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HomeNewsExclusive: Ontario Tory pollster won’t say who hired it for Squamish pre-election survey

Exclusive: Ontario Tory pollster won’t say who hired it for Squamish pre-election survey

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Bob Mackin

An Ontario polling company with links to the federal Conservative Party and BC Liberals surveyed Squamish residents on June 30. 

But the incumbent mayor and her challenger in the Oct. 20 election are both denying involvement in the phone calls and the company won’t identify its client. 

The Campaign Research Inc. questionnaire began with a question about approving or disapproving Justin Trudeau’s job performance, then focussed on district political, economic and social issues. 

Heintzman (left) and Chapelle (Twitter)

A Squamish resident who was contacted spontaneously by “Nathan” at Campaign Research recorded part of the call on an answering machine. She was asked: 

  • whether Squamish’s mayor and council are on the right track; 
  • who would get her vote for mayor on Oct. 20; 
  • to rate Heintzman and Chapelle’s performance on a scale of 1-10; 
  • who she voted for in 2014; 
  • to grade a list of 14 issues on a scale of 1-10 (including wasteful spending, property taxes, availability of good paying jobs; overcrowding of trails and the spit; housing affordability and availability); 
  • and whether eight Howe Sound resource and development projects are supported or not (including Woodfibre LNG, Garibaldi at Squamish Ski Resort, the Burnco gravel mine and Great Wolf Lodge). 

The survey also included a question about whether shipping should be reduced or outright banned in Howe Sound. 

Campaign Research asked standard demographics questions and offered a $5 Tim Hortons gift card in exchange for an email address. 

Chapelle denied involvement in the poll and suggested that Heintzman may be the client. 

“I have not started an official campaign yet, and have always been elected without signage or a ‘team’,” Chapelle said by email. 

Heintzman said she has never done polling of any kind and has not had a meeting about her own re-election campaign.

“I don’t think any other elected official or prospective candidate is behind it either,” Heintzman said. “These polls aren’t cheap, from what I understand.”

Woodfibre LNG, which got provincial and federal approval by 2016, is expected to be a major issue again this fall. The FortisBC pipeline to feed the plant, a dock to ferry workers across Howe Sound to the site and the prospect of LNG tankers plying Howe Sound remain contentious points. 

Heintzman opposed the project when she ran in 2014 and unseated incumbent Rob Kirkham by less than 300 votes.

Chapelle is a staunch defender of the project whose not-for-profit Aligned Collective received a $5,000 grant from Woodfibre LNG’s community sponsorship program last December. Aligned Collective advertises private office, personal desk and boardroom rentals in downtown Squamish. Chapelle told the Squamish Chief newspaper in January that she would recuse herself from voting on any Woodfibre LNG matters. 

Campaign Research wouldn’t answer any of theBreaker’s questions. Founder Richard Ciano responded with an email that said his company “does not disclose, discuss, confirm, or deny the existence of any matter relating to who its clients are, or may be, or any work Campaign Research Inc. may perform on behalf of its clients unless specifically required to do so by law, or unless specifically directed to do so by our clients.”

Ciano is a former national vice-president of the Conservative Party of Canada. His business partner is Nick Kouvalis, who was behind Rob Ford and John Tory’s mayoral wins, and worked on the BC Liberals’ 2013 election win. 

Campaign Research’s Ciano.

Woodfibre LNG vice-president Byng Giraud, a veteran of several federal Conservative campaigns, did not respond to theBreaker

Meanwhile, the B.C. NDP government is negotiating a land and cash deal with the Squamish Nation to enable Woodfibre LNG to proceed. Suntanu Dalal, spokesman for the Energy, Mines and Petroleum ministry, wouldn’t provide any information. 

“Discussions between First Nations and the provincial government, for all benefits agreements, are confidential until finalized,” Dalal said an email.

In October 2015, the Squamish Nation gave its conditional approval to Woodfibre LNG after conducting its own study, which has not been published. The 25th condition, if all others are met, is an economic benefits agreement. 

Squamish municipal population grew 13.7% from the 2011 census, to 19,512 in 2016; B.C.’s average population increase was 5.6%, and nationally it was 5%. 

It is part of a riding that is represented by Liberal Pamela Goldsmith-Jones and BC Liberal Jordan Sturdy. Sturdy won re-election because of vote-splitting. He had nearly 43% of the popular vote in 2017, compared to Green Dana Taylor (28.7%) and the NDP’s Michelle Livaja (27%).

Click below to listen to excerpts from the Campaign Research June 30 Squamish issues phone poll (edited to protect the privacy of the respondent).

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