Why you probably haven’t heard from your local candidate

Today is the day campaign advertising starts being allowed. If you start from the premise that an engaged electorate is an inherently good thing, the end of the blackout should probably be considered a welcome development – because it looks like a lot of us aren’t going to have much interaction with parties or candidates any other way.

As part of a generally fascinating survey of voters – seriously, if you’re interested in knowing more about the electorate, the whole thing merits a look – Abacus Data asked respondents to indicate all the parties or candidates that had contacted them since the election started.

Fully 71 per cent indicated there had been no contact whatsoever. The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives had managed to reach 15 per cent of voters each; the New Democrats only 10 per cent.

The survey, through an online panel of 2,000 eligible voters, was taken from May 14-16 – so 12-14 days after the campaign unofficially began. It’s fair to assume that most local campaigns took a few days to get off the ground, so candidates and their parties will probably be getting to voters at a better clip going forward.  But they’ll also probably be re-engaging with target voters rather than only speaking to new ones, so it’s entirely possible that no party will make direct contact – we’re talking not just in person, but by phone, e-mail, social media, or just a flyer left at the door – with even half the electorate.

There’s not a great deal of research, to my knowledge, on precisely how much of that sort of interaction was achieved in past campaigns in this province or country. But talk to people working on the ground in this one, and you’ll get the sense that voter outreach is a lot harder than it used to be.

A pair of phenomena help explain why that is. Fewer and fewer of us have home phones, and those who do tend to have call display, so one of the prime points of contact just isn’t very effective anymore. That makes door-to-door canvassing more important than it was a decade or two ago, but the second change is that volunteerism is down – which means most local campaigns can’t get to as many doors as they used to, either.

The parties are responding to new realities by slowly getting more sophisticated in their outreach efforts. That means trying to find new ways to reach us, including an overdue push to figure out how to better use online communication for that. It also means using previous voter-identification and demographic data to try to only go to the doors where they’ll get maximum bang for their buck – those where there are likely to be voters amenable to persuasion efforts, or (more often) where likely supporters can be identified and then encouraged to vote.

Of course, if they use that data unwisely or can’t even reach the relatively narrow audiences they’re targeting, those who might be open to vote for them might never even properly hear their case. And fewer and fewer voters are going to directly hear from all the parties at once.

Which is to say, don’t take too much offence to what you’ll see during commercial breaks of hockey games or prime-time dramas the next three weeks. With time, as parties continue to shift to online advertising or radio spots that  can more easily be customized, the TV ads will be in shorter supply. For now, they might be the only way many Ontarians will hear from all the parties vying for their votes.

Ask The Globe: Is Harper correct in his assessment that “most” cases of murdered indigenous women are “solved”?

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

JJ June poised this question: Fact Check “Harper says ‘most’ cases of murdered aboriginal women are solved.” CP Oct. 6/15

Kathryn Blaze Baum, a national reporter who covers the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women for The Globe gave this response:

First, it is important to note that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comment was made in the context of an inquiry into both missing and murdered indigenous women. Indigenous leaders and Canada’s premiers have been calling for a federal probe to better understand why aboriginal women are disproportionately more likely to disappear or be killed and also to determine how to tackle the violence.

In 2014, the RCMP released an unprecedented report looking at police-recorded incidents of missing and murdered indigenous women across the country. It found that between 1980 and 2012, there were 1,017 homicides and 164 outstanding missing-person cases. Within that time period, there are 225 unsolved cases: 105 women have been missing for more than 30 days and their disappearances are categorized as either “foul play suspected” or “unknown,” and 120 homicide cases have not been solved.

It is true, then, that most homicides involving indigenous women have been solved. As stated in the RCMP report: “The majority of all female homicides are solved (close to 90%) and there is little difference in solve rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims.”

But this is not the whole picture.

It is important to understand what the RCMP means when it says “solved.” The report indicates that, for the purposes of the study, the term is used synonymously with “clearance rate.” Here is how clearance rate is defined, in one of the footnotes:

“Clearance refers to whether or not a homicide incident was cleared:  (1) either by the laying, or recommending of a charge to the Crown; or (2) where at least one suspect has been identified and against whom there is sufficient evidence to lay a charge, but where the incident is cleared otherwise (e.g. the suicide or death of the chargeable suspect … ).”

This means that if police recommend charges but the Crown decides not to proceed, or if an accused is charged but later acquitted, the case is still considered solved. A killing, then, could be deemed solved without a conviction.

Put simply, the police might consider a case cleared, but the victim’s family may still be waiting for justice.

Furthermore, it is possible that some of the 105 unresolved cases involving missing indigenous women, whose disappearances are categorized as “foul play suspected” or “unknown,” are actually unsolved homicide cases.

Finally, a couple of questions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

First Cdn Politico asks: Yes. Wasn’t Tom Mulcair in favour of TPP as recently as 2 months ago?

One of our Ottawa corespondents, John Ibbitson, answers this question.

The NDP has traditionally opposed free trade agreements, saying that they lead to lower labour and environmental standards, job losses and foreign interference/loss of sovereignty.

Under Thomas Mulcair the party has modified its stance, supporting the free trade agreement with South Korea and supporting in principle the free trade agreement with Europe, although it is withholding full approval until it sees the final, legally-vetted document. The party had no stated position on the Trans Pacific Partnership other than it supports free and fair trade.

However, Mr. Mulcair has decided that this agreement would lead to lost jobs — especially in the auto sector — more costly prescription drugs, and the erosion of the supply management system that protects the dairy and poultry industry. The NDP opposes the TPP.

Finally joey wonders: if  The NDP have said they won’t necessarily uphold an agreement PCs may reach in TPP. Have the liberals commented their stance?

The Liberal Party fought the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States, and only reluctantly endorsed the North American Free Trade Agreement the included Mexico, negotiated by the Mulroney government. However, the Chretien government did conclude a couple of small free-trade agreements, and Justin Trudeau has been supportive of the Harper government’s trade agenda, endorsing the agreement with the European Union. The Liberal Party, however, declines to take a position on the TPP until the full text of the agreement is revealed.

(Want to know more about the TPP? Our explainer can be found here.)

Ask The Globe: Answers to your questions on marijuana, the census and Liberal sponsorship scandal

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

Spencer Smit asks: @globeandmail Harper saying cannabis is worse than tobacco, citing “evidence” please advise #AskTheGlobe

Mike Hager, a Globe reporter in Vancouver, recently looked into this:

The Canadian Cancer Society says smoking tobacco continues to be the leading preventable cause of premature deaths in the country, claiming about 37,000 lives each year. The non-profit organization says tobacco is the main risk factor for cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease in Canada.

In contrast, no deaths have been directly attributed to cannabis use or overdose, says Dr. Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research. But it is likely a factor in “a few” fatal crashes and “a few” lung-cancer deaths each year, he said.

Elizabeth Jane Banks asks: #AskTheGlobe Please fact check Elizabeth May’s claim that almost no one completes the voluntary census. #cdnpoli #elxn42

“Almost no one” may be a bit strong, but experts have warned about the quality of the National Household Survey data after it was made voluntary in 2011. Previously the longform census, which asks for more detailed information and is sent to a fraction of households, was mandatory. The response rates for the voluntary form were about 70 per cent in 2011, whereas the response rate for the mandatory form in 2006 was 93.5 per cent.

Alex Dempster asks: @globeandmail Harper said of the Liberal sponsorship scandal that $40 million of Canadians taxpayers’ money lost. Accurate? #AskTheGlobe

Maybe? This one’s a bit tricky, and may be a case of fuzzy math in campaign slogans. But it may originate in the $40-million of government funds for contracts to a firm where there was no evidence of work done, etc.

(The Globe and Mail, incidentally, won the prestigious Michener Award for public service in journalism for its uncovering of the scandal.)

Ask The Globe: Your questions on citizenship, C-51 and refugees

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

Ben asks: #AskTheGlobe Can the government legally revoke someones Canadian citizenship? #MunkDebate

and Sarah asks: What conditions can a Canadian loose their citizenship, residency, or voting rights? Do refugees hafta pay interest? #AskTheGlobe

Let’s deal with these two together.

First, yes, the government can legally revoke citizenship if it was obtained fraudulently. The Conservatives also added another policy, which is that dual nationals can potentially lose their citizenship if convicted of terrorism or treason crimes. Depending on the circumstances, someone whose citizenship was revoked may be removed from the country.

On voting, the Conservatives did change the eligibility to vote for Canadian expats living abroad. Generally they lose their right to vote after five years, which Donald Sutherland was not very happy about.

Chris asks: Did Tom Mulcair really say different things about repealing C51? #AskTheGlobe

The NDP has never supported Bill C-51, the Anti-Terror Act. The New Democrats voted against the bill, which was supported by the Conservatives and Liberals. However, in interviews earlier in the year, leader Thomas Mulcair did change his tone. In February, Mr. Mulcair said he wouldn’t commit to repealing the bill if elected, though his party would definitely change it. Weeks later, in March, Mr. Mulcair committed to repealing the entire law.

Myles asks: Harper says ours response has been generous- is that true compared to past refugee crises? #MunkDebate #asktheglobe #futurevoter

It depends on what past refugee crises we’re comparing it to. In terms of numbers and speed of access for refugees, it’s much lower than Vietnam (when Joe Clark raised the target to 60,000 refugees). Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at the Munk Debate brought up comparisons with Vietnam to accuse Harper of being stingy. What sets Syria apart from Vietnam is the rules Stephen Harper introduced about refugees needing their status approved by UNHCR or a third country, a rule that didn’t exist for the Vietnamese (and which the Kurdi family blames for the events leading to Alan’s death off the Turkish coast). If we’re comparing Syria with the Second World War, though – when we famously turned away a boatload of Jewish refugees in 1939, and were pretty hostile to Jewish refugees even during the war – our current response looks more generous. (Doug Saunders and Sean Fine have done really good historical analyses of Vietnam, the Second World War and our response to the Hungarian refugee crisis in the 1950s).

Ask The Globe: What happens if two parties tie for the most seats?

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

Christopher Stasiuk asks: If two parties tie for first with the most seats in the federal election, who governs? Who is the PM? #asktheglobe

According to Wednesday’s Nanos numbers the Liberals and Conservatives are locked in a dead heat atop the polls. Which makes Christopher’s question a timely one.

Digital politics editor Chris Hannay explains the process.

The incumbent always gets first crack at forming government. (Usually, if the incumbent has not won the most seats after an election, they decline.) If the incumbent is one of the tied parties and they have a Speech from the Throne, and it gets defeated by the other parties, they have to go to Governor-General David Johnston and declare that they don’t have the confidence of the House.

The Governor-General can then decide whether to call an election or let another party have a chance at governing.

If an election has just happened, typically the Governor-General is expected to let another party have a chance to form the government so as not to waste voters’ times. (This happened in 1926)

If the second-place party, or the other party that was tied, can survive a confidence vote with other parties’ support, then they’re in government now.

This is essentially what happened in Ontario in 1985.