With the federal election nearing its halfway point, a new seat projection suggests that if an election were held today, the Liberals would narrowly hold a minority government.
The projections, released by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP) on Thursday, are based on a series of polls released between Sept. 20-24 in the days after images and a video of Justin Trudeau surfaced showing the Liberal leader in blackface.
The data draws on a number of surveys and polls from Ipsos, DART, Nanos, Angus Reid, Ekos, Abacus and Forum for an aggregated total of more than 11,000 interviews and attempts to determine how that popular support translates to seats won.
The new projections show the Liberals have dropped 15 seats since Sept. 18 but still lead with 150, followed by the Conservatives with 142, the New Democrats with 22, the Bloc Quebecois with 17 and the Green Party with 5.
The People’s Party and an Independent are also projected to win one seat each in the House of Commons.
An Ipsos poll released this week shows the Conservative Party has gained a four-point lead over the Liberals since the blackface scandal. However, the Conservatives’ strong polling numbers in Alberta may inflate their overall national figures.
LISPOP has projected the Tories will win 33 seats in Alberta, with the NDP wining one.
“The Liberals are down slightly almost everywhere in terms of popular vote,” said Barry Kay, associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.
“But popular vote and seats are two different things. Being down in Alberta doesn’t change anything for the Liberals because they aren’t projected to win seats there, anyway.”
“Frankly, some people thought the photos would have had more of an impact,” Kay said. “The scandal had an impact but the significance is in the eye of the beholder.”
Kay said the most substantial change in seats has come in Ontario and Quebec, both crucial battlegrounds if the Liberals hope to be re-elected.
“In Ontario, we are talking about a three per cent Liberal lead, whereas last week there was a seven per cent Liberal lead,” Kay said. LISPOP currently projects the Grits will win 60 seats in the province (down from 71), the Tories will win 48 and the NDP 13.
“Ontario is important because it has so many competitive seats especially in the 905.”
Moving to Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois and leader Yves-François Blanchet now hold 17 seats up from 13, according to LISPOP.
“I wouldn’t get excited about one poll but there is a trend with regard to the rise of the Bloc,” Kay said. The Liberals are projected to win 47 seats, the Tories 12 and the NDP 1.
The federal election was rocked last week after TIME magazine published a photo of Trudeau in brownface wearing an Aladdin costume, with his face and hands darkened, at an Arabian Nights-themed gala when he was a teacher at a private school in B.C. in 2001.
Global News published a video of Trudeau in blackface again at a summer rafting camp in the 1990s. Trudeau also admitted to wearing blackface on an earlier occasion at a talent show when he was in high school, an event captured in a yearbook photo.
Trudeau has since apologized for his actions and has said he doesn’t know for sure how many times he wore blackface.
In his first interview since the scandal, Trudeau told Global anchor Dawna Friesen that entering politics and his father’s death in September 2000 helped him see that blackface was wrong. He dodged several questions on his initial decision-making at the time and why he thought it was appropriate.
“It was a terrible mistake and I take full responsibility for it,” he said.
“I apply those high standards for myself. I will always fight against racism, intolerance, and discrimination and I hurt a lot of people who considered me an ally.”