Northern Economist 2.0

Showing posts with label analysis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label analysis. Show all posts

Monday, 29 October 2018

Final Thunder Bay Municipal Election 2018 Analysis: Ward Races

It is now a week since the municipal election in Thunder Bay and as the dust settles I have been doing some retrospective looks at the races and outcomes and providing some vote tallies - first for the Mayoral race, then the At-Large competition and in this last election post - the races for the seven Ward councillors. Down below, I have seven figures detailing the distribution of the total vote in each of the wards and they differ from both the Mayor and At-Large results in that in most of them, the winners took a rather sizeable share of the vote - as high as 65 percent in one of the races.







 

 

A total of 39,222 ballots were cast for Ward councilors which is lower than the 41,108 cast for mayor.  This suggests that there were individuals who voted for mayor and not for their ward councilors.  This type of difference was also noted in the At-Large race as the total number of votes cast At-Large was smaller than the potential number given the total vote for Mayor.  As for the online/telephone and paper ballot results, there was not substantive difference in the ward outcomes across the two methods with the exception of Neebing where Lynda Rydholm had more paper ballots than Cody Fraser but Cody Fraser won with the online ballots.

The vote share of the winners ranged from a high of 65 percent for Shelby Ch'ng in Northwood to a low of 33 percent for Cody Fraser in Neebing. Current River and McIntyre had the next highest winning vote shares at 59 percent for Andrew Foulds and 50 percent for Albert Aiello.   After Neebing Ward, the next lowest shares were 42 percent for Brian Hamilton in McKellar and 44 percent for Brian McKinnon in Red River.  Kristen Oliver in Westfort won with 47 percent of the vote. On average, the winning vote share across these seven wards came in at nearly 50 percent  - 48.6 percent to be precise.



 

 

Given that the total vote share of the winning mayoral candidate was 34 percent while At-Large candidates won with 7 to 11 percent of total votes cast, it suggests to me that most Ward councilors can reasonably claim to have a stronger representative mandate from their respective constituencies than either the At-Large candidates or even the Mayor.  Of course, one of the reasons for the more fractured vote distribution in these other races was the large number of candidates.  Even in the ward races, there is some inverse correlation between the number of candidates and the vote share of the winner.  Neebing with the most candidates at five saw its winner take the smallest proportion of total votes while Northwood with only two candidates had the winner take the largest share.

Still, we have a system of 12 councilors and one mayor with five of the twelve councilors elected At-Large.  This hybrid system was due to the Larson compromise which attempted to deal with the strong interurban rivalries still around at Amalgamation in 1970 and the fear that having only ward based councilors evenly split between the two former cities would result in deadlocks.  We are nearly 50 years out from amalgamation and the case can be made that the time has come to revisit our municipal system of representation and consider whether we should go to either an all At-Large system or all Ward based system.  I think given how Thunder Bay has grown together over the last 50 years, there is less north-south antagonism and rivalry that needs the attention of At-Large candidates.  Moreover, I think the At-Large positions detract from the position of Mayor by adding 5 individuals who also have a city wide mandate.  There is less of a case to be made today for electing 5 mini-mayors especially given that the relative mandates and support for ward councilors is actually stronger.

There is also a case for reducing the number of councilors at the same time.  Thunder Bay has one municipal politician for approximately every 8,500 people while a City like Hamilton (with 15 councilors and a mayor) has one municipal politician for approximately every 33,500 people.  And then there is Toronto which given the latest reforms imposed by Premier Ford now has one municipal politician for about every 101,000 people.  Thunder Bay could easily go down to a system of either 10 councilors plus a Mayor or even 8 councilors plus a mayor with a redesigned set of ward boundaries.   While the actual costs saved are small, it would send a message of frugality to residents given the levels of property taxation were a much mentioned concern.

The new council has the opportunity to consider these types of changes especially as we draw near to 2020 and the 50th anniversary of Amalgamation and the creation of Thunder Bay.



Friday, 26 October 2018

Municipal Election Analysis 2018: Thunder Bay At-Large Race


The results of the October 22nd municipal election in Thunder Bay also saw the election of five At-Large Councilors from a rather large pool of 26 candidates.  There are three new At-Large councilors though given two are former councilors (Giertuga and Bentz) there is really only one new face – Peng You.  Most of the actual change in the composition of Thunder Bay City council came at the ward level where there are four new faces (Aiello, Hamilton, Fraser and Oliver) out of the seven positions.  The new council in the end represents a significant amount of change that will contribute new ideas and approaches but not an overwhelming amount that might lead to a more bumpy ride.

To me this also suggests that dramatic change in council composition may be easier at the Ward level because name recognition is much more important in the At-Large races given the large number of candidates – especially this time around.  In many respects, the race for an At-Large seat is really a race for five mini-mayor positions as once elected they can claim to speak for the entire city whereas ward councilors can be seen as representing specific ward interests.  Every voter gets to vote for five making the total number of votes greater than the actual number of voters creating different dynamics than a ward election.

Figure 1 presents the ranked total ballots for each of the At-Large candidates and they range from a maximum of 20,346 votes for Peng You to a low of 973 votes for Frank Wazinski.  After the two leading candidates - Peng and Aldo - there is a drop off to the next three with not that many votes separating them – Giertuga at 11,718, Johnson at 11,692 and Bentz at 11074 – and then another drop to 8,807 with Larry Hebert.  Thus, given this particularly large pool of candidates, the critical number of votes to win was just over 11,000 or just under 7 percent of the total votes cast (172,523) for At-Large candidates.  This perhaps explains why so many choose to run for Councilor At Large – given that there are five votes per elector – one can win a seat on council with a relatively low percentage of the total votes cast.  Ward races on the other hand seem to have stiffer competition and a larger share of the total is required to win.

 

Figures 2 to 4 plot some rather dizzying figures of the distribution of the vote for the paper ballots, online telephone ballots and total ballots and they generally parallel each other pretty closely.  Unlike the mayor's race which I examined in my last post, there was no major difference between online and paper ballots among the front runners.  Peng You essentially captured about 12 percent of the total ballots cast which in the end does not seem like a particularly strong mandate.  On the other hand, perhaps the better point of comparison is the number of votes cast for Mayor which provides a more accurate estimate of the number of voters participating.  Of the 41,108 individuals who cast a ballot for mayor, one can argue that 20,346 of them cast a ballot for Peng You or nearly 50 percent of voters.  

 


 

 


Interpreted this way, Peng’s accomplishment is quite astounding because if one looks at the race for mayor, the winner only captured 34 percent of votes cast.  In the same manner, the next highest At-Large candidate – Councilor Ruberto at 14,745 – captures nearly 36 percent of the voters –also slightly better than the mayor’s performance.  Of course, what is also of note is that if one takes the number of votes for mayor – 41,108 – and multiplies by the number of votes you are allowed to cast At-Large, you get at pool of At-Large votes equal to 205,540.  However, the total number of votes cast At-Large was only 172,523 – about 16 percent less meaning that some chose to vote for fewer than five At-Large candidates.

In the end, these results are interesting because they suggest that at least two of the At-Large winners may be more popular than the mayor which all but ensures they may want to consider a run for mayor the next time around.  However, that is four years away and a lot can happen during four years that can erode your political capital. It is always risky to be more popular than the boss and standing out can also make you more of a political target.  Still, one cannot deny that the stand out feature of this year’s At-Large race was the victory of newcomer Peng You given the energy of his campaign and the size of his win.  I suppose local sentiments may be best summarized borrowing from the words of the immortal Alexandre Dumas – it was All for Peng and Peng for All!

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Municipal Election Analysis 2018: Thunder Bay Mayoral Race


The results are in and former provincial Liberal Cabinet Minister Bill Mauro will be the next Mayor of Thunder Bay.  Congratulations to Mayor Mauro as well as all the hard-working candidates who chose to run for office.  Thanks also to outgoing council members who have seen years of public service.  Public service is never easy and putting your name forth as a candidate and serving as an elected official is an important act of participation in our democracy.

The new Mayor-Designate took 34 percent of the 41,108 votes cast for mayor edging out soon to be former City Councillor Frank Pullia who took 32 percent of the vote.  The choice of mayor was in many respects part of a general desire for change at the municipal level given that both of the higher profile council incumbent candidates for mayor went down to defeat.  Indeed, the new council represents a significant but not overwhelming amount of change with a number of new faces as well as new but familiar faces – as in the example of the new mayor.

Yet, the aspect of this race I found the most interesting was the collapse of the protest vote which saw Shane Judge garner only 5,155 votes (13 percent of the total) compared to his 2014 total of 9,531 which was a 26 percent share of the total.  Even more interesting was the collapse of support for Iain Angus who as a Councillor at Large in 2014 won with 15,861 votes and who as a candidate for mayor in 2018 was only able to manage about a third of that at 5,816. 

One wonders if this signals a general rightward shift in the Thunder Bay electorate given at least my perception of the generally left of center positions of Iain Angus.  Indeed, this may reflect a weakening of the labour vote in general given that Angus was endorsed by the Thunder Bay District Labour Council for Mayor and none of the five at large candidates endorsed by the Labour council won either.   Only three of the Labour Council ward endorsements won (Foulds, Ch’ng and Oliver). Or it may reflect a shift in voter priorities towards lower property taxes given that taxation was continually brought up as an issue during this campaign.The new mayor and several of the winning candidates have emphasized that taxation rates were an issue.

Figure 1 presents the ranked votes by mayoral candidates and most starkly illustrates how despite there being four high profile candidates, it was essentially a two-person race.  Indeed, one wonders what results would have been like if the provincial liberals had won the spring election and Bill Mauro had not entered the municipal race.  It is possible that in the absence of Bill Mauro’s entry, Frank Pullia might very well be the mayor today.  
 

Much is being made of the success of the new online/telephone voting system so a breakdown by type of ballot is interesting.  While voter participation is up above 50 percent this election and voter totals are up I would not venture to say that more convenient online voting options have resulted in a dramatic surge in participation.  Those who want to vote will vote no matter what the system is and the chief advantage of the new system is that it is more convenient for many people. While 41,108 ballots were cast for mayor this election, last time it was 37,123.  The result was an additional 3985 ballots cast – an increase of 13.4 percent.  This is actually a respectable increase but whether it was due to an appetite for change or the convenience of online voting will take a few more elections to see if the increase is sustained.

Of the 41,108 ballots cast for mayor, 15,249 - 37 percent- were paper ballots while 25,775 – 63 percent – were online/telephone ballots.  The preference does appear to be for the convenience of online/phone voting.  Figure 2 shows the distributions of the paper mayoral ballots. 
 

Figure 3 shows the distribution of the online/telephone ballots and Figure 4 the total distribution.  The results for the paper and the online/telephone ballots generally parallel each other but a closer examination shows that among the paper ballots, Frank Pullia had 33 percent of the vote and Bill Mauro 32 percent while in the online/telephone results it was 35 percent for Bill Mauro and 31 percent for Frank Pullia.  Overall, Bill Mauro became Mayor with 34 percent of the total vote and Frank Pullia was second with about 32 percent.

 


 

This is quite an interesting result because it raises the question as to whether the outcome might have been different if only paper ballots (which incidentally are also tabulated electronically) had been used.  It does appear that Frank Pullia had an edge with more traditional medium voters while Bill Mauro’s edge was with online voters.  This is also interesting given that the Pullia campaign was very social media intensive meaning it was fully engaged with the new technology.

This is also an interesting result because given the overall turnout – about 51 percent – and the number of candidates splitting the votes resulting in the winner only holding 34 percent of the total vote.  It means the mayor in the end was elected by about 17 percent of eligible voters.  This is not Bill Mauro’s fault by any stretch of the imagination.  People who are unhappy with small pools of voters rather than a majority deciding their leaders should make sure they get out and vote. On the other hand, perhaps recognition of this low effective support is why the incoming mayor seems relatively low key and unambitious given that his goal is to focus on one or two soft infrastructure projects - like an indoor tennis facility - rather than roads and bridges. I suspect many voters will be surprised to find out a tennis facility is going to be one of the new mayor's priorities.

In any event, these results should provide food for thought for many analyses to come. Next time, I will take a look at the At-Large results.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Gasoline Prices Are Going Up Again


Gasoline prices are on the rise in North America as a result of rising demand combined with more restrictive supply.  An aspect of tightening supply comes as a result of more "cooperative behavior" between major suppliers Russia and Saudi Arabia which was recently highlighted in a report on NPR.  Vancouver made the news with the highest prices on the continent hitting $1.62 a liter on Monday.  Along with refinery issues in Washington State which supplies a portion of Vancouver's gasoline, part of the high price in Vancouver also is a function of taxes in that Vancouver has very high taxes on motor fuel and a new carbon tax came into effect this month.  

While prices in Canada generally have headed up over time, there is a substantial range between the highest and lowest prices.  The accompanying figure plots the monthly maximum and minimum price of unleaded gasoline at self service stations for 18 major centers as compiled by Statistics Canada over the period January 1990 to March 2018. The cities are:St. John's, Winnipeg, Regina,Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Charlottetown, Halifax, Saint John, Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa-Gatineau, Toronto and Thunder Bay.  Needless to say, the trend for gasoline prices over time is upwards (Figure 1).


What is also of interest is what appears to be a growing gap between the trend lines over time.  For example, if you go back to January of 1990, the price per liter of unleaded gas ranged from a low of 47.9 cents in Calgary to a high of 58.9 cents in Yellowknife -  a gap of 11.1 cents.  In March of 2018, the price ranged from a high of 151.4 cents in Vancouver to a low of 106.9 cents in  - a gap of 44.5 cents.  Indeed, if one plots the gap between the highest and lowest prices, one finds that it has grown over time as shown below (Figure 2).  This of course suggests that over time there has been increased dispersion of gasoline prices across cities and regions in Canada.  

However, one needs to standardize for the mean and if one takes the standard deviation of these gasoline prices by month and divides by the average, one gets a measure of dispersion known as the coefficient of variation and it tells a slightly different story (Figure 3).  The period from 1990 to about 2009 was one of a declining coefficient of variation - that is prices across these cities were actually becoming less dispersed.  However, since 2008, the coefficient of variation has been rising suggesting greater dispersion.  The overall linear trend from 1990 to 2018 however shows a declining coefficient of variation.


So, the long-term trend for gasoline prices in Canada is that they are on the way up.  The range in prices between highest and lowest in cents per liter is also growing with the gap across major cities as much as 45 cents per liter.  However, in terms of dispersion as measured by a coefficient of variation, the overall long-term trend since 1990 is for a declining coefficient of variation - that is less dispersion.  However, there are two periods - declining dispersion from 1990 to 2008 and then a rebound towards more dispersion of prices since 2008 to the present.



As a final bonus. here is a plot of Thunder Bay's monthly unleaded gasoline prices since 1990 compared to the 18 city median over the same period (Figure 4). Thunder Bay's prices are pretty close to the  median but since 2008 have been more often than not above the median.  In March of 2017, the average price in Thunder Bay was 110.7 cents per liter compared to the 18 city median of 104.8 cents.  In March of 2018, the monthly price in Thunder Bay was 123.6 cents per liter compared to a median of 121.8 cents.  Anyway, above the median or not, it looks like prices are going up.  Thunder Bay has seen a year over year increase of nearly 12 percent.  The increase for the 18 cities in this analysis over the same period in the median price was 16 percent and for the average monthly price it was 13 percent. So to date, we have been lagging a bit when it comes to price increases.