As a new independent poll suggests a majority of voters could vote against a new tax to finance Vancouver-region transit expansion, regional mayors working to secure a Yes vote say they are not conducting their own surveys to guide their campaign.
On Monday, a spokesman for the mayors said they were depending on their personal contact with voters to get a sense of where public opinion is headed on their bid for approval of a 0.5-per-cent regional addition to the 7-per-cent provincial sales tax.
Revenues from the new tax would be used to help pay for new transit projects over the coming decade, including a Vancouver subway, light rail in Surrey, more buses and road development.
"We get a sense of the [political] terrain every day that we're out there," Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said, speaking for the Vancouver-region mayors following a news conference at which six mayors made the case for a Yes vote. "We're out there every day talking to people about this."
Mr. Moore said a poll was conducted at the beginning of 2015 to help guide the campaign, but there has been no follow-up to help figure out if public opinion is shifting or what message might be resonating with voters. He said he could not recall the sample size, margin of error or cost of the earlier mayors' poll.
"That's just something we didn't have time for," he said on the subject of new polling, adding he wasn't sure if proceeding without it is politically risky.
Bill Tieleman, speaking for the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition whose 130 member organizations represent 400,000 members, said his organization has no money for polling and is focused on communicating the virtues of the mayors' transit plan. It is also reading the polls that have been done by Insight West and Angus Reid, he said.
"We just have to keep communicating," Mr. Tieleman said. "There's no magic solution that polling will give us to say, 'If we tweak the message we'll win.'"
Political scientist Hamish Telford of the University of the Fraser Valley, said he found the situation astonishing. He noted that modern polling provides campaigns with a sense of whether they're ahead and, crucially, why they may not be ahead and what they can do to catch up.
"Otherwise, it's just flying in the dark," Prof. Telford said. "I would think the mayors would want to know what's going on and how they could turn it around. This is very surprising."
He noted that questions have been raised about the value of polling intelligence due to a reduced use of landlines and other factors, but it continues to provide a wealth of information.
Monday's mayoral news conference at Douglas College was timed around the expectation that more than 1.56 million registered voters were to begin receiving their ballots from Elections BC. Voters have until May 29 to mail back their ballots.
On Monday, the Angus Reid Institute released a poll suggesting that 61 per cent of respondents would vote against the new tax, compared with 27 per cent who would vote Yes. The survey said distrust of the regional transit authority TransLink, which has been criticized for mismanaging its spending and executive compensation, was a major issue for No voters.
The online survey, the latest poll to find No running ahead of Yes, involved 950 respondents sampled between Feb. 25 and March 5.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who attended the news conference, expressed confidence the Yes side would win. "Despite what the polls may say," he said, "we're going to see a very different result from what's predicted."