Tax fatigue energizes Smith’s rise
Nenshi narrows gap behind rival to 11 points, says Postmedia poll
Rising city taxes may be the driving force behind Bill Smith’s surprising poll results, a new survey suggests with just days to go before Calgarians cast their ballots for mayor in Monday’s civic election.
The Mainstreet Research/Postmedia poll for the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun shows Smith with the support of 47 per cent of poll participants, 11 points ahead of incumbent Naheed Nenshi.
When respondents who said they would vote for Smith were asked why, the No. 1 reason was his promise to hold the line on taxes, cited by more than one in four people.
“(Taxes) are what’s driving voters to him,” said pollster Quito Maggi. “That can’t be overstated, how big of a role taxes and spending at city hall are playing in this election.”
Since throwing his hat into the mayoral race in June, Smith hasn’t revealed detailed policies but has run on a platform of change and promised to rein in excessive tax increases and city spending.
It’s a message that appears to have struck a chord with an electorate hit hard by an ongoing economic recession, said Maggi.
“In good times, when people’s incomes are increasing beyond inflation, people don’t think about their taxes, their utility bills, things are great, things are wonderful,” Maggi said. “When times get tough ... that leads to an appetite for change.”
An earlier Mainstreet poll and a poll commissioned by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce both found taxes were the primary concerns for voters ahead of the Oct. 16 election.
“Campaigning on change and property taxes and city spending was enough,” Maggi said of Smith’s campaign.
“People may not believe that running on a small issues platform is enough, especially running against a campaign that is very policy-heavy, but it’s enough this time.”
In the latest Mainstreet poll, 27 per cent of Smith supporters listed taxes as the reason that best reflected why they’re voting for him, while 22 per cent said he was the best available option among candidates, and 17 per cent said his values reflect their values.
Respondents who said they were supporting Nenshi were also asked why, and his ability to represent Calgary on a provincial, national and international level emerged as the top response, cited by 22 per cent of people.
Eighteen per cent of Nenshi supporters said he was the best available option among candidates, while 15 per cent said they were voting for him because of the city’s financial performance under his leadership.
The interactive voice response survey polled 1,500 Calgarians over both land lines and cellphones on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It follows two other Mainstreet polls, heavily criticized by Nenshi’s team, that have put Smith ahead of Nenshi, the first by nine points and the second by 17.
An online poll commissioned by a pro-transit group and conducted Oct. 7 to 10 found Nenshi was ahead of Smith by 15 points.
But this week’s Mainstreet poll has Smith ahead of Nenshi by 11 points, with the incumbent at 36 per cent backing among all voters.
Coun. Andre Chabot is a distant third in the poll, with six per cent support, while two per cent of respondents said they’ll vote for one of the other seven men vying for council’s top job.
Maggi said the numbers show Nenshi is running out of time and the data points to Smith becoming the next mayor of Calgary.
“If you believe in miracles, then there is a possibility that Nenshi wins on Monday, but it’s going to take a miracle,” said Maggi of the latest poll results.
Ten per cent of poll participants said they are undecided ahead of Monday’s election, a slight drop from the last poll, done on Oct. 3 and 4, which tallied undecided voters at 13 per cent.
The other men vying for the mayor’s chair are David Lapp, Emile Gabriel, Larry Heather, Jason Achtymichuk, Brent Chisholm, Curtis Olson and Stan Waciak.
The Mainstreet Research/Postmedia poll is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.