New polling conducted by the independent Leaders’ Debate Commission suggests People’s Party of Canada candidate Steven Fletcher has significantly more support in his Winnipeg riding than previously reported.
Fletcher is running in Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley for the newly-minted PPC. He’s up against what's considered by many to be a strong field: incumbent Liberal MP Doug Eyolfson and Conservative candidate Marty Morantz, a former Winnipeg city councillor.
A recent survey of 508 voters found roughly 25 per cent said it would be "possible, likely, or certain" they would cast their ballot for Fletcher when they head to the polls Oct. 21.
"I think that number is low, but it’s much higher than what had been publicly circulating before. But our internal numbers are far, far higher than that," Fletcher said Tuesday.
"There’s an attraction from across the political spectrum and the choices are coming down to the Liberal (candidate) and myself. The Conservatives, for a whole bunch of reasons, and the NDP, are falling further and further behind."
Fletcher declined comment when asked what his party's internal polling data pegs support in the riding at.
The new poll was commissioned in response to PPC Leader Maxime Bernier’s attempts to get invited to the federal leadership debates Oct. 7 and 10.
Originally, Bernier had been barred from the events, with debates commissioner David Johnston saying the leader of the nascent party didn’t meet two of the commission’s three criteria needed to qualify. In other words, Johnston didn’t believe the PPC had a "legitimate chance" to win more than one seat in the upcoming federal election.
However, the commission has since conducted new polling in four ridings identified by the PPC where it believes it has a strong chance of being elected.
These include Fletcher’s ward in Winnipeg, and three in Ontario (including former Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s widow, Renata Ford, running in Etobicoke North). In each case, it was found the PPC candidate was polling between 24 per cent and 34 per cent.
As a result, Bernier has been added to the upcoming federal leadership debates.
"There was never any doubt that (Bernier) would be added to the debate. If they stayed true to their standard, it was clear that he would have to get in. And yes, the riding here is very winnable for us," Fletcher said.
However, Christopher Adams, a University of Manitoba political scientist, said he feels single riding polls need to be taken with a grain of salt.
"It is very difficult to do riding-specific polls... So I’d have to look at the methodology before saying it was done with a proper sample. I’d also want to know about the design of the questionnaire itself, because the way the question is worded impacts heavily on the outcome of the polling data," he said.
"I think it’s likely the numbers would be different if the respondent had it presented to them as a ballot question, as opposed to being asked their propensity for voting for any one particular candidate."
Adams said Fletcher should not be discounted in the race, however, citing the former Tory MP and MLA's experience, as well as his name recognition in the community.
Requests for comment from Morantz and Eyolfson were not returned prior to deadline Tuesday.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.