Professional pollster speaks to Kitimat’s challenges for setting plebiscite question

Mario Canseco with Insights West says council's job of setting a question for voters is a heavy task.

A professional pollster says setting a question for Kitimat’s plebiscite on the Northern Gateway proposal is a challenging task.

Mario Canseco is the vice president of public affairs for Insights West. That is the same company which released results of a poll last November, which showed growth in people showing support for the pipeline.

He remarked Kitimat’s wording for it’s main question was a handful, and it reminded him of the Quebec referendums in the 1980s and 1995.

“The way that question was worded, if I recall correctly, it had something to do with Quebec will have its own rights and its own things, and it was just a handful of things. It was too complex,” he said.

“This one [Kitimat’s question] is kind of trying to get the best of both worlds, he added.

He said that ultimately anyone setting a question will want to have something that’s fairly simple to understand, and the question should be clear if anyone is seeking a yes or no answer.

The problem here is you’re voting, in essence, to get a sense of whether people support the project, even though the project has not been explained fully, even though we still have to deal with the conditions from B.C….it’s almost like a poll,” he said. “It’s not as simple as a referendum where you have a choice of yes or no, like the HST, even though their question was horrendously worded. You knew there was going to be some decision based on what happened.”

He adds, “To have a question with so many nuances, it might make it confusing.”

To the HST referendum’s credit, though, he said it was good that informational packages were sent out before hand to voters.

“Ultimately, whenever you have a referendum of this nature…you offer the two warring sides, so to speak, the opportunity to say ‘this is why you should vote yes’ or ‘this is why we think you should vote no.’ By having all of that information in the same question, it could be confusing.”

He said it shouldn’t fall on to the council to explain everything, especially to protect against possible bias.

even if you’re incredibly careful with the things you’re saying, there’s the opportunity for somebody to look at something and say ‘well this guy is in favour of it,’…” “Stepping away from it is very difficult,” he said.