The credibility of political leaders is set to be the major deciding force in how Canadians cast their ballots in the upcoming election, according to one pollster.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Darrell Bricker — president of Ipsos — said he expects the campaign will come down to who can convince voters they are the best-placed to actually deliver on the promises they make.
“In this day and age it really comes down to the leaders of the parties and whether or not they’re perceived as being credible, and whether or not they (voters) perceive a connection,” Bricker said.
“Justin Trudeau was able to make that commitment in the last election and was rewarded with a majority government … the question now is who can steal that?”
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In order to form a majority government, one party needs to win at least 170 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons.
That gives them the power to pass bills without needing to rely on other parties for votes of support.
In the 2015 election, Trudeau and the Liberals won 184 seats while the Conservatives fell to 99.
The NDP won 44, the Bloc Quebecois 10, and the Greens one.
Those numbers have shifted since but the question remains whether the Liberals, who fell sharply in the polls following the SNC-Lavalin scandal earlier this year, can break out of the current close race between them and the Conservatives.
But while incumbent governments often have the advantage heading into elections, that’s not necessarily the case this time.
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“You would expect that the incumbent would be in a better position to win,” said Bricker.
“They should be in a really strong position, and they’re not.”
He cited the spending spree of the government in announcing federal cash across the country over recent weeks amidst polls that show them in a rough statistical tie with the Conservatives — meaning the differences between the Liberals and Tories are small enough to fit within the margin of error of the polls.
The Liberals have announced billions of dollars in new spending over the summer, prompting an official complaint from the Tories to Elections Canada.
Those announcements have also put the spotlight on regions where the Liberals are expected to face a fight to hold or gain seats.
Ontario, and the Greater Toronto Area specifically, is a major focus of that, Bricker said.
Voters can expect the battle to play out in messaging from the Liberals that takes aim at the values of their Conservative opponents while the Tories will try to pick apart Trudeau’s record and credibility when it comes to key issues like making life more affordable for voters.
And as for the NDP and the Greens?
Expect them to focus their energies on going after Trudeau on his broken promises as well, Bricker said.
But a recent dispute over reported defections in New Brunswick also suggests the two smaller parties could end up attacking each other too — though to what extent that may be the case remains unclear.