The Conservative leadership race is now Maxime Bernier’s to lose, says a prominent pollster, and the departure of Kevin O’Leary last week is having interesting consequences for — of all people — Kellie Leitch.
While O’Leary was far less socially conservative than Leitch, Quito Maggi told The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos that polling shows the businessman’s supporters are migrating to Leitch as their new top choice.
“Andrew Scheer, who had jumped into second last week for the first time, remains in second place,” noted Maggi, who is president and CEO of Mainstreet Research.
“But the second big winner now is Kellie Leitch, when we redistribute all the votes from our previous polling.”
Leitch has drawn criticism from within and beyond the Conservative Party for her proposal to screen new arrivals for adherence to so-called Canadian values. She has also taken a hard-line stance against asylum seekers attempting to cross the border illegally.
Quebec MP and former cabinet minister Bernier remains in the lead among Conservative Party members across the country, Maggi noted, but this race is far from over.
“It’s going to be a much more interesting now,” he said of O’Leary’s shock exit last Thursday.
“(Bernier) needs 50 per cent plus one to win. Where he stands is actually mid-20s, not in the 40s. That could certainly change next week as things unfold, but there’s still room for people to catch him … it’s his to lose now.”
Erin O’Toole and Lisa Raitt are rounding out the top five contenders as the race enters its final four weeks, according to Mainstreet’s latest numbers, which are drawn from Conservative Party members in ridings across Canada.
Whoever wins on May 27, Maggi said he’s still not convinced they will have what it takes to defeat the Liberal government in 2019.
“The ballot question is, are Conservatives going to choose someone who they think can win the 2019 election, or someone who is a true conservative?” he noted.
“Personally I don’t think any of them can win against Mr. Trudeau in 2019, the (Liberal) poll numbers right now are just too strong.”