Friday, August 22, 2008

Back from Guelph: By-election is still Frank's to lose, with the Greens displacing the Dippers for 3rd place...

I spent the last two days in Guelph visiting family. I took a couple of hours yesterday afternoon to help out Frank Valeriote's Liberal campaign, doing a literature drop and getting some nice sun in the process.

Much of what I've heard and read elsewhere about this byelection seems to be true: Frank seems to have the most lawn signs, based on my observations in the poll I dropped, plus others in the nearby area. I did take the time to drive in various parts of the city and it seems that Liberal support is strong everywhere. Also, I'd say the Greens have the second most number of lawn signs. Surprisingly, Gloria Kovach's lawn signs are few and far between, as are Tom King's NDP signs. Of course, on public spaces all four campaigns have a strong presence.

I didn't knock on doors, but for those locals I did encounter, most seemed completely aware of the upcoming vote and receptive to Frank's glossy pamphlet. Only two people refused to take a pamplet, one saying he's Green.

This on a day when the local paper published results of a poll by Winnipeg's KLRVU Research showing Frank Valeriote with about 37% support versus 26% for Tory Gloria Kovach, with the Greens' Mike Nagy in 3rd with 19% and the NDP's King pulling up the rear with just under 18%. Quite frankly, these numbers completely jibe with my own analysis and what I saw on the ground. If observers are surprised by this comfortable Liberal lead, clearly they don't know Guelph very well, nor do they understand how much support Mr. Valeriote truly has in the community.

I'm not going to pretend that Gloria Kovach or Tom King aren't good candidates; they are - they simply pale against Valeriote's impressive credentials and community following. I would say that Kovach's appointment as the Tory candidate over the duly elected Conservative nominee Brent Barr continues to dog her campaign. Perhaps they are still short on actual bodies in their campaign office and that explains the dearth of lawn signs in the community. And Tom King seems like a great guy and decent candidate; were the NDP to be running somebody less impressive, they'd no doubt be running a distant fourth, rather than nearly tied with the Greens in this race.

While I agree with some who doubt the professionalism of this upstart Winnipeg pollster (who is the brother of Winnipeg South Tory MP Rod Bruinooge), I simply can't get my head around this tricky bit of NDP spin. Quite frankly, the numbers in this poll of 3,400 make sense at this point in the race - Libs 37%, Cns 26%, Greens 19% and NDP 18%. How this poll helps the Tories is beyond me.

I don't know the Greens' Mike Nagy very well, but this is his third run and thus Guelph voters are likely somewhat familiar with him. He seems to be riding a minor groundswell of Green support that saw that party win just under 20% in last year's provincial election in Guelph. I fully expect Nagy to win about that amount this time too, probably finishing comfortably ahead of King who will be in the mid-high teens by the end of this.

If Kovach's numbers are in the mid-high 20s, that would be a big blow to Tory hopes of expansion in southwest Ontario. I have no doubt that if this byelection were happening in Kitchener or Waterloo or London West, the Tories would be way more competitive. But this is Guelph, the green city. And they're facing a very strong local Liberal machine and candidate. After dropping literature in my poll yesterday, I went out to dinner with family and returned to the campaign office around 10:30 pm with my poll map and three remaining pamphlets, thinking I'd drop the map off (as requested) through the mail slot. To my surprise, six Liberals were still inside busy at work. These local Grits are workhorses.

Stephane Dion makes an appearance in the riding today (sadly I had to return to Toronto this morning and couldn't make it.) But things seem to be looking good. We will see what happens on Sept 8th, but I have a feeling things will turn out well for the Red-Green show....

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