Bernadine Morris is surprised to learn that recent projections have placed Eglinton-Lawrence Conservative incumbent Joe Oliver in second place.
“I guess we’ll have to work a little harder,” the longtime Conservative supporter says with a laugh. “I think Joe is a strong candidate — very personable — and has done a very good job as both the minister of natural resources and finance, so I’m pretty confident that he’ll come through.”
The high-profile race remains close. As of Sept. 27, Eglinton-Lawrence Liberal candidate Marco Mendicino is projected to receive 43.9 percent of the vote, seven points ahead of Oliver, according to opinion poll aggregation website ThreeHundredEight.com. Meanwhile NDP candidate Andrew Thomson is projected to receive 15.6 percent of the vote and the Green party, which has not yet nominated a final candidate, has 3.4 percent.
Mendecino says that he is aware of the projections, but taking nothing for granted.
“What I want the people of Eglinton-Lawrence to know is that I am going to continue to work hard to earn their trust, and the privilege of serving them in parliament come Oct. 19,” he says.
Mendecino says that while he canvasses the riding two themes are appearing time and again: fatigue with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s inability to adapt to what Mendecino calls a “fundamental restructuring” of the economy, such as the recent collapse of oil prices; and the lack of investment in infrastructure, making the Liberals’ pledge to invest an additional $10 billion into infrastructure during the next two years a hit with residents.
“Everybody who lives in Eglinton-Lawrence, where there is gridlock coming in every direction — be it from the 401, Allen Road, or downtown from the commute home — can see with their own eyes how much the federal government needs to be working with the city to improve the state of roads and modernize our public transit system,” Mendecino says.
Oliver and his supporters have also been steadily canvassing in the riding, completing a tour once before the election was officially called in August, and are now on their third.
“We’re getting a positive reaction at the door,” he says. “I think people appreciate that I’ve been working for my constituents, representing their interests and their values, both at my constituency office and across the riding.”
Unsurprisingly, given his role as finance minister, Oliver says the focus is usually on “pocketbook issues,” and how best to react to such economic uncertainties as the recent instability in Greece and China.
When meeting constituents who remain on the fence, Oliver says he emphasizes the $1.9-billion surplus the Conservative government recently delivered for the 2014–15 fiscal year, the $2.6 billion that Stephen Harper recently announced to help fund John Tory’s SmasrtTrack proposal, and the party’s history of lowering taxes, most recently illustrated by its pledge to reduce small business taxes from 11 percent to 9 percent.
As for projections, “the only thing I’d say about 308.com is that I have never, I don’t think ever, been better than eight points behind, including before the last election, when I finished eight points ahead,” Oliver says when asked about the numbers. “I’m not denigrating, I’m just saying that’s the history.”
(In his final predictions for 2011, ThreeHundredEight founder Éric Grenier actually calculated that Oliver would lose by 3.1 percent. The site correctly predicted 76 percent of winners in the 2011 federal election, a success rate Grenier later called “unacceptable.”)
Oliver says that while polls are a sometimes “wildly divergent” reality, the only ones that truly matter will be taken on Oct. 19 and the advance voting days preceding it.
“We’ll never take the voters for granted,” he says, “but we feel pretty good.”
The NDP’s Thomson also views ThreeHundredEight with skepticism, saying that as he canvasses the riding he’s meeting a large number of undecided voters who can identify the issues important to them, but are unsure which party is best equipped to support them.
“A lot of families are feeling squeezed, and they’re wanting to know what can be done,” the former Saskatewan finance minister says, citing the NDP’s commitment to $15 per day childcare, reducing small business taxes from 11 percent to 9 percent, and increased federal funding for healthcare, homecare for seniors, and Ontario’s manufacturing sector as key reasons to support the party.
“[The website] 308 takes a look at national numbers and applies them against a filter of how people voted last time,” Thomson says. “What I’m hearing is a lot of people are looking towards different alternatives, so how they voted in the past is not a good predictor of how they’re going to vote this time.”
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