Polling for prizes

Western Opinion Research Inc. has been the favoured pollster for the provincial Liberals and their municipal farm teams for the past nine years. But it looks like a Surrey-based polling company with close connections to Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon may soon be competing for the same work. Before 1995, Winnipeg-based Western was best known for doing Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon's public opinion research work. But the company became the Liberal's pollster when Premier Filmon's principal secretary Greg Lyle was hired as the party's 1996 election campaign planning director. Western was also the pollster for the 1999 Total Recall campaign organized by Mr. Falcon, who, at the time, hadn't won a seat in the legislature.

But Western's position as the right's principle public opinion researcher in British Columbia may by under threat from iTrend Research Group Inc. The company, which was incorporated in July 2003, is now doing similar partisan jobs. For example, according to The Vancouver Sun, the Knowards campaign contracted iTrend to do its voter identification work.

In an interview two months back, Mary Polak, who was managing director of iTrend until she became the Liberal's Surrey-Panorama Ridge by-election candidate, told us the company was setup by Surrey backroom boys who started to wonder "why are we spending all this money to pay people like Western Opinion Research when we can do the polling ourselves?"

One of those backroom boys is Surrey Tourism and Convention Association president Stephen Casson, the vice-president of Minister Falcon's riding association. Mr. Casson, who has been friends with the minister since the mid-eighties, says the company also does non-political work but "Generally, we felt (Western) was out of touch with the local issues." And Public Eye has been told some legislative insiders are feeling the same way.

Ms. Polak's campaign manager Chris Gardner is also an iTrend director. And so is Gordon Schoberg, who chairs the Liberal's provincial council meetings and is president of Minister Falcon's riding association. Messrs. Casson and Shoberg sit on the executive of the conservative Surrey Electors Team, a municipal party which counts Minister Falcon among its founding members. And Mr. Gardner is a strategic advisor to the team - which has had a somewhat "rancorous relationship" with Western Opinion Research according to one insider.

The last iTrend director is Korean businesswoman Yang Soon Kim. Ms. Kim recently immigrated to Canada under the federal government's entrepreneurship program. The program requires individuals to have a net worth of at least $300,000 and invest in a Canadian business. And, in the case of Ms. Kim, that business was iTrend.

1 Comment

WHAT!?...No bidding process...

Captialism Rocks!

Sign me up! This fairness in business stuff is for the birds.

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