It appears the damning report last week that found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke federal ethics rules with his political interference in the SNC-Lavalin scandal isn’t resonating much with voters.
A new Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News suggests the Liberals and Conservatives are in a virtual dead heat, with the Grits up two points since last month to 33 per cent of the decided vote and the Tories at 35 per cent, a two-point drop.
The online poll, weighted to balance census demographics, was conducted between Aug. 16 and 19, in the wake of the ethics commissioner’s report on SNC-Lavalin, on behalf of Global News and is accurate to within 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
“I think the eight weeks of coverage we had in the spring of the SNC-Lavalin affair really solidified things for people and I think what we saw last week was a confirmation of public views, so we saw very little change,” said Mike Colledge, president of Ipsos Public Affairs.
“I don’t think what we saw last week shifted anything. It confirmed what people saw in the spring and basically hardened their positions, if anything.”
The poll also suggests Trudeau and Scheer are virtually tied when it comes to who voters think would be the best prime minister: 32 per cent say Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, a drop from 36 per cent in July, while 30 per cent say Trudeau compared to 32 per cent last month.
In third place is Green Party Leader Elizabeth May at 21 per cent, up from 17 per cent last month.
WATCH BELOW: Ethics, accountability, the Trudeau brand and pollsters
Those results come as Trudeau has repeatedly refused to apologize for what ethics commissioner Mario Dion determined was repeated and improper misuse of his office to try to help the Quebec engineering giant avoid a criminal trial by pressuring the former attorney general to cut the company a deal.
Trudeau’s refusals have been followed by assertions that he was doing his job protecting jobs he insists would have been at risk if the company faced criminal prosecution for allegedly bribing Libyan officials.
SNC-Lavalin has said it did not make that claim during its lobbying for a deferred prosecution agreement, which would let the company negotiate non-criminal penalties for the alleged activities.
It appears voters in Quebec are buying the argument.
WATCH: New poll reveals Canadians’ feelings on Trudeau, SNC
According to the poll, the Liberal lead over the Conservatives in Quebec strengthened over the last month.
The Grits now stand at 41 per cent support in Quebec compared to 37 per cent last month.
The Tories are polling at just 22 per cent in the province, a drop of two points since July.
Colledge attributes the Liberal numbers in that province to two factors: some approval for Trudeau’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin scandal but also a wait-and-see attitude that is leading many to park their votes for the time being.
“I think there’s some approval for SNC and defending the home company, and there’s also a bit of vote moving around in Quebec, where people are parking their votes in Quebec and they’re not sure who they’re going to vote for,” he said.
“I think it’s all very volatile in Quebec right now and I don’t know that party attachment is as strong as it used to be … we’re seeing a sit-back-and-wait a little bit in Quebec.”
In Ontario, the signals from voters are more mixed.
The Conservatives hold 37 per cent support in Ontario compared to the Liberals at 34 per cent.
That’s compared to 38 per cent and 32 per cent respectively last month.
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While approval ratings for the Liberals were at 50 per cent in Atlantic Canada, 43 per cent in Quebec and 41 per cent in B.C., voters in Ontario had approval ratings at 36 per cent while those in Alberta and the Prairies were at 22 per cent and 20 per cent.
Colledge said while those numbers show the Liberals gaining slight ground in Ontario, the battleground remains the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area.
There, he said, voter concerns aren’t on SNC-Lavalin but on issues of affordability, as well as fears that the rosy messaging from the Liberals on big-picture economic outlooks doesn’t match the everyday crunch voters feel when it comes to buying groceries and affording their homes.
And given that, expect to see the opposition parties continue to hammer the government on the scandal, Colledge predicted, if only to try to keep the Liberals from being able to talk about their own agenda.
“Right now, what SNC does — outside of Quebec — is it takes the Liberals off of their game. They’re defending SNC instead of talking about their progressive agenda and the things they’ve done in the past and want to do in the future,” he said.
“So I think you’ll see the opposition parties continue to push on SNC even if they don’t think they’re going to make gains because they’d much rather keep the Liberals talking about what they did and why they did it than moving forward with their agenda.”
With both parties on even footing just weeks until the expected start of the campaign, Colledge says the question will be how effectively the Tories will be able to force the Liberals off-message by focusing on past scandals — and whether both parties can craft a pitch to voters that goes beyond big-picture economics.
And if RCMP open an investigation into SNC-Lavalin scandal, as Scheer has called on them to do, Colledge says all bets are off.
“That’s a bit of a wild card.”
Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between Aug. 16 and 19, 2019, using an online poll weighted to reflect census demographics. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.