The Conservatives are hanging on to a slim lead in Calgary Centre because of vote-splitting on the centre and left, a new poll suggests.
The federal riding is one of three – along with Durham in Ontario and Victoria in British Columbia – where by-elections will be held on Monday. The telephone poll conducted by Return On Insight (ROI) in the Calgary riding, where Conservatives are normally so dominant that their victories are a foregone conclusion, suggests that race will be tight.
Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt, who had the nod of 37 per cent of respondents, was holding a five-point lead over Harvey Locke of the Liberals. That suggests Ms. Crockatt's support has slipped significantly from the 48 per cent support she registered less than a month ago in another poll of the riding.
Green party candidate Chris Turner was running third in the ROI poll with 17 per cent of the decided vote and Dan Meades of the New Democrats was fourth with 12 per cent.
Bruce Cameron, the president of ROI, says Conservative strategists can take some comfort from their candidate's relatively bleak numbers because the so-called progressive vote appears sufficiently split to allow Ms. Crockatt to win.
But there is always a possibility that centre- and left-leaning voters might mark their ballot strategically on election night, said Mr. Cameron. And that could spell trouble for Ms. Crockatt, he said, because there are clearly enough progressives to defeat her.
When ROI asked non-Conservative voters which candidate they would pick if asked to rally behind one person to beat Ms. Crockatt, 40 per cent chose Mr. Locke. That was more than twice the number that picked either Mr. Turner or Mr. Meade.
The poll of 401 adults in Calgary Centre, which was conducted Nov. 20 and 21, is expected to accurately reflect the broad views of the voters within 4.8 percentage points 19 times in 20.
Liberal MP David McGuinty resigned his critic's post on Nov. 21 after urging Conservative politicians in Ottawa who support the oil sands at the expense of other industries to "go back to Alberta."
A day later, Sun News reported that Justin Trudeau, the front-runner in the Liberal leadership race, said in an interview two years ago that "Canada isn't looking good because it's Albertans who are controlling our community and social-democratic agenda. It's not working."
Both of those statements were expected to be problematic for Mr. Locke.
Mr. Cameron pointed out that the McGuinty comments were made public in the middle of the polling period. "It was a factor in this poll. The numbers might have been a little closer" had that story not been out there, he said. But Mr. Cameron does not believe the effects of Mr. McGuinty's comments will be lasting.
On the other hand, he said, "I think the Justin Trudeau thing might have more impact because it's actually going to invigorate some of the Conservative campaign team and some of the Conservative voters."