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Liberals, Tories in close race on heels of WE Charity scandal, Morneau resignation

Click to play video: 'Ipsos Poll: Gap between Liberals, Conservatives narrows following Bill Morneau’s resignation' Ipsos Poll: Gap between Liberals, Conservatives narrows following Bill Morneau’s resignation
WATCH: Gap between Liberals, Conservatives narrows following Bill Morneau's resignation, IPSOS poll finds – Aug 21, 2020

A majority of Canadians believe the WE Charity scandal demonstrates corruption by the Liberals, even as most still approve of how the government is otherwise handling the coronavirus response.

And despite those approval ratings remaining high, there appears to be a close race between the Liberals and the Conservatives when it comes to decided voter support.

Read more: Senior public servants repeatedly questioned key parts of WE Charity deal: documents

Polling by Ipsos conducted exclusively for Global News asked 1,000 Canadians for their voting preference before former finance minister Bill Morneau resigned and another 1,000 were asked after.

The results show a slight narrowing of support after Morneau stepped down, which he said was because he would not seek re-election but which followed reports of a rift between he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the way forward on the pandemic recovery and Morneau’s role in the WE Charity scandal.

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Click to play video: 'The timeline of Trudeau’s WE Charity controversy' The timeline of Trudeau’s WE Charity controversy
The timeline of Trudeau’s WE Charity controversy – Jul 30, 2020

Overall, the combined results suggest the Liberals are currently sitting at 35 per cent support among decided voters, with the Conservatives close behind at 32 per cent.

The NDP sit at 18 per cent support while the Bloc Quebecois and the Greens are both at seven per cent.

Read more: Trudeau’s approval rating drops amid WE scandal, faith in Liberals remains: poll

Among those polled before Morneau resigned, Liberal and Conservative support sat at 36 and 31 per cent respectively.

Among those polled after Morneau resigned, support for the Liberals and Conservatives sat at 34 and 33 per cent, respectively.

The poll has a margin of error of 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20, meaning those results fall within the statistical margin of error.

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“It may be a knee-jerk reaction,” said Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos.

“It’s still too early to say whether or not, you know, it’s the start of a decline or a trend for the Liberal Party. But at least in the short term, it has had an impact.”

In addition, 56 per cent of Canadians say they believe the WE Charity scandal “shows that the prime minister and his government are corrupt and that they deserve to be defeated in the next federal election.”

Of those, 25 per cent agreed strongly while 31 per cent said they agreed somewhat.

At the same, 52 per cent of Canadians say they still approve of the government: 12 per cent strongly and 41 per cent somewhat.

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That appears to be stabilizing after an up-and-down few months that saw approvals in the 70-per cent range as the pandemic and government relief funds began to flow, then 55 per cent in May and 44 per cent in July as the scrutiny on the WE Charity scandal heated up at parliamentary committees.

So how do the narrowing support numbers square with 56 per cent of Canadians saying they believe the government was corrupt in the WE Charity scandal and the 52 per cent still saying they approve?

“It’s hard, actually,” Simpson said when asked to explain.

“At some point, those two metrics … need to reconcile and I think part of that reconciliation  is to come when the Conservatives figure out who their next leader is,” he said.

“Maybe a lot of people (are) sitting on the fence right now saying, well, I’m not sure which way I’m going to go. It may depend on who the Conservatives have as leader and also, I think part of the balance here, the tipping point, is seeing what the prime minister’s plans are going forward.

Trudeau prorogued Parliament this week until Sept. 23, killing the work of several parliamentary committees conducting probes into the allegations of conflict of interest in the WE Charity scandal.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said the decision on whether to push to topple the government is up to his successor, who will be revealed on Sunday following weeks of mail-in voting.

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Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay and current Conservative MP Erin O’Toole are the two frontrunners, though the party would need support from both the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP if the next leader were to pursue toppling the Liberals.

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