Polls this far out from the next election have little to say about what will happen when Canadians next cast their ballots, but a new survey from EKOS Research highlights some troubling indicators for the Conservative Party.
Conducted between June 27 and July 5, the EKOS poll found 32.3 per cent of Canadians support the New Democrats while 30.2 per cent are behind the Conservatives. At 19.5 per cent support, the Liberals are far behind and only a few tenths of a percentage point above their 2011 election result.
The poll gives statistically significant leads to the Conservatives in Alberta and Ontario and to the New Democrats in Quebec, while also putting the NDP ahead in British Columbia and the Prairie provinces and the Liberals in Atlantic Canada.
For the most part, the results of the poll fall into line with what other surveys have been showing since Thomas Mulcair became leader of the NDP. Early on in a majority mandate and against an opposition leader who may be in the midst of a honeymoon, it is perhaps not too surprising to see the Conservatives struggling.
But this may not be a mere bump in the road. The drops in support since the May 2011 election recorded by EKOS are, in some regions of the country, potentially catastrophic. The Tories are down just over nine points in Ontario, 12 in Atlantic Canada, 19 in British Columbia and 25 in the Prairies. Certainly, smaller sample sizes at the regional level can explain away some of this drop but statistical noise is usually not this loud.
Beyond the regional breakdown, there are other potential problems in the numbers for the Tories. In most polls showing the New Democrats ahead nationwide, the Conservatives have still been able to maintain a lead among Canadian men while the NDP has held the edge among women. But in this survey, the New Democrats are ahead among both men and women, though the margin is small. By age group, the NDP only trails among voters aged 65 or older.
Other indicators suggest Canadians are turning against the governing party. While opinion on whether the government is on the right track has usually been split in EKOS' polling, the gap has now widened considerably: only 35 per cent think it is headed in the right direction, compared to 55 per cent who say it is going in the wrong direction. In only Alberta does the government get a good grade.
More worrisome for the Conservatives is that opinion on whether the country is headed in the right or wrong direction has taken a negative turn. On this question, Canadians have generally been quite bullish, but the latest numbers show opinion split down the middle: 45 per cent say that the country is headed in the right direction compared to 46 per cent who say otherwise. A majority of respondents in Quebec, Atlantic Canada and British Columbia say the country is not on the right track.
This kind of perception can be toxic to a governing party. A popularity contest between politicians is one thing, but if voters believe the government's decisions have taken the country down the wrong path they will be much more willing to open their arms to an alternative option. Stephen Harper has to do more than take Mulcair down a notch or two; he has to prove to enough Canadians that he is still the right man for the job.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.
The Huffington Post Canada's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/althia-raj/" target="_hplink">Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj</a> lists the MPs who stumbled during the Parliamentary session. (CP)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/25/rob-anders-sleeping-video_n_1113337.html" target="_hplink">Anders said a car accident was to blame after video of the Calgary MP sleeping</a> in the House of Commons went viral. Then he was accused of falling asleep again, this time during a Veterans Affairs committee meeting. Instead of apologizing to the veterans he'd greeted with a snore, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/06/rob-anders-sleep-video-apology_n_1324139.html" target="_hplink">Anders accused them of being NDP hacks</a>. They said they were card-carrying Conservatives. Anders apologized soon after, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/28/rob-anders-tory-mp-veterans-affairs_n_1386484.html" target="_hplink">but he was booted from the committee</a>. (CP)
Dean Del Mastro
If he hadn't been so <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/16/rocobocalls-scandal-dean-del-mastro_n_1354739.html?utm_hp_ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">sanctimonious</a> about the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">robocalls scandal</a>, Canadians might feel a bit sorry for the guy. In court documents, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/dean-del-mastro" target="_hplink">Elections Canada seems to suggest Del Mastro committed electoral fraud</a> by over-contributing to his campaign by writing a personal $21,000 cheque for, you guessed it, robocalls. It is alleged his campaign overspent it's allowed limit and tried to hide it. Del Mastro initially appeared genuinely shocked by the allegations but more than two weeks later, as more evidence mounts, he still can't provide <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/11/dean-del-mastro-spending-election_n_1587236.html?utm_hp_ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">answers</a>. (CP)
This NDP MP from Montmorency--Charlevoix--Haute-Côte-Nord <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/30/marc-garneau-mail-stolen-jonathan-tremblay_n_1465618.html" target="_hplink">opened mail marked for Liberal MP Marc Garneau</a> and then kept the contents, toy spaceships, for his own purposes. Seriously, he stole mail. And what was with that rat-tail? (Handout)
This minister needs to tone down the rhetoric. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/01/peter-kent-charities-laundering_n_1469641.html" target="_hplink">Accusing charities of laundering money</a> is not only a criminal allegation, it doesn't help his argument. Why doesn't Kent come up with rational reasons to justify the government's actions on the environment? It's one of the reasons no one believes the Conservatives care about the file. (CP)
It isn't the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/15/peter-mackay-hotel-expense-munich-istanbul_n_1151049.html" target="_hplink">expensive hotels</a> but the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/f-35" target="_hplink">F-35 procurement fiasco</a> that really lands this minister in hot water. Did MacKay allow officials to sneak something past him without appropriate scrutiny? Did he knowingly mislead Canadians about the cost of the fighter jets? This minister needs to take control of his department. (CP)
The loose-lipped New Democrat from Winnipeg not only dropped a few <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/17/pat-martin-twitter-swearing_n_1099126.html" target="_hplink">F-bombs</a> on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/17/pat-martin-twitter-tweet-stephen-gordon_n_1355308.html" target="_hplink">Twitter </a>this year but was also too quick with his vocal criticism of the robocalls scandal. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/08/racknine-lawsuit-pat-martin_n_1582347.html" target="_hplink">Now he finds himself the subject of a $5 million lawsuit that won't go away</a>, no matter <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/16/pat-martin-apology-racknine_n_1428508.html" target="_hplink">how many times he apologizes</a>. (CP)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/23/bev-oda-savoy-hotel_n_1444818.html" target="_hplink">$16 orange juice</a>. Hundreds more for fancier hotels. Thousands more for limousines. She's the minister in charge of helping starving children. Need we say more? (CP)
First the Public Minister said Canadians who opposed the government's desire to spy on the public whenever it wishes<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/16/vic-toews-youtube-vikileaks-twitter_n_1281633.html?utm_hp_ref=vic-toews" target="_hplink"> were standing with child pornographers</a>. Then, in a radio interview, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/20/vic-toews-lawful-access-bill-c-30_n_1288252.html?utm_hp_ref=vic-toews" target="_hplink">he appeared to have little knowledge of what his bill actually contained</a>. His comments created an uproar and the bill has been shelved -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/16/bill-c-30-lawful-access-online-surveillance-vic-toews_n_1521477.html?utm_hp_ref=vic-toews" target="_hplink">for now</a>. This week, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/19/canada-border-audio-monitoring-listening_n_1609093.html?utm_hp_ref=vic-toews" target="_hplink">Toews also had to back down from a CBSA plan to spy on travellers in Canadian airports</a>. The government now plans to talk about its proposal with the Privacy Commissioner before moving forward. (CP)
This rookie MP from Saint-Maurice--Champlain <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/10/lise-st-denis-ndp-join-liberals_n_1196406.html" target="_hplink">announced in January that she was switching parties and joining the Liberals</a> after spending ten years volunteering with the NDP. She told reporters she ran for the New Democrats but never expected to be elected and infamously declared, in one of the year's least tactful comments: "They voted for Jack Layton. Jack Layton died." St-Denis said she didn't want to spend three years listening to a party defend policies she disagreed with. She pointed to the NDP opposing the mission extension in Libya, opposing public-private partnership for large-scale infrastructure deals and its desire to abolish the Senate. We can only ask, did St-Denis read any of the NDP's policies during her 10 years as a volunteer? We're not sure the Liberals got the best of the batch here... (CP)
This <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/23/david-wilks-budget-bill-c-38_n_1540471.html" target="_hplink">B.C. MP from Kootenay--Columbia told his constituents he agreed with them that there were problems with Bill C-38</a>, the Tories' omnibus budget legislation, and said he was prepared to oppose it if other Conservatives joined him. But as soon as the story, and his comments, hit the Web, Wilks did a complete 180, saying he supported the Conservative government's budget bill. Although <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/inside-politics-blog/2012/06/david-wilks-still-towing-line-on-budget-bill.html" target="_hplink">he recently told CBC's Julie Van Dusen that after reading the bill he now thinks the legislation is "great for Canada,"</a> we think he either misled his constituents or sold them out after being disciplined by the Prime Minister's Office. (Handout)
Best MPs Of The Session
The Huffington Post Canada's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/althia-raj/" target="_hplink">Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj</a> lists the MPs who deserve credit for strong performances during the Parliamentary session. (CP)
The Edmonton MP and Public Works Minister didn't have an easy time as environment minister a few years back but now <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/19/rona-ambrose-public-works_n_1609668.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics" target="_hplink">everything Ambrose touches seems to come out smoothly</a> -- at least, that's what the government hopes. After successfully managing a $33-billion shipbuilding contract that didn't split the country apart, she's now entrusted with ensuring another billion-dollar procurement, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/f-35" target="_hplink">bungled F-35 jet deal</a> (through the <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/05/02/pol-f-35-secretariat-name-change.html" target="_hplink">national fighter procurement secretariat</a>), goes smoothly and fairly. (CP)
The NDP MP for Timmins--James Bay <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/charlie-angus/attawapiskat-emergency_b_1104370.html" target="_hplink">drew international attention to the plight of the Attawapiskat First Nation in his northern Ontario riding after writing a blog about it on The Huffington Post Canada</a> this fall. The blog and the public pressure it garnered forced the federal government to take action on a situation it had largely ignored. (CP)
The former NDP leadership contender may have lost the <a href="http://huffingtonpost.ca/news/ndp-leadership-race" target="_hplink">leadership race</a> but he earned a lot of respect. His willingness to reach across party lines and work with Liberals may come in handy later on. Watch for him now in his more visible role as NDP house leader. (CP)
After two minority governments, the prime minister is now taking the long view on Canada's future. While he tends to appear more statesmanlike abroad than at home, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/26/harper-davos-immigration-ottawa_n_1233664.html" target="_hplink">his speech in Davos this January signalled his willingness to make tough decisions to ensure long-term economic growth</a>. Harper's suggestions: pension reform, new free trade deals, more intense development of Canada's natural resources, lower health care spending and major immigration reforms. (CP)
He may have taken his lumps for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/19/kenney-hits-reply-all-_n_1609294.html" target="_hplink">calling the deputy premier of Alberta an "asshole,"</a> but one thing we appreciate about Kenney is that he says what he thinks and doesn't mince words. He maintains a delicate balance between currying favours with immigrants and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/22/bill-c-31-human-smuggling-canada-refugees-jason-kenney_n_1444267.html?utm_hp_ref=jason-kenney" target="_hplink">taking a hard line on would-be refugees</a>. While it may appear the hard-working MP sometimes lacks compassion, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/17/jason-kenney-huffington-post-canada-immigration_n_1432940.html?utm_hp_ref=jason-kenney" target="_hplink">his focus on ensuring immigrants serve Canada (rather than the other way around) is good for the economy</a> and should help new immigrants by giving them easier access to quality jobs. (CP)
Megan Leslie & Michelle Rempel
The NDP's environment critic and the environment minister's parliamentary secretary are two smart women who make question period worth watching. Leslie, left, asks intelligent questions and has a knack for baiting her older Conservative colleagues into saying something stupid. Rempel has outshone her minister, Peter Kent by managing to deflect opposition attacks in clever ways without ever putting her foot in her mouth. These are two rising stars. (CP)
The Green Party Leader has shown what one MP can do with a team of volunteers and a lot of heart. Canadians with any knowledge of<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/canada-budget-2012" target="_hplink"> C-38, the Conservative omnibus budget</a>, likely have May to thank. May has been ferocious in her attacks on the bundled bill and her ability to work with opposition parties resulted in the<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/14/bill-c-38-omnibus-budget-amendments-twitter_n_1597755.html" target="_hplink"> longest series of marathon votes Canadians have seen in a long time</a>. (CP)
It's always difficult for politicians to put their personal ambitions aside. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/13/bob-rae-liberal-leadership-run-off_n_1593269.html" target="_hplink">In stepping away from the Liberal leadership race, Rae took another one for the team</a>. Highly regarded by colleagues in and out of his party, he's an effective communicator who kept the Liberals alive in the Commons despite third place status. (CP)
Not only did the Liberal MP for Papineau shame Conservatives across the country when he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/justin-trudeau-boxing" target="_hplink">pummeled Tory Sen. Patrick Brazeau in a nationally televised boxing match</a>, but he re-energized Liberals into believing former goals were possible. Trudeau doesn't yet have the experience, but he's smarter than many people give him credit for and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/20/liberal-leadership-justin-trudeau_n_1613739.html?utm_hp_ref=justin-trudeau" target="_hplink">he could cause the NDP headaches if he decides to throw his hat in the leadership ring</a>. (CP)
Quiet and unassuming, the rookie NDP MP from Aylmer, Que., was thrown into a leadership role she didn't want last August and steered the official opposition through months of difficult polling and stories about her ineffective leadership. Turmel doesn't get enough credit for keeping the NDP caucus (mostly) together after the death of Jack Layton and through the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/ndp-leadership-race" target="_hplink">subsequent leadership race</a>. (CP)