Shifting Brick(er)s

Aurora Mayor Geoff Law-de-Dawe gushed on facebook like a little schoolgirl over getting his copy of Darrell Bricker’s book “The Big Shift” autographed back in October of 2013 :

The Big Shift is a 304 page fantasy novel, written in a similar fashion to Phillip K Dick’s 1962 Hugo award-winning The Man in the High Castle.

The alternate reality advanced by Bricker is one where fortune favours the Harper government in not only the 2015 election, but the next decade, the next generation, and beyond.

Included in its pages are such gems as: “Whatever else the Harper government might be, it is not corrupt.”

When it launched even the Globe & Mail’s review classified it as little more than fan fiction:

The evidence on which it is based is slender: some polling and census data, a couple of studies from the Fraser Institute and a sheaf of other newspaper columns. You’ll need more than that to prove the proposition that the country has undergone a profound and permanent political rupture.

If there’s one thing that the 2015 election proved is that the country has undergone a profound and permanent political rupture. Just in the opposite direction of everything Bricker signed his name to.

This is a man that in 2014 TorontoLife touted as the “guy who knows everything about election polling”:

For someone who builds his reputation on knowing everything it’s interesting to see him quoted as saying “you should doubt your own work all the time.” Because right up to the election, and now even after it has passed there was no mention of any doubt about the prognostications he made in this book.

I will agree with his assertion that “Anybody who is in this business is walking a tightrope, and a dose of humility would go a long way”. In Bricker’s case that dose of humility was served up like the scene in Back to The Future where Biff Tanen plows head-on into a truck filled with manure.

Ipsos, where Bricker is employed as CEO of Public Affairs, has performed poorly in several Canadian elections. William Wilson’s May 17th piece blames some of this on Bricker’s Kanye West-like attitude for seeking big headlines:

Elizabeth Thompson’s September 21st piece in iPolitics also delves into declining public confidence in pollsters and their business:

Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet Research identifies one of the problems with public confidence in public opinion polling is Ipsos Reid itself, pointing out that Ipsos got the results wrong in both the 2014 Ontario provincial election and the 2013 British Columbia election that returned Premier Christy Clark to power.

The fact that Ispos Reif is behind the Canadian Association for Public Opinion Research pushing for professional standards in public opinion polling is like calling the arsonist to put out the fire.

In Mashal Khan’s September 23rd piece in The Voice Times here: the discussion turns to the role polls play in strategic voting.

Michael Marzolini, the chairman of Pollara Strategic Insights and a former Liberal party pollster claims that Strategic voting, in the few cases where it does occur at a local level, is usually botched up due to partisanship and bad data getting in the way.

Nik Nanos of Nanos Research extrapolates on this by saying that most efforts use national polls, or regional polls of provincial-level data, to propose riding-level outcomes. Good riding data, by contrast can be devastating — or elevating — to your local campaigns and is highly useful to strategic voters.

So good data would be useful to those voting strategicaly but the very idea was dismissed by Bricker: “how many people do all that? Very, very few.”

Yup Monday’s election keeps serving up bang on predictions by Mr. Bricker.

Following the 2011 election this National Post piece: sums up the murky crystal ball that polling firms are using:

“The industry is going through a transition, and as a result our work is more imperfect than it is at the best of times.”

To which, the “guy who knows everything about election polling” chimes in that:

“The job of good social science is you never take anything from one source.”

Agreed. So, if Ipsos Reid isn’t a biased source, then its results have shown it isn’t good social science.

Just one more thing it has in common with the defeated Harper government.

As for Bricker’s book let’s hope that it is not placed amongst our mayor’s cherished leadership tombs but relegated to the shelf with Harper’s ghost-written book on hockey and his L. Ron Hubbard collection.

Watts on your mind?

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