By Ryan Tumilty
The polling used to justify People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier’s inclusion into the national leader’s debate painted a much rosier picture than the final result.
The numbers also suggest the party may have had a better shot if the debate commission had kept Maxime Bernier on the sidelines.
The Leader’s Debate Commission initially kept Bernier’s party out of the debate, but when the party appealed their exclusion, the commission took a second look. In addition to Bernier’s riding, where he ultimately came second, party officials submitted four other ridings where they thought chances were good.
The commission then hired EKOS Research to poll those four ridings.
In Toronto’s Etobicoke North, Renata Ford was carrying the party’s banner and EKOS numbers showed 29.9 per cent of respondents said it was either possible, likely or certain they would support her, with 15.3 per cent certain they would. But when the votes were counted, the party only got 2.8 per cent of the ballots cast.
The commission’s criteria for inclusion allowed parties to get in if candidates had a “legitimate chance,” based on context and opinion polls to be elected.
EKOS president Frank Graves said the party was performing better when the polling was done in early September.
“It is just the difference between what happens in the middle of the campaign and what happens at the end.”
Similar patterns occurred in the other ridings EKOS polled:
In Nipissing-Timiskaming, 34.1 per cent of respondents were open to the party, with 11.2 per cent certain they would cast a ballot for the PPC. In the end, only 5.2 per cent actually did so.
In Pickering-Uxbridge, 25.9 per cent were open to the party with 11.2 per cent certain, according to the polling, but only two percent of people cast a ballot for them.
In Charleswood-St.-James-Assiniboia-Headingley, 24.5 per cent were open to the party with 10.6 per cent certain, but the party got only 4.3 per cent on election day.
It is just the difference between what happens in the middle of the campaign and what happens at the endLoading...
Graves said the debates in this year’s campaign were a turning point for the election, with the biggest changes in support happening after those contests, which is unusual.
“People generally watch debates in Canada, but they don’t normally shape the outcome of the election,” he said.
Graves said his firm had numbers before the debate showing the PPC with as much as seven per cent of the national vote. They finished with 1.6 per cent and Graves said in retrospect being held out of the debates might have been a better option.
“Clearly, Mr. Bernier did not do well in the debates,” he said. “A lot of people made up their mind following the debate and his numbers went down.”
PPC spokesperson Martin Masse said they didn’t do their own internal polling, so they don’t know if the debate had an impact on the party’s hopes.
He said they hope, whatever happens with the commission, the rules will be unambiguous in future.
“If there is still a commission in charge of this at the next election, we would suggest that all the rules be clear and objective, and not complicated and subject to interpretation,” he said.
Debates don’t normally shape the outcome of the election
He said the party intends to field candidates in the next election, whenever that should be.
Amy Butcher, spokesperson for Karina Gould the minister of democratic institutions, said they’re awaiting a report from commissioner David Johnston, which is due next year, before they consider any changes.
“We mandated the commissioner to provide a report to Parliament no later than March 31, 2020 outlining findings, lessons learned, and recommendations to inform the potential creating of a ‘built to last’ debates commission,” she said in an email, “The commissioner is also mandated to provide recommendations for future debates participation criteria.”