The summer, Senate, and the smoking have not seemed to move the dial on voting intentions in Canada, as two new polls show the Liberals under Justin Trudeau just where they were when the House of Commons closed its doors for the season.
An IVR poll by Forum Research for The National Post released yesterday pegged the Liberals at 38 per cent support, well ahead of Conservatives at 29 per cent and New Democrats at 22 per cent. Compared to Forum's last midsummer poll from the end of July, this represents a gain of three points for Liberals and a drop of two for the Tories. But compared to their last poll of the political season, at the end of June, Liberals have not budged while the Tories have dropped only a single point.
However, the statistically insignificant gain by the Liberals does actually contain some good news. In April and May, Forum had Trudeau's party at either 43 or 44 per cent support, and subsequently showed a steady decline over the following two months. This poll has arrested that decline, suggesting Liberals may be settling-in at the mid-30s, rather than suffering a sustained slide back from their dizzying heights in the first few weeks of Trudeau's leadership.
A poll by Nanos Research seems to confirm that Liberal numbers are solidifying. The polling firm was commissioned to do a poll by Bell Canada and Telus about the telecommunications industry this month, but its assessment of the voting intentions of Canadians showed virtually no change from their previous survey from mid-June. Nanos found the Liberals to have 35 per cent support, compared to 32 per cent for Conservatives and 23 per cent for New Democrats. Considering their respective margins of error, these two new poll results are consistent with one another.
One factor that may have influenced Forum's numbers, however, is that the firm did its flash poll the day after The Huffington Post Canada reported Trudeau's admission that he had smoked marijuana as recently as three years ago. It is difficult to know for certain whether this admission had any effect on the poll's results — the news probably did not become more widely known until after the weekend, when every pundit, editorial board, and politician (and their mothers) had said their piece about it — but the early signs point to little negative effect on Trudeau's support.
In fact, there was not a huge difference in the poll between the proportions of Canadians who said the admission would make them more or less likely to vote Liberal (the majority said it made no difference), and it only seemed to hurt Trudeau particularly among Conservatives. With the Tories at 29 per cent, there is little reason to expect Liberals had many more votes to get from that direction anyway.
It will probably be another few weeks before we can get a much clearer idea of how Canadians feel about the issue, though it seems so far unlikely to have any major effect on national voting intentions. The summer itself, despite the new revelations about Pamela Wallin and the delay of the return to work by MPs until October due to prorogation, seems to have also had little consequence. That may mean that a relatively comfortable lead for the Liberals over the Conservatives is the new status quo — something neither Stephen Harper nor Thomas Mulcair should be very pleased about.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.
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In 2009, rookie MP Justin Trudeau votes for Bill C-15, which would have <a href="http://www.cannabisculture.com/content/bill-c-15-dead-now" target="_blank">imposed mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana-related offences. </a> The legislation passes the House of Commons with the support of both Tories and Liberals but dies after Parliament is prorogued.
In July of 2009, Trudeau is called a "f**cking hypocrite" by marijuana activist, the so-called "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery, who <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M-zSXF_dBU" target="_blank">claims the Liberal MP smoked cannabis with him four or five times</a>. "It really pisses me off when I see Justin Trudeau, who took big gaggers with me, is in Parliament actually voting for Bill C-15," Emery says.
In May of 2010, Trudeau tells Maclean's magazine that marijuana decriminalization is a step in the wrong direction. "It's not your mother's pot," <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/05/06/mitchel-raphael-on-what-justin-learned-from-his-whistler-days-and-a-helena-homage/" target="_blank">he tells Mitchel Raphael</a> of the stronger marijuana grown today. "I lived in Whistler for years and have seen the effects. We all need our brain cells to deal with our problems."
In an <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=llTcoaBhU14" target="_blank">interview with ProjectRedDot</a> from the floor of the 2012 Liberal Convention in January, Trudeau says he understands pot is not as dangerous as other legal products like alcohol or tobacco, but expresses concern marijuana still "disconnects" you from the world. "So I don’t know that legalizing it – although I totally understand the arguments around removing the criminal elements – I don’t know that it’s entirely consistent with the society we’re trying to build," he says.
Seventy-seven per cent of delegates at the 2012 Liberal convention tell the party's leadership they want a future Liberal government to legalize marijuana. "Frankly, the status quo doesn't work and that's what needs to change," says <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/15/liberal-vote-legalize-marijuana_n_1207388.html" target="_blank">interim Grit leader Bob Rae</a>. "The Liberal party is saying that the current laws do not work and that we need a new direction."
In November of 2012, not long after launching his leadership bid, Trudeau tells a group of Charlottetown high school students he is a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/14/justin-trudeau-marijuana-decriminalization_n_2129476.html" target="_blank">"huge supporter" of marijuana decriminalization.</a> "I think we have to recognize first and foremost that the war on drugs, as it exists right now, doesn’t work," he says, adding that the next logical step may be legalization.
In January of 2013, Trudeau <a href="http://www.reddeeradvocate.com/news/Marijuana_mental_health_among_Trudeaus_top_priorities_188676371.html" target="_blank">tells a crowd in Red Deer</a> that he would seek the full legalization of marijuana in order to tax and regulate it, making it more difficult for young people to access. "When it's illegal and only available in the black market, someone pushing it doesn't check for ID," Trudeau says.
In April of 2013, Trudeau speaks to party members at the Liberal leadership showcase. His speech, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/04/06/justin-trudeau-speech-convention-liberal_n_3029678.html" target="_blank">titled "Hope and Hard Work," </a>makes no mention of his marijuana policies but does attack the Tory tough-on crime agenda. "The Conservatives have forgotten about the value of service," he says. "The only time they talk about community service these days is when it's punishment for a crime."
About a week later, Trudeau <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/04/14/justin-trudeau-speech-full-liberal-win_n_3082219.html" target="_blank">wins the Liberal leadership</a> with more than 80 per cent of the vote. His victory speech makes no mention of pot.
In July of 2013, Trudeau's pot remarks to a group of potential British Columbia voters <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/07/24/justin-trudeau-marijuana-legal_n_3645624.html" target="_blank">quickly go viral</a>. "I'm actually not in favour of decriminalizing cannabis -- I'm in favour of legalizing it. Tax and regulate. It's one of the only ways to keep it out of the hands of our kids because the current war on drugs, the current model isn't working," <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BetOS0y9mNg" target="_blank">he says</a>.
In July of 2013, Trudeau tweets that marijuana prohibition is "costly and unsafe."
In August of 2013, Trudeau Liberals launch <a href="http://petition.liberal.ca/end-prohibition/?utm_source=liberal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=jb&utm_campaign=marijuana-petition" target="_blank">an online petition</a> calling for an end to marijuana prohibition. "Liberals believe in a smart on crime approach, targeting real criminals instead of ordinary Canadians," it reads.
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