Strategic Thoughts

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January 8, 2006

Vancouver-Centre Province Poll

As only a tab could, the front page of Sunday's Vancouver Province screamed "Svend Trailing: Poll". The accompanying article, with Ian Baily's byline, headlined "Ring incident haunts Svend", reported that the paper commissioned Mustel Group Poll to conduct a poll in Vancouver-Centre, a riding that has gone Liberal since 1993. (It was last won by the CCF, predecessor to the NDP, in a 1948 by-election only to be lost to the Liberals in 1949.) Despite the voting history of the riding, it is interesting this time because two high profile personalities, Svend Robinson and Hedy Fry, are duking-it-out.

Unlike national polls which sample 1,000 votes across the entire country (308 ridings), the Mustel Group Poll sampled 500 votes just in the riding of Vancouver Centre on January 5th and 6th. The Province reported that the results of the poll are accurate "plus-or-minus 4.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20". The paper did not compare the poll it commissioned with the results from 2004; they are as follows:

2004 Election
Jan 5-6, 2005 Poll

If the poll is correct, nothing has changed in 18 months as far as voting intention goes in Vancouver Centre. Rather than using that as the story line, the paper brought up an old news story, and made that the headline. It's not surprising that out of the 68% who didn't vote NDP last time, one could find 25% who would personally criticize Svend. What is surprising is that despite Svend's high profile, and admitted past mistake, with two weeks to go in the campaign, nothing appears to have changed since the last election. Two weeks is several lifetimes in politics. In that time voters in Vancouver-Centre might be reminded about Dr. Fry's own controversial record and why she's unlikely to warm a seat in cabinet ever again.

It would be useful to conduct similar constituency-based polls with large sample sizes, not in "safe" Liberal ridings like Vancouver-Centre or Conservative ridings like Abbotsford, but in ridings where there are close races, like New Westminster-Coquitlam, Southern Interior or Vancouver Island North. In the last election, the Conservatives won those seats by narrow margins, with the Liberals finishing third. A shift to the NDP of less than one percent of the vote in those ridings will mean three fewer Conservative MPs and three more New Democrats; that's a difference that could be extremely significant in the next Parliament. If Stephen Harper wakes up as Prime Minister leading a minority government on January 24th, the outcome in those three BC seats could have national significance. It is in those ridings where Liberals, who want to fight the Conservatives, should strategically vote NDP.


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