The polls are already closed in Newfoundland, and will close shortly in the Maritimes. Here is an incomplete list of interesting things to look out for tonight:
1. How many Tory seats in Atlantic Canada?
By the time the polls close in most of the country, we will either know, or have a very good idea, of the seat distribution in the Atlantic. The Conservatives are projected to win 12 seats there. If they get 14 or more, a majority becomes more likely than not. But if they win 10 or fewer, Harper may have to start thinking about whether he wants to compromise, and about his political future in general.
Of the 8 seats changing hands that I predicted (remember, these are relative to 2008, so Cumberland--Colchester--Musquodoboit Valley is classified as a change, even though the change really occurred during the by-election), I am of course least confident about Central Nova. Frankly, I was tempted to override this projection by the model, but I left it there because even with that seat, the NDP wins fewer seats than both other parties while leading the popular vote.
I also had problems with the two Halifax area Liberal seats: the Atlantic numbers suggest the NDP could take both, but a Halifax area poll suggested that those are safe. I split the difference, giving Dartmouth--Cole Harbour to the NDP and calling for a hold in Halifax West, but I have little confidence in these projections.
In PEI, while by 2008 results, Malpeque is overwhelmingly the most vulnerable Liberal seat in the province, the buzz is that the two other Liberal ridings are likely Tory pickups. Because I want my projection to be data driven, I didn't take the hearsay into account, but don't be surprised if the Grits drop Cardigan and/or Charlottetown while keeping Malpeque.
Update: I forgot to mention that the Tories could also take Random--Burin--St. George's. I guess Atlantic Canadians are finding this out right now, but most of us will be in the dark for a little longer.
2. Can the Bloc hang on to official party status in Québec?
Many of you thought I'm crazy for having the Bloc down to 15. But uniform swing without balancing risk or taking ridings polls into account actually gets them all the way down to 5. It is therefore a real possibility that the Bloc could be almost wiped off the map.
I can see the Bloc get anywhere from 4 to 26 seats. There are likely to be dozens of tight Bloc-NDP races in Québec, right across the province. You have two parties, both of whose support are distributed quite evenly. Thus, for the Bloc, just a few points can make the difference between keeping half of its seats or near annihilation. Furthermore, while I think 15 is a very reasonable estimate, I have no idea where those 15 seats are going to materialize. I'm guessing they won't be in Montréal, where the NDP's left-of-centre platform is most likely to appeal, but I could be wrong.
The list of ridings that I'm uncertain about is too long to list - virtually every race in Québec but Outremont is unpredictable, which is pretty much the opposite of what one would have said at the outside of the campaign. (OK, Beauce and Roberval--Lac-St-Jean are also safe, but that's really about it!)
More coming later tonight.