‘Poll’ shows toss-up for NWT seat, but candidates are wary of data

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A federal electoral map used by party candidates to get a sense of their popularity shows that the Northwest Territories is a “toss-up” leading up to the Oct. 21 election.

338 Canada, founded by Philippe J. Fournier of Qc125 – a Quebec based statistics and polling company, shows that the Liberal Party incumbent Michael McLeod appears to be leading the five-person race as of Oct. 7 but just barely.

The Liberals were shown to have a 29.6 per cent (+/- eight per cent) with Yanik D’Aigle’s Conservative Party at 27.5 per cent (+/- 7.8 per cent) and Mary Beckett’s New Democratic Party at 27 per cent (+/- 8.2 per cent). Paul Falvo’s Green Party trails at 13.6 per cent (+/- 5.8 per cent) and Luke Quinlan’s People’s Party of Canada has 1.4 per cent.

A screenshot from 338 Canada.com and its projections for the popular vote in the NWT, shows Michael McLeod’s Liberal Party leading, but not by much.
photo sourced from 338Canada.com

The most telling is that in September, figures show that the Liberal popular vote endured a 10 per cent crash in the Northwest Territories between Sept. 13 and 24.

A screenshot from 338Canada.com shows that the leading Liberal Party endured a 10 per cent crash from 40.2 per cent on Sept. 13 to 30.4 per cent on Sept. 24.
photo sourced from 338Canada.com

NNSL Media attempted to contact Fournier to ask how his website arrived at the polling numbers for the Northwest Territories but he did not return calls.

Mary Beckett, New Democratic Party

Beckett said she is aware of the poll and uses it but said it is far from being a perfect indicator of where the NWT campaign lies at any given point in time.

“It is not terribly informative in terms of what we can expect,” she said. “I think it is a reasonable guide of what the national sentiment is doing to affected NWT voters but the margin of error is massive – often plus or minus eight and some days 8.6.”

Mary Beckett, New Democratic Party candidate, said she is aware of the 338 Canada federal poll, but said it isn’t as reliable a source for measuring a campaign as it could be.

Beckett said she does agree that the campaign is a “toss-up.

“I would say it is a close race and so I will work hard. I think I have a really good chance of winning as long as I do the work. I would argue that the numbers are weighing too heavily on national influence.”

Beckett said she thinks that northern campaigns are different from the south in that they are more reliant on individual candidates and the personal connection they make with voters.

“I think in NWT politics, results are only partly dependent on the national influence,” she said. “Down south, the general wisdom is that individual candidates are dependent on five to 10 per cent of the vote while the rest depends most on what national leaders are saying.”

In the case of the NWT Chamber of Mines debate where incumbent MP Michael McLeod was absent, she said it makes a difference in the grander scheme of the campaign.

“I was up in Beaufort Delta in Tuktoyaktuk on election day for the territorial election and went down to Inuvik that evening,” she said. “I flew out to be at the debate that next day.”

In 2015, there were 19,077 votes cast – with 9,177 of them (48.3 per cent) going to McLeod. Then NDP incumbent Dennis Bevington took 5,783 votes (30.8 per cent), while then Conservative candidate Floyd Roland had 3,481 (18.4 per cent). The Green Party candidate John Moore, had 2.8 per cent.

“I think in 2015 there was a huge surge because people were given a lot of fancy promises and fancy words (by the Liberals) and they ended up disappointed by just pretty words,” Beckett said, adding that if Bevington had the same vote numbers in any other race had fought, he would still have won those elections.

“The Liberal majority in the NWT last time was partially due to new voters and partially a shift in NDP voters moving to the Liberals.

“It wasn’t that (Bevington) really didn’t do well, it was the that the Liberals did extra well.”

Green Party candidate Paul Falvo

Falvo said he doesn’t use the 338 poll much as an indicator and gets a sense of the voter response from other sources.

Paul Falvo, Green Party candidate said he doesn’t believe the poll has a wide enough set of data to be meaningful.

“We have been relying on our own information from people at the doors and directly talking with people and at the forums,” Falvo said. “My sense is that 338 does not have enough people or a wide enough set to be meaningful.”

Falvo said he also wants to get to as many communities as possible in the remainder of the campaign but may be limited by the cost of travel and the remoteness of some communities.

Michael McLeod Liberal incumbent MP for NWT

Hayden Moher, campaign assistant to Michael McLeod, who was travelling in the Deh Cho and South Slave last week, said the campaign doesn’t rely on the 338 Canada poll very much because there is no polling done in the NWT. As such McLeod doesn’t have much to say about its current findings.

“I can tell you that the only polling result that matters to Michael and our team is the one on Election Day,” Moher stated in an email. “Since there is no polling done in the territories, it’s not clear what their methodology is for our region. As such, it’s hard to say how accurate of a projection they are providing for the North.”

Yanik D’Aigle, Conservative candidate and Luke Quinlan, People’s Party of Canada candidate were provided questions about 338 and polling through Facebook.com, but have not responded.

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Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. He came from Prince Edward County, Ont., and obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Working in Yellowknife, he covers education-based stories and general news but has also taken other beats in the past, including city hall and entertainment. He is a champion of the printed word and the importance of newspapers. As a board member of the United Way NWT and Rotary True North, he believes in the importance of civic engagement and community building. He spends his spare time with his boxer Sharona. Simon can be reached at (867) 766-8295 and editorial@nnsl.com.

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