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Politics

Doug Ford, Christine Elliott neck and neck in Ontario PC leadership race: poll

Here's your West Block primer on the latest polls and what is at stake for candidates vying to be the next leader of the Ontario PC Party.

Toronto businessman and former city councillor Doug Ford would have a slim lead over Christine Elliott for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership if the election were held today, according to a poll provided to Global News.

The Mainstreet Research poll was conducted between Feb. 21 and 26 among a sample of 17,399 Ontario PC party members. They were asked to rank their top three choices for party leader. The survey found that 36.7 per cent of decided voters would support Ford.

READ MORE: Complete Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race poll (PDF)

Christine Elliott, the former Ontario MPP and the widow of former federal Conservative cabinet minister Jim Flaherty, is behind with 32.7 per cent support.

Caroline Mulroney, the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, places third with 20 per cent support and social conservative activist Tanya Granic Allen is fourth with 10.6 per cent.

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“The chances of Ford and Elliott winning are that of flipping a coin,” Quito Maggi, president and CEO of Mainstreet Research, said.

VIDEO: Who is running for Ontario PC Leadership: A look at the candidates

Who is running for Ontario PC Leadership: A look at the candidates
Who is running for Ontario PC Leadership: A look at the candidates

“There are so many intangibles that will impact the outcome of this race which makes it difficult to predict.”

The battle between Ford and Elliot becomes even tighter when calculating for points per riding. Ford would get 34.8 per cent of the points on the first ballot, Elliott would garner 33.9 per cent, Mulroney would be at 19.6 per cent and Granic Allen would be 11.7 per cent.

The Mainstreet poll had included Patrick Brown as the fifth option, but he exited the race on Monday a week after entering the leadership contest.

READ MORE: Ontario PC Party leadership candidates face off in final televised debate

Brown resigned as the Ontario PC leader in January following allegations of sexual misconduct, which he has vehemently denied.

To accommodate Brown’s exit, respondents in the poll who indicated that they would vote for him had their second choice changed to first choice.

READ MORE: Patrick Brown drops out of Ontario PC leadership race

If Brown had still been in the race, he would have had a miniscule lead over his rivals among decided voters with the former leader receiving 25.6 per cent support, while Elliott and Ford get 25.4 per cent each, according to the poll.

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VIDEO: Patrick Brown withdraws Ontario PC leadership bid

Patrick Brown withdraws Ontario PC leadership bid
Patrick Brown withdraws Ontario PC leadership bid

According to PC party leadership election rules, each riding that has more than 100 votes cast are weighted for a total of 100 electoral votes. Ridings with fewer than 100 member votes are not weighted and are counted equally.

A candidate wins if he or she gets more than 50 per cent of the electoral votes while those who get less than 10 per cent have their names dropped off the ballot.

READ MORE: Ontario PCs extend registration deadline for members who want to vote for new leader

A tight race would then run the full three ballots.

Mainstreet said it also conducted 1,000 simulations of the leadership vote and found Ford winning 52.2 per cent of the time with Elliott winning 47.8 per cent of the time. All the simulations went to the full three ballots.

Mainstreet Research was embroiled in a polling controversy last fall when it inaccurately predicted a large lead for a mayoral candidate heading into the Calgary election.

The firm later apologized for “a catastrophic polling failure” after predicting a 13-point lead for Bill Smith among decided and leaning voters, when in fact Naheed Nenshi was re-elected on Oct. 16 with a 7.6-point lead over his top competitor.

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PC members have until March 5 to register to vote in the leadership race. The online voting period runs from March 2 to 8. Results will be revealed on March 10.

—With a file from Alyssa Julie

The Mainstreet Research poll is based on results of a survey conducted between February 21 and February 26, 2018, among a sample of 17399 members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. The survey was conducted using automated telephone interviews. The survey is intended to represent the voting membership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. The results have a margin of error of +/- 0.7 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

READ MORE: Complete Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race poll (PDF)