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Trudeau in the ‘penalty box,’ Conservatives top Liberals, poll suggests

By Beatrice Paez      

The Conservatives have 36 per cent support, while the governing Liberals fall slightly behind, at 34 per cent, and the NDP is at 18 per cent, according to new Campaign Research poll results.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads to the National Press Theatre for his end-of-sitting press conference on June 20. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
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The Liberals have fallen slightly behind the Conservatives, with 34 per cent of Canadians saying they would vote for the party, compared to 36 per cent who say they would vote for the Conservatives, though many still largely prefer Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the opposition leaders, according to a new Campaign Research poll.

“They’re placing him [Mr. Trudeau] in a penalty box. They’re warning him, saying, ‘We’re not happy with stuff that you’ve done. But you’re still our choice. … And if you turn things around, we’ll come back to you,’ ” said Eli Yufest, CEO of Campaign Research, in an interview.

Eighteen per cent of Canadians would choose the New Democrats over the Liberals or Conservatives, according to the poll shared exclusively with The Hill Times. That’s two percentage points above where the NDP was in February. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have gone up four percentage points.

The Liberals’ five-point dip in ratings from the polling firm’s figures at the start of the year is more of a reflection of their handling of certain files than an enthusiastic endorsement of the leaders of the Conservative Party or the New Democrats, the poll suggests. Mr. Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) own approval rating dropped three points from February to 41 per cent.

The poll suggested that Ottawa’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline still appears to be weighing on Canadians’ minds, according to Mr. Yufest. Mr. Trudeau’s lowest levels of approval can be traced to the Prairies, Alberta, and British Columbia, where 31 per cent, 21 per cent, and 23 per cent, respectively, said Mr. Trudeau would make the best prime minister (compared to 33 per cent nationally). It’s in those areas where the pipeline purchase has been particularly unpopular, Mr. Yufest said. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.), unsurprisingly, is the most popular choice as prime minister in the Prairies, with 40 per cent of respondents saying he would make the best prime minister.

However, it seems Canadians in the Atlantic region haven’t soured on Mr. Trudeau and the party. In terms of voter intent, the party’s highest level of support is at 49 per cent in Atlantic Canada, where, in the 2015 election, it filled every seat in the region with a Liberal. Mr. Yufest speculated that it could be attributed to Mr. Trudeau’s handling of the ongoing trade dispute with Washington. Mr. Trudeau has said Canada won’t be “pushed around” by the United States president on trade, after announcing retaliatory tariffs to fight back against U.S. steel and aluminum duties.

Campaign Research’s latest polling numbers are based on a survey conducted June 15 to 18 of 1,579 Canadian adults randomly selected from the membership of an online panel and given incentives to respond. Online polls are not considered to be truly random, but a random poll with the same sample size would have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The results were weighted by factors including education, age, and region to match the Canadian population.

An earlier poll, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute from the lead-up to the end of the G7 summit earlier this month, saw Mr. Trudeau’s approval rating surge by 12 points, thanks to the prime minister’s forceful response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s attacks on Twitter following the conclusion of the gathering of seven economic-powerhouse countries and the European Union in Charlevoix, Que.

Another polling firm, Nanos, this week had the Liberals at 36.9 per cent support, above the Conservatives at 32.5 per cent and the NDP at 19.9 percent, as of June 15. Those numbers are based on a four-week rolling average of 250 Canadian adults each week randomly selected for phone interviews, and accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The end of the latest Campaign Research survey coincided with the June 18 byelection in Chicoutimi-Le Fjord, Que. That campaign saw the Liberals lose their first byelection in which they were the incumbent to the Conservatives since assuming office. The seat has now flipped from NDP to Liberal to Conservative in the last three elections in that riding.

The Conservatives handily won 53 per cent of the vote, beating the Liberals, who scored 29 per cent, with a lead of more than 5,000 votes.

While it’s difficult to extrapolate the results of this local campaign to the national scale, Mr. Yufest said, the NDP is in a particularly tough spot, because leader Jagmeet Singh’s popularity as a choice for prime minister is comparable to the party’s popularity in that byelection, in which the party captured less than nine per cent of the vote.

Despite the dip in popularity, Mr. Trudeau is still pulling ahead of Mr. Scheer by 10 points as the leader Canadians think would make the best prime minister, the poll suggested.

“Half the electorate knows nothing about the two main opposition leaders. It’s tough to form an opinion about them,” Mr. Yufest said. He cited figures that suggested many Canadians remain unfamiliar with either Mr. Singh or Mr. Scheer. Asked in the survey whether they approve or disapprove of their job performance, 45 per cent and 51 per cent said they didn’t know or were unsure about Mr. Scheer and Mr. Singh, respectively.

Notably, Mr. Singh’s likeability as a choice to lead Canada appears to be hovering in the single digits at five per cent, compared to 23 per cent and 33 per cent for Mr. Scheer and Mr. Trudeau, respectively. B.C. and Toronto are where Mr. Singh is embraced by Canadians the most, with eight per cent of respondents in both places saying they think he would make the best prime minister. Nationally, Mr. Singh finds himself faring slightly worse than Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.), who is at six per cent, according to the poll.

“Elizabeth May and him are tied, and if I were Jagmeet Singh, I would be particularly worried with that metric,” Mr. Yufest said. “He’s certainly not doing anything that’s capturing the imagination of Canadians.”

Mr. Singh told reporters on June 19, following the party’s crushing byelection loss, that the party still had a lot of work ahead of it to convince voters in Quebec, where the party’s 2011 Orange Wave saw it take 59 of the province’s 75 seats at the time. “Everything is on the table,” he said.


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