|Oct. 11, 2003|
Miller vaults into close second place behind Hall
`It's certainly a race' with under a month remaining
CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF
It's now a three-way race to be Toronto's next mayor. Barbara Hall's lead has narrowed, with David Miller jumping ahead of John Tory among decided voters, making it a real contest, according to a Toronto Star poll released today. Among decided voters, Hall leads with 34 per cent support, followed by Miller at 27 per cent and Tory at 21 per cent. John Nunziata is further behind at 12 per cent support, followed by Tom Jakobek at 5 per cent. With just under a month to go until the Nov. 10 election, it no longer looks like Hall, former mayor of the old city of Toronto, has an insurmountable lead, as some earlier polls suggested. "It's certainly a race. It's quite possibly a three-person race," said Andrew Sulllivan, vice-president of EKOS Research Associates Inc., which conducted the poll for the Star. "You get that sense that Nunziata and Jakobek have an awful lot of ground to make up. "The challenge facing Nunziata is far greater than that facing the three opponents who lead him in the polls, and for Jakobek, it's far more monumental," he said, noting Jakobek's campaign has been hurt by the negative publicity surrounding the Toronto computer-leasing inquiry. The EKOS poll of 600 Toronto residents eligible to vote was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday. The data were weighted to ensure the sample's regional, gender and age composition reflects the city's population, based on 2001 census data. It is considered accurate to within 4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. However, in the Star's poll, one in two voters remains undecided, and 44 per cent of voters surveyed said they are not paying attention to the race. That changes the margin of error on the choice for mayor among decided voters to plus or minus 6.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The survey shows Hall is clearly in the lead, but it appears to be down from polls done by other organizations. One in August put her support among decided voters in the mid-40s, with Nunziata, Tory and Miller in the teens, essentially in a statistical dead heat. Hall, who was a one-term mayor of the former city of Toronto, has enjoyed front-runner status since the race officially began in January, in part because of strong name recognition. Miller, a city councillor representing west-end Toronto, and Tory, a former Rogers Cable executive and long-time strategist with the Progressive Conservative party, have worked hard to boost their name recognition in recent months with radio ads. Nunziata is a former Liberal MP who became an independent, and Jakobek is a former city councillor and budget chief. "There is no way you would want to call this race right now," Sullivan said. "Some pundits awarded the race to Hall some time ago. Based on this data, that's premature." The race for mayor certainly heated up this week with five debates. Several candidates released parts of their policy platforms, and both Nunziata and Miller held fundraisers that drew good crowds. Environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. gave Miller's campaign a high-profile boost as he came to Toronto to denounce the proposed bridge to the island airport. Both Tory and Nunziata unveiled their financial plans on how to manage the city's books. With 44 candidates in the race for mayor, Sullivan said if lesser-known contenders garner some support, "it will bleed away some votes for the big five." For the serious contenders, the key will be to differentiate themselves from the pack. Tory is on record supporting a trash-burning incinerator, unlike his challengers. Miller is the only candidate to oppose a bridge to the island. Jakobek wants to build casinos here. "The outcome is difficult to forecast as this stage," Sullivan said. "It sounds trite, but a month is a long time in politics. Who knows what can happen?"