Three federal by-elections scheduled for late next month are unlikely to end with seats being exchanged in the House of Commons, a new poll suggests.
But Lorne Bozinoff, the president of Forum Research which conducted the survey on Oct. 26 – five days after votes were called in Durham in Ontario, Calgary Centre and Victoria – says the numbers reflect a number of underlying political currents.
"In general, these are so-called safe ridings. So I definitely doubt that they are going to switch. The leading parties in each riding has just got a huge lead," Mr. Bozinoff said in a telephone interview on Monday. "So, protest vote and all that? No, there's not much of that going on."
On the other, he said, each of by-elections is an indicator of trends that are occurring in different parts of the country.
The Victoria race, said Mr. Bozinoff, suggests declining Conservative fortunes in British Columbia, the Calgary by-election could test what is happening to the Liberals federally and the Durham results show no party is gaining traction in that part of Ontario.
The survey of 422 randomly selected voters in Durham suggests that Conservative candidate Erin O'Toole would have taken 46 per cent of the ballots if the vote had been held last week. NDP candidate Larry O'Connor had the support of 24 per cent of respondents while Liberal Grant Humes had 20 per cent.
The seat is up for grabs after the resignation of former International Development Minister Bev Oda, who was embarrassed by the opposition into repaying some of her travel expenses, including $16 for a glass of orange juice.
In the 2011 general election, Ms. Oda took 54 per cent of the vote, said Mr. Bozinoff. So the Conservatives would seem to be down in that riding. In Durham, the Liberals would normally gain from a fall-off in support for the Tories, but that has not happened to any great extent, said Mr. Bozinoff. He said it is possible that the issues facing the provincial Liberals and their outgoing leader, Dalton McGuinty, are having an effect on their federal cousins.
In Calgary Centre, Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt had the backing of 48 per cent of the 373 voters surveyed, Liberal candidate Harvey Locke had 28 per cent and the New Democrat, Dan Meades, was far behind at 8 per cent. Even Chris Turner of the Greens, with 11 per cent of support of those surveyed, was beating the NDP.
The NDP have a difficult relationship with Alberta over the oil sands and that is reflected in the survey results, said Mr. Bozinoff. But the really interesting thing about the Calgary race, he said, is the relatively high level of support that was indicated for the Liberals. Mr. Bozinoff said that it may be due to the personal popularity of Justin Trudeau, the current front-runner in the contest to lead that party.
"The Tories are going to win this riding. It's in Alberta," he said. But the poll suggests they have lost considerable ground since Lee Richardson won the seat in 2011 with 57 per cent of the vote.
"Justin Trudeau's Liberals are not going to sweep Alberta. If, in fact, there is any kind of Trudeaumania it's going to die on the Prairies," Mr. Bozinoff said. "But it doesn't mean they're not going to get a lot more votes than they had in the past."
In Victoria, which was vacated when New Democrat MP Denise Savoie left for medical reasons, the poll suggests NDP candidate Murray Rankin was well ahead with 47 per cent of the support of the 316 voters surveyed. Green candidate Donald Galloway was in second with 20 per cent – possibly a spillover from the riding next door where Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is her party's only sitting MP. Liberal contestant Paul Summerville was tied with Dale Gann of the Conservatives at 16 per cent.
The numbers suggest the Conservatives are down significantly from May, 2011, when they garnered 23 per cent of the vote in the riding. Mr. Bozinoff said he believes opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline in British Columbia could be having an impact on Tory support in that province.
The polls are expected to accurately reflect the views of the voting public within five percentage points in Durham and Calgary Centre and six percentage points in Victoria, 19 times in 20.
Although the poll was conducted by interactive voice response and not live callers, Mr. Bozinoff says IVR proved more accurate in predicting the outcome in three out of four recent provincial elections than polls that relied on other methodologies.