Many Ontario voters believe that the creation of two new ridings in Northern Ontario will increase the number of Indigenous candidates running for provincial office, a poll has found.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced last month that the province intends to introduce legislation this fall to create Kiiwetinong in the northeast, which will have a majority Indigenous population, and Mushkegowuk in the northwest, which will have a majority Francophone population.
Kiiwetinong will be created from the northern portion of the Kenora-Rainy River riding, while Mushkegowuk will encompass all of the Timmins-James Bay riding except for Timmins itself, which will be a riding of its own.
The poll by Forum Research, provided exclusively to QP Briefing, found four-in-10 Ontarians said that the two new ridings in Ontario’s far north will increase the number of Indigenous candidates running for provincial political office. About one-quarter (24 per cent) said that the number of Indigenous candidates will remain the same, while 4 per cent said the number of Indigenous candidates will decrease, and the remainder just weren't sure.
However, voters were split on the question of whether the new ridings will increase voter turnout among Indigenous people, with 33 per cent saying it will remain the same, 29 saying it will increase and 8 per cent saying it will decrease.
Voters in the north were more likely to say that more Indigenous candidates will run and Indigenous voter turnout will increase, the poll found.
“With the introduction of two new ridings in Ontario’s far north, the plurality say that the number of Indigenous candidates will increase in the upcoming provincial election,” said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research. “What isn’t clear to Ontarians is whether or not it will increase Indigenous voter turnout, overall. While these new ridings may have some impact, generally it seems Ontarians think it will be more positive than it will be negative, with those in the north saying so in greater proportions than their southern counterparts. ”
The poll of 981 randomly selected Ontario voters was conducted on Aug. 23 and 24. The margin of error is plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.
At the same time, Forum found that four in 10 Ontario voters said that if an election were held today, they would support the Ontario PCs, 27 per cent said they would support the NDP and 25 per cent said they would support the Liberals.
The political advantage
So far, none of Ontario's three major parties have nominated candidates in the new northern ridings.
The NDP holds both of the current ridings — with Gilles Bisson representing Timmins-James Bay and Sarah Campbell representing Kenora-Rainy River. Both NDP MPPs won handily in 2014. Bisson took his riding with 51 per cent of the vote and to the Liberal runner up's 24 per cent. Campbell won with 56 per cent, with the PC candidate the runner up at 25 per cent.
According to QP Briefing's analysis of the poll-by-poll results of the 2014 general election, if that election had been held with the new boundaries, the NDP would have won all four ridings. The party's strongest showing was in the areas that are set to be new ridings next time — Kiiwetinong and Mushkegowuk. In both areas, the NDP candidate won with more than twice the votes of the runner-up.
The closest race would have been in Timmins, which is set to be a riding of its own in 2018. The NDP won 45 per cent of the votes cast in Timmins on voting day, followed by the Tories' 30 per cent and the Liberals' 21. (Please note, this excludes the votes cast by advance polling.)
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