The final week of the campaign

October 13, 2015

8:30 a.m. October 13, 2015

The deadline for my newspaper column approaches. The empty page stares back at me. It’s not as though I have nothing to write: I have read and thought about little else but the election campaign for the last week.

But I’ve become utterly addicted to my morning hit of numbers. Nic Nanos posts overnight polls every morning at 6:00 a.m. EDT. All across Canada journalists and information junkies have adjusted their sleep to this new addiction. We have watched the Liberals slowly trend upwards as the NDP just as slowly moved down. One by one, it seems, the university-educated voters are flying back to the Liberal roost after a summer with the NDP.

This morning there were no Nanos Numbers, something about Thanksgiving Day.

Yikes! We need those numbers for our peace of mind. We’re watching for the Liberal lead over the Conservatives to exceed 8%. For some reason there’s a consensus that Trudeau needs that cushion in the polls to be safe from last-minute manipulations of the vote by Conservative mechanics.

In fact, there’s even an international surveillance team on site in Ottawa to guard against voting irregularities. Embassy magazine reports that Hannah Roberts, a Brit, heads the team mandated to pay particular attention to potential voting difficulties emerging from changes instituted by the Fair Elections Act. Students, aboriginals and the elderly are particularly at risk. Robocalls and financial irregularities also fall under their purview.

A B.C. story popped up this morning on National Newswatch identifying a series of irate voters who complained that they have either been dropped from the Elections Canada computer, or in one case, moved to Saskatchewan. Changes of polling station aren’t too bad in Eastern Ontario. I can stand driving to Delta instead of Portland. But some poor guy on an island off the B.C. coast has to travel a long distance to another island in order to vote, and he doesn’t own a boat.

Another issue emerged in Burnaby North-Seymour. My son’s candidate, Liberal Terry Beech, has finally emerged as the front runner by a couple of points over the Conservative candidate, but all of the strategic voting sites resolutely insist that the NDP candidate, now in third place and outside the margin of error, is their choice to defeat Harper. So where does Terry’s ad budget go in the final week, into fighting a misconception the strategic voting sites have failed to correct, or into competing with the Conservative challenger?

An issue which may strike closer to home has to do with the TPP and compensation for dairy farmers. We all watched Stephen Harper promise $4.3 billion to leave farmers whole. Today Elizabeth Thompson in iPolitics quotes a privy council source claiming that so far there has been no legislation passed to authorize any such payment. It sounded like a done deal on CBC when Harper said it, but apparently it isn’t.

So I return to the polls. Quebec graphs are quite soothing. They have smooth, sinuous curves, rather like a bedpost built by a skilled French-Canadian craftsman. By comparison the BC graphs look like a shattered window. I asked Dr. Roz, the family statistician. She responded that the sample size is considerably smaller in B.C. than in Quebec and Ontario. Another online commenter explained that pollsters have traditionally had trouble making sense of BC voting patterns.

Conservatives enjoy wheeling out their favourite John Diefenbaker comment about polls: “Dogs like them.” No doubt Stephen Harper echoes this sentiment at this point, but one wag on Twitter this morning pointed out that Harper’s quite happy to quote polls as long as they support his initiatives like Bill C-51, bombing Syria, and banning the niqab.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays’ fortunes are no big deal: I’m on pins and needles until Wednesday at 6:00 a.m.

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