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ANALYSIS: For Trudeau and the Liberals, a tie in the polls is as good as a win

Global’s Chief Political Correspondent David Akin says the latest Ipsos poll, provided exclusively to Global News, shows attitudes about the PM’s latest ethics breach are ‘baked in’ among the electorate.

The numbers hardly budged.

Polling firm Ipsos jumped into the field last week immediately after Parliament’s ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had violated the Conflict of Interest Act (again) by trying to influence former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in favour of Montreal construction giant SNC-Lavalin.

When these allegations of inappropriate prime ministerial interference first surfaced eight months ago, Ipsos and other pollsters found that voters were not happy with Trudeau. Liberal support slumped, and Andrew Scheer‘s Conservatives became the national front-runners. But since then, Liberal support has slowly but surely strengthened. Did Dion’s findings last week knock the Liberals back?

Ipsos, in a poll exclusively for Global News, found that it had not — at least, not yet.

And, in fact, you could read the numbers to say that in Quebec, an important electoral region, Trudeau’s steadfast defence of his law-breaking — “I’m not going to apologize for standing up for Canadians jobs,” he said immediately afterwards — may actually have improved his standing. Ipsos found that the gap between the first-place Liberals in Quebec and the second-place Conservatives has now widened to 19 points.

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Meanwhile, in Ontario, Ipsos found the Conservatives with a narrow three-point lead over the Liberals — a statistical tie.

READ MORE: Liberals, Tories essentially tied after damning SNC-Lavalin ethics report — Ipsos

And so, looking at the overall national popular vote number, Ipsos found that, among decided and leaning voters, 35 per cent would vote Conservative and 33 per cent would vote Liberal — another statistical tie — while the NDP is well back at 18 per cent and the Greens are at nine per cent.

With less than two months until Canadians will get their chance to put a mark on a ballot, this kind of tie is as good as a win for the Liberals — perhaps even a majority win. That’s because the Liberals are crushing it in Quebec and doing well enough in Ontario that, according to several seat-projection models, including one by Global News, the Liberals could actually finish behind the Conservatives when it comes to the popular vote and yet still win a plurality of seats in the 338-seat House of Commons. In fact, there are some scenarios in which the Liberals could lose the national popular vote and even win a majority of seats.

In the latest poll from Ipsos, provided exclusively to Global News, the Conservatives and Liberals are in a statistical dead heat, unchanged after the latest SNC Lavalin revelations.
In the latest poll from Ipsos, provided exclusively to Global News, the Conservatives and Liberals are in a statistical dead heat, unchanged after the latest SNC Lavalin revelations.

But there are some serious headwinds for Trudeau’s team and some opportunities for Scheer’s Conservatives.

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First, more than two-thirds of those polled by Ipsos agreed with the statement that it was time for a change of government. That could be a big problem for the incumbent Liberals if voters can agree on which party can be the “agent of change.” In the 2015 campaign, there was a similarly sized desire for a change of government, and voters eventually settled on Trudeau’s Liberals as that “agent of change.” The opportunity, then, for Scheer, is that he must make himself the obvious choice for those who want change. So far, that’s a work in progress as many who say they want change are considering an option not often considered before — voting Green.

READ MORE: Trudeau doubles down, refuses to apologize for SNC-Lavalin pressure after damning report

Indeed, a whopping 21 per cent of those surveyed think Green Party Leader Elizabeth May would make the best prime minister even though only nine per cent would vote for her party. As for Scheer or Trudeau as the “preferred prime minister,” it’s pretty much a tie, with about one-third of voters picking either man. On that score, advantage Scheer.

Scheer’s campaign has already signalled that it wants to centre the ballot question on affordability. That’s a risky proposition. The Liberal Canada Child Benefit has, in fact, made a lot of Canadian families better off. But the Conservatives will press the case that other Liberal regulations and the federal carbon tax in Ontario have made life more expensive.

Mike Colledge, president of Ipsos Public Affairs, said his firm’s polls have found that many voters, particularly those in swing suburban ridings, rate concerns about their personal economic future higher than any ethics issues, even with an economy that is performing relatively well with a very low unemployment rate.

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“Wage growth is up, but when you ask people to cast forward and look a little bit further down the path, people are very concerned that their quality of life is going to be the same in three to four years or that their personal financial prospects could be the same even a year out,” Colledge said.

Finally, campaigns matter. They almost always do. And Trudeau is a good campaigner who, just as he was in 2015, should be his party’s strongest asset in what we expect will be a short five-week campaign. But the Liberals are no longer the overwhelming favourite they were a year ago. Through their own missteps, they’ve turned it into a fair fight.

“They’ve lost the incumbency advantage,” said Colledge. “They aren’t going in with an eight or 10-point lead like most majority governments have into their second term.”

The full results of this exclusive Global News Ipsos poll can be found here.

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.

David Akin is chief political correspondent for Global News.

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