News » Politics

'All bets are off' in Canada's first three-way federal election race

Liberals hold narrow lead in polls



While the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky riding has long been considered a Conservative stronghold, several factors appear to be turning the tides ahead of Canada's 42nd general election.

The 2012 electoral boundaries redistribution, a high-profile Liberal candidate and Canada's first three-way federal election race have made for an interesting early campaign in the Sea to Sky, said David Moscrop, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia's political science department.

"Things seem to have shifted a little bit, but the problem is you can't really tell if that has to do with the nature of the riding changing or the party system in general changing, because we've never had a three-way race in Canada," Moscrop said. "So from a purely research perspective, from a poli-sci perspective, the answer is we can't really know what's contributing to the change, because you can't isolate the variables."

Electoral boundaries are reviewed every 10 years by an independent commission to keep up with shifting demographics.

The number of voters in the Sea to Sky riding grew by 7.74 per cent after the 2012 redistribution, as Pemberton and Mount Currie were brought back into the fold.

But the majority of historical data used by political scientists is based on two-way races, Moscrop said.

"All bets are off, because it is the first three-way race we've ever had, and our models, our way of understanding and interpreting elections, are sort of based on two-way races," he said. "It will be very, very interesting to see what happens."

The election is still weeks away, but recent polls show Conservative support slipping in several ridings.

One poll commissioned by activist group LeadNow and conducted by neutral third party Environics Research has the Liberals' Pam Goldsmith-Jones holding a narrow lead over the NDP's Larry Koopman, 29 to 26 per cent.

Incumbent Conservative MP John Weston is third with 22 per cent, while the Green Party's Ken Melamed is not far behind with 18 per cent.

The poll interviewed 582 eligible voters between Aug. 15 and 18.

Participants were asked: "If the federal election were held tomorrow, which one of the following parties would you vote for here in the riding?"

The margin of error — which measures variability — is 4.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

But as with any poll — especially one so far from the election — the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, said Brenda Sharpe, senior research associate with Environics.

"Polls are always a snapshot, and the closer you get to them the more accurate they will be," Sharpe said. "Events can influence how people feel, so right now it is a snapshot of what these people in these ridings are saying."

While the Sea to Sky riding has traditionally voted conservative — with a good portion of those votes coming from West Vancouver — the 2012 boundary redistribution could serve to level out the vote.

"But I suspect that the redistribution is less important than the fact that we have a three-way race," Moscrop said. "To me that's the big takeaway."

Add a comment