By Roy L Hales
On September 27, one of Canada’s leading pollsters, Nick Nanos, wrote, “the NDP will lose seats and the Greens will gain some in October, which will have a profound effect on parliament’s final makeup.” (It currently does not look like the Liberals or Conservatives will obtain a majority.) While their profile has grown throughout the nation, the Green Party is particularly strong on the West of Coast of British Columbia. 338Canada’s projections have consistently shown them leading in 4 out of the island’s ridings throughout this election campaign and they may pick up yet another seat or two on Vancouver Island.
Paul Fournier, the current guru of voter projections, has been pointing to the concentration of Green supporters for weeks. Up until now, his data on 338Canada shows them leading in four of the island’s ridings: Saanich Gulf Islands; Nanaimo Ladysmith; Victoria and Esquimalt-Saanch-Sooke. The other three ridings are all “toss ups but, as of September 30, the Greens have nudged ahead in a fifth riding.
More Than A Pollster
While a recent Insights West poll suggests Green support might not be quite as solid as suggested, Fournier is more than a pollster. His predictions incorporate all recent polling results (including Insights Wests), the histories of each riding and demographic data from recent census returns. The results have been fairly spectacular.
In three recent provincial elections, he correctly identified the winners in more than 90% of the ridings.
- Fournier was correct in 82 out of 87 districts (94.3%) in Alberta’s 2019 election. As regards his wrong choices: three were within the margin of error (3.4%) and only two (2.3%) were complete misses.
- In 2018, he identified the winners in 111 out of 121 districts in Ontario.
- That same year, he accurately predicted the outcome in 112 out of 125 Quebec ridings.
What Polls Do Not Capture
In a recent interview, Green candidate Mark De Bruijn cautioned Cortes radio listeners not to place too much reliance on polls.
“As we all know, things are shifting in the world everywhere, including Canada. That can’t be measured or reflected by algorithms. Polls are of limited value. They are an interesting indicator of things and probably have some reliability, but it is very limited. I would not want to put all my eggs in a basket made of algorithms.”
Liberal candidate Peter Schwarzhoff concurred, adding that after knocking on almost 6,000 doors within Powell River – North Island, he found that:
“The Conservatives are holding their base while the progressive side is split with many, many undecided. [The election is] … too close to call, but voters here will help to decide whether CPC or Liberals form government.”
Three North Vancouver Island Ridings
Up until yesterday, voter projections have shown the Conservatives and NDP locked in a fierce battle for the island’s three northern yesterday. The Greens trailed closely behind them. However 338Canada’s projection for September 30 depicts Green candidate Lydia Hwitsum, a popular former chief of the Cowichan Tribes, taking the lead in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford. Fournier currently suggests the odds of her winning are about 46%, with the Conservatives (30%) and NDP (23%) still in the picture.
According to Fournier’s projections, the Greens have a chance of taking every seat on Vancouver Island. The odds of this occurring are currently slim, but improving.
While Green candidate Sean Wood has been consistently third in projections for Courtenay Alberni, his numbers are moving up. A little more than a week ago, Fournier gave him a 2% of victory. Now his odds are 11% . If support for the NDP slips any further, the Greens may find themselves in the unusual position of benefitting from strategic voters.
Mark De Bruijn has been trailing in a slightly more distant third in Powell River – North Island. A little over a month ago, on August 30, Fournier calculated that the Greens had a 23% chance of taking this riding. Their projected numbers slipped after that and hit a low point (0.5% chance of winning) on September 27. While the close to 2% chance Fournier gives him today is hardly spectacular, the numbers are once again rising.
Loss of NDP Voters
The key to this election on Vancouver Island may be the people who voted NDP in 2015. Many of them were strategic voters. A significant number actually preferred the Greens, but were not willing to “throw their votes away.” (Most, possibly all, of the people I spoke to at a recent dinner party on Cortes Island fit into that category.
Looking at Northern Vancouver Island’s previous voting history, it is easy to see why they felt that way. There were essentially two choices. Now there is a third.
Liberal candidate Peter Schwarzhoff recently informed me, “Former NDP voters are trying to decide how to vote. Many are looking at the Greens. None are looking at the Conservatives.” As regards his own party, Schwarzhoff said, “the Liberals are losing some votes, while gaining others.”
His observations roughly correspond to what we see comparing recent projections to the results of the 2015 election. Two parties have lost ground: the NDP have lost roughly 10% Liberals about 5% in all three ridings. The Conservatives have gained a little, and, so far, the number of people who may vote Green appears to have doubled.
Can the Greens Pick Up A Seat Or Two?
It already seems likely that that four of Vancouver Island seven ridings will elect Green MPs. Can they pick up an additional seat? Or two? Or even all three? A recent Abacus poll suggests that, nationally, that 40% of Canada would consider voting for them. While none of the parties live up to their full potential, the difference between potential and actual performance has always been especially marked with the Greens. This is the first election in which Vancouver Islanders perceive them as a serious alternative.
This is also a region that the Conservatives are targeting. Though the boundaries were different, Powell River – North Island and Courtenay Alberni have elected Conservatives in the past. Andrew Scheer has been campaigning for his candidates in Courtenay, Comox and Parksville.
Can the incumbent NDP MPs Allstair McGregor, Rachel Blaney and Gord Johns hold on to their ridings in northern Vancouver Island? Can the Conservatives take Powell River – North Island and Courtenay Alberni? Will one or two of these ridings go Green? Or will the Conservative push to regain territory that was once theirs’.
Top photo credits: L to r: Green candidates Sean Wood; Lydia Hwitsum and Mark de Bruijn courtesy the Green Party of Canada