Balance theory could provide insight into how...
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Oct 10, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Balance theory could provide insight into how Ontario voters will lean

Political scientist’s theory that Ontario voters prefer to install different parties at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa has held up nicely since 1943

OurWindsor.Ca

It’s not exactly Einstein’s theory of relativity, but Underhill’s balance theory has some gravitational pull.

Named for Frank Underhill — the Canadian political scientist best known for writing the Regina Manifesto that led to the creation of what is now the New Democratic Party — it posits that Ontario voters prefer to elect different parties at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa at the same time.

“In the 1870s and 1880s and early 1890s many a good Ontario citizen would vote Grit in provincial politics, and then, appalled at the thought of Grit domination of the whole of Canada, he would turn around and help re-elect (Sir John A.) Macdonald in federal politics,” Underhill wrote in 1946.

Kenneth C. Dewar, professor emeritus of history at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax and the author of the recently published Frank Underhill and the Politics of Ideas, says Underhill “was a humanist and … wasn’t scientifically inclined.”

“I think Underhill was simply thinking of the total vote results and the peculiarity of the province going one way in a federal election and another in a provincial one,” says Dewar.

“So will this happen again? Maybe, but I don’t think he was thinking in strictly predictable terms,” the historian says, noting wins by Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne’s in June 2014 and Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley this past May might not be relevant to the coming federal election.

“What for Underhill was a generalization based on his own knowledge and tinged with a little bit of irony — how does one explain the odd behaviour of Ontario voters anyway? — might become a social scientific hypothesis to be tested by rigorous methods of inquiry,” adds Dewar.

Still, Underhill’s unscientific theory has held up especially nicely since Aug. 4, 1943.

In the ensuing 72 years different parties have been in power federally and provincially for all but eight years and eight months — or 88 per cent of the time.

Thus it might bring Conservative leader Stephen Harper some comfort that Ontario voters handed Wynne a majority last year.

That’s because voters in the country’s most populous province may want to balance a Liberal government at Queen’s Park with a Conservative administration in Ottawa, bypassing Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

Of course, a grave danger for Harper’s Tories could be that Ontarians offset Wynne by electing Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats.

If the scales tip that way, the prime minister will be the one caught off balance.

Toronto Star

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