Five BC ridings where strategic voting organizations got it wrong… and other monkey business

One reason why political party organizers don’t like strategic voting organizations is that they are likely to get it wrong when it comes to polling.

In five BC ridings, they did just that.  In two of those ridings, a Conservative was elected.  In three other ridings, they picked the NDP and the riding went Liberal in close three-way battles.  They could have screwed those up too, if their aim was really to “STOP HARPER”.

Cariboo-Prince George

Leadnow recommended NDP Trent Derrick based on Environics polling.  He finished third.  Final result: CPC 36.5%; Liberal 31.6%; NDP 25.9%.  Oops!  As of October 9-11, they had the Conservatives at 30% – they finished with 36.5%.  I guess it was that late Blue surge?

North Okanagan – Shuswap

Leadnow recommended NDP candidate Jacqui Gingras.  Again, it was the Liberal who had the best chance to win.  CPC candidate Mel Arnold won with 39%, with the Liberals second at 30% and NDP at 26%.  Yet the Environics polling had it at 37% NDP and 33% CPC, while Leadnow also published poll results from a firm called Oracle that had the Liberals at 12%!  They messed up and got it wrong.

Here’s three seats that the Liberals won despite inaccurate and confusing poll data indicating otherwise:

Burnaby North – Seymour

Liberal Terry Beech won the seat with 36.2% of the vote, winning by about 7 points.  Leadnow reported that the Liberal had the best chance, but on October 15th, Dogwood released a stale poll from Insights West (Oct 5-10) that had the Liberals third at 17%.  Wrong call, bad polling, and, frankly, reckless.

Coquitlam – Port Coquitlam

Leadnow recommended NDP candidate Sara Norman and released poll results (Environics, Oct 9-11)  claiming she led the race with 38%.  Well… turns out the Liberals won the dang seat and the NDP were third.  Libs 35%; CPC 32%; NDP 27%.

Pitt Meadows – Maple Ridge

The riding I grew up in – it hadn’t elected a Liberal since they lost to the federal Socreds in the 1950’s!  Until yesterday.  Leadnow promoted a September poll that had the NDP at 41% compared to the Liberal at 19%.  Might have been true… then.  Election night?  Liberals 33.8%, barely edging the CPC at 31.4%, with the NDP pulling up third at 29.6%.  Close shave.

Other controversy…

The Vancouver-Granville brouhaha has been well documented.  Leadnow endorsed NDP Mira Oreck.  From the standpoint that they had written off the Conservatives, they were correct.  Liberal Jody Wilson-Raybould won the race handily, as predicted, but Leadnow left a lot of people confused as to their definition of strategic voting.

The Leadnow website simply listed the NDP MP in Surrey-Centre as the choice.  From the standpoint that the CPC were out of the running, they were correct, but it was the Liberal Randeep Sarai who won.  The same almost happened in Burnaby South where up-and-comer Liberal Adam Pankratz almost nipped off NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who was promoted on the Leadnow website. These examples are not such a big deal but Liberals might feel a little peeved.

What’s the point?

Five ridings is a lot of ridings to get wrong.  They basically played into the hands of the Conservatives, and helped elect two of them by sending mixed signals.

I’m sure there are some chagrined Liberals who saw the endorsements or promotion of the NDP undermine their more legitimate chances of winning.

As well, the polling that was done by Dogwood lacked transparency.  They did not release cross-tabs to the public, which should be common practice for all publicly released polls.  I will credit Kai Nagata of Dogwood for opening a dialogue on polling issues and stating that they are going to learn from the experience.  We’ll see.

My advice:

Releasing polling data is very risky unless you are committed to doing it right.  Doing it right is NOT doing it on the cheap nor is it doing it well before voters have made up their minds.  Of course they were wrong!  The Liberals surged and rendered their polling info useless except for the fact it served to mislead voters as to who had the best chance.  Why they were polling in May and over the summer, I will never know.  They simply wasted their donors’ money and misguided their own strategy.


  1. Hi,

    There was no Leadnow community-recommended candidate in Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam, Burnaby North Seymour, or Surrey Centre.

    In Surrey Centre, we just let people know the 2011 results. I’m not sure how you consider that a recommendation. We were very clear about where we’ve made recommendations, e.g.:

    In Burnaby North–Seymour and Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam we initiated our community-recommendation process with local polling that showed the NDP ahead, but then communicated out to our Vote Together pledge signers in those ridings that we were *not* confident in making a final recommendation, due to either new conflicting polling information (Burnaby North–Seymour) or low participation in our recommendation process (Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam). We decided to *not* make a recommendation in both, and the Liberals then won. We were right.

    In dozens of other ridings, our recommendations got it completely right, and in some cases helped prevent the Liberals from splitting the vote and electing Conservatives. My home riding of Kootenay–Columbia is a case in point. The closest riding in the country, Elmwood–Transcona, where we’ve had a team on the ground for well over a year, is another.

    Not everything was perfect, but Harper is gone. Ultimately, we have a broken electoral system, and we need to now work to change that. Hopefully campaigns like Vote Together won’t be necessary next time.




    1. Really? As a resident of North Burnaby Seymour, I was following your website closely along with several friends and neighbors. You blew it. I voted for Terry Beech in spite of your recommendation that the NDP had the best chance.



  2. Hopefully ifLead Now and Dogwood are going to be active in the future on the political scene they might want to direct their energies to supporting proportional representation.



    1. This experiment was the first serious attempt to get the progressive vote out and unified in a flawed system with opposition parties that insisted on public teardown of each other. It worked well in some ridings such as Coquitlam port Coquitlam and not in others such as Vancouver Granville. Polling was a lot fresher than 308 which most people look to. Everyone knew it was not as effective as PR voting but people didn’t want to sit back and watch Harper take it again as in the previous 3 elections. If you consider Dogwood’s main activity, calling folks and making sure they had what they needed and knew where they were going, they encouraged tens of thousands to vote and made sure they were ready. What did you do to make change? What will you do? If parties found SV groups problematic then I say good! Give us PR and we on have to take matters into our own hands. This article got some things right but was full of factual errors. I expect the writer’s next essay will be on his bright idea.



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