representation system in our elections? #AskTheGlobe #elxn42

Globe reporter Campbell Clark has the answer:  

There are two parties that favour proportional representation, and possibly a third, depending on how you count them. But there are some differences in the devilish details.

Both the Thomas Mulcair’s NDP and Elizabeth May’s Green Party say they will fight for proportional representation. Both say that if they won power, they’d change the voting system.

The Liberals also favour reform, but they are more vague on what kind. They promise to eliminate the current first-past-the-post voting system, but not necessarily to replace it with proportional representation. They’d have a parliamentary committee study it.

There are other differences between the parties on this issue. That’s partly because there are different kinds of reform, and different kind of PR. The Conservatives want to keep the current system, where the candidate with the most votes wins the seat. Most others propose change.

The NDP favours a kind of “mixed-member proportional representation” system.” As NDP democratic reform critic Craig Scott has described it, voters would get two ballots. The first would be to elect a riding MP, like the current system. The second would be to vote for candidates in a region, and the seats would be apportioned so each party’s tally would eflect the proportion of votes cast.

The Green Party also says they’d change the system to proportional representation, and would establish a multi-party Democratic Voting Commission to decide the details..

The Liberals have said they’ll get rid of the current first-past-the-post system, and set up an all-party parliamentary committee to look at various potential reforms. Mr. Trudeau has on many occasions said he’s not certain about PR, and expressed more interest in ranked ballots. That’s where voters rank their first and second choice, possibly more; if no one wins 50 per cent in a riding, then bottom candidates are dropped, and the second choices are used in a kind of instant run-off.

Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy arrive for trial

Today is Nigel Wright’s first day on the witness stand at the Mike Duffy trial. Here’s the latest.

Ask The Globe: Have carbon emissions gone down in Canada?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Our second selected question comes from reader @PatrykSzu have carbon emissions gone down in Canada? #AskTheGlobe #elxn42

Globe reporter Shawn McCarthy has the answer:  

In the debate last week, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said his government was “the first in history to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also growing our economy.” He credited the government’s “sector by sector” regulatory approach.

It is true that as of 2013 – the last year for which figures are available – Canada’s total of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions was 3 per cent lower than it was in 2005, the year before the Conservatives took office. Emissions dropped from 749 megatonnes (MT) in 2005, to 726 MT in 2013. It is also true the economy grew by 13 per cent between 2005 and 2013.

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But the drop in emissions came over two years – 2008 and 2009 – when the economy suffered the worst recession since the great depression, according to Environment Canada’s April 2015 submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Emissions bottomed out in 2009 at 699 megatonnes, and rose every year between 2009 and 2013, up 4 per cent in that time. Environment Canada forecast they would continue to climb without aggressive new measures. Mr. Harper’s claim to have reduced GHGs may be already out-of-date, given the likelihood of increased emissions in 2014 and this year.

His suggestion that his government’s regulatory approach has resulted in lower emissions is highly suspect. In concert with the Americans, Ottawa tightened automobile mileage standards, but the big payoff from that effort will only felt in future years, as the standards are increased over time. As well, the Conservative government passed ground-breaking regulations to force power sector to phase out traditional, coal-fire plants. But again, the coal regs won’t bite until the end of this decade, with the major impacts not seen until well after 2020. Mr. Harper has refused to regulate GHG emissions from the oil sands, the fastest growing source of GHGs in Canada.  The biggest decline between 2005 and 2013 came from the electricity generators. There are no federal climate regs that impact current emissions in the sector, but demand fell due to recession and Ontario phased out of coal-fired power.

The most contested turf in 2015 will be these purple ridings

Click on a riding to see the results in the 2011 federal election and 2014 provincial election.

Legend

  • Blue = riding voted Conservative in both elections.
  • Red = riding voted Liberal in both elections.
  • Orange = riding voted NDP in both elections.
  • Purple = riding voted Conservative federally and Liberal provincially.
  • Magenta = riding voted Conservative federally and NDP provincially.
  • Yellow = riding voted NDP federally and Liberal provincially.

The Conservatives have traditionally blue seats in rural Ontario, and the Liberals have held on to a few red strongholds in Toronto. But the biggest focus of action in this year’s election is likely to be in a swath of ridings across the sprawling Greater Toronto Area that have recently voted both blue and red.  The most contested turf in 2015 will be these purple ridings.

These are the electoral districts that voted for Mr. Harper’s federal Conservatives in 2011, but picked Kathleen Wynne’s provincial Liberals in last year’s Ontario election. There were 38 Ontario ridings that did that blue-red switch. Most of them are in an east-west strip from Belleville to Brantford that skirts around Toronto’s core.

Now it’s a three-way federal race, and this turf is likely to be telling.

These ridings were the path to Mr. Harper’s majority government in the 2011 election, and he probably can’t win another majority without taking most of these seats. In the last weeks of the 2011 campaign, he travelled Highway 401 warning Liberal voters against a surging NDP – swaying enough to his side.

For the NDP’s orange wave, they are a critical test. The New Democrats have rarely been competitive in these ridings, where races have usually been run between the Conservatives and Liberals. But they can’t expect to break out of opposition unless they can appeal to voters here, and gain substantial ground.

For Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, they are vital: they remain the largest group of ridings where his party are in relatively close races to gain seats. They represent his best bet to lead his party out of third-party status, and must-win territory if they hope to take power.

Most are in bedroom communities, often places that have boomed rapidly from small town to suburban sprawl. They tend to be ethnically diverse, and many are reasonably affluent. And there will be even more of them in 2015: Ontario will gain 15 new federal seats under electoral redistribution, many in this strip.

Ask The Globe: “Who is the middle class?”

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Our first selected question comes from reader Andrea Jarman:  Who is the middle class? #AskTheGlobe #elxn42

Globe business reporter Tavia Grant has the answer:  

There is no single definition! This seems to be the defining trait of the middle class, partly because it’s so subjective. It also depends on where you live – the concept, and trends, are very different in the United States (where the middle class has been under more pressure) compared with Canada, or in Vancouver (where the cost of living is vastly higher) compared with Charlottetown.

But here are some of the views.

An easy definition is looking at where the middle falls in terms of incomes. The median after-tax income in Canada is $50,700 for all family units, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent data. This means half of the population has incomes below that point, and half are above. That $50,700 number compares with $50,400 in 2007 and $48,000 back in 1976, in constant dollars. (You can have a look at the trends yourself in this table).

One recent paper, by Philip Cross and Munir Sheikh, which we wrote about here, puts forward several definitions of the middle class (one of the ranges it cites for families are incomes of between $40,000 and $70,000). It finds, broadly speaking, that middle-class income growth hasn’t kept pace with higher-earning income growth over the past 30 years, and that there has been a “slight shrinkage” of the size of the middle class.

The idea also depends on which kind of family you live in. Another range in this IRPP post on families with kids under 18, by Jennifer Robson, shows a range, with median earned income of $31,000 for a lone-parent family with one child, up to $99,000 among dual-earner couple with two kids.

She stresses that it’s important, when thinking about policy, to look beyond just incomes. “Even if you want to stick to quantifiable economic resources as measures of ‘middle class,’ I think assets and debt really matter too,” she notes.

That broader measure is to look at wealth – which includes assets like houses and pensions, minus debt. By net worth, the middle fifth of families had wealth of $453,300 in 2012, a Statistics Canada paper showed. (Its same study puts the middle quintile of family income at an average of $57,200, before tax).

Then there are subjective ways of looking at the middle class – such as lifestyle, aspirations and hope – whether one’s quality of life will match the previous generation. There is also self-identification – the vast majority of people see themselves as being middle class do, regardless of income levels.

We took a look at this question a few years ago as part of the Globe’s income inequality series. 

So what’s up with the oft-repeating phrase “middle class angst”? It may stem from the run-up in household debt or expensive housing, a changing jobs market, or it may come in thinking Canadian trends are identical to U.S. ones, which they aren’t. 

If you’re curious about middle-class trends in the U.S., a thorough examination was released by the St. Louis Fed. Unlike most Canadian analysis, it includes details on race. 

For more, check out this video.