Nova Scotians head to the polls next week and, barring a dramatic change of fortunes, the Liberals under Stephen McNeil will return to power for the first time since the end of the 1990s.
The Corporate Research Associates (CRA), a Halifax-based polling firm, has been conducting a daily tracking poll for The Chronicle Herald via live-caller telephone interviews throughout the campaign. The polling has consistently and increasingly shown a large margin in favour of the Liberals. The latest numbers from Monday put the party 33 points ahead of the incumbent New Democrats, with 57 to 24 per cent support.
That is a remarkable gap — and large enough that another Alberta or British Columbia surprise is simply not in the cards. Even if every undecided voter (19 per cent) swung over to the NDP, the Liberals would still comfortably prevail.
Darrell Dexter, who led the provincial NDP to its first electoral victory anywhere in Atlantic Canada in 2009, seems unlikely to pull the party out of its funk. The tracking poll by CRA shows that Dexter trails McNeil significantly on the question of who would make the best premier. The latest set of numbers gave Dexter only 15 per cent, compared to 38 per cent for McNeil.
Those sorts of leadership numbers only confirm the Grit lead. In the provincial elections in Alberta and British Columbia, for example, the leadership numbers hinted at a closer race than the voting intentions polling suggested.
How much of the Liberal advantage can be chalked up to McNeil, and how much can be credited to the rebound in federal Liberal support nationwide? The strong personal numbers for McNeil suggest that his support is genuine. But in a live-chat on the Herald site last week, CRA noted that the daily tracking poll made it possible to record an important uptick in Liberal support when Justin Trudeau campaigned with McNeil.
Thomas Mulcair visited the province just before the election campaign began. Whether or not he could give Dexter a similar boost is debatable, but at this stage Mulcair may have more to lose by campaigning alongside Dexter than the N.S. premier has to gain.
Trailing in third place in the polls are the Progressive Conservatives of Jamie Baillie. After governing the province for most of the 2000s, the Tories are in a very bad position. The latest poll gave the PCs only 17 per cent support, which would represent the party's worst electoral performance in its history. Baillie does seem to have benefited somewhat from a decent debate performance, however, with both his party's and his personal support increasing slightly. In fact, at 14 per cent, Baillie is almost polling even with Dexter on who would make the best premier.
The Green Party, with only 16 candidates running in the province's 51 seats, will be lucky to get even the two per cent CRA is currently giving them in the polls.
For New Democrats to hold on to the only other government they have outside of Manitoba, Dexter will need to turn things around in spectacular fashion — or the polls will have to fail like never before.
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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Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil, right, arrive at the Public Gardens to meet with supporters in Halifax on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On May 24, 2013 Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil was joined by Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau for a day in Halifax and a rally at Pier 21
UP NEXT: Memorable Trudeau Photos
Come At Me, Bro
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Justin Trudeau & co. making faces.
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Justin Trudeau gets his geek on at Montreal Comiccon in September 2012.
So Long 'Stache
Justin Trudeau has his moustache shaved off to raise money for the Judy LaMarsh Fund, that supports female candidates, at the Liberal Party convention in Ottawa on Saturday, January 14, 2012.
Coming For MacKay
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All For One, One For All
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Pierre Trudeau's sons, Sacha, left, and Justin, tackle their mother's paperboy in Ottawa in this undated photo.
'Family... And A Cow.'
He Can Certainly Take A Punch
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Be Honest With Me, Who's Cuter?
Justin Trudeau strikes a pose with an adorable baby.
A Very Furry Christmas
Justin Trudeau poses with his family on his 2010 Christmas card.
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Yanking Their Chain
Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, left, watches as his 11-year-old son Justin swings on a chain during a tour of an old fort in the Omani town of Nizwa Dec. 2, 1983. Trudeau and Justin spent the day visiting the towns of Jebel and Nizwa 165 kilometres south of Muscat.
Justin Trudeau in Muskoka, Ont.
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Like Mother, Like Son
Eleven-month-old Justin Trudeau, urged on by his mother Margaret Trudeau, crawls up the steps of an aircraft in Ottawa on Dec. 5, 1972 to meet his father, then-prime minister, Pierre Trudeau on his return from Britain.
Cutting A Rug
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Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing what someone called his "Mandrake the Magician outfit," walks down the grandstand steps to present the Grey Cup trophy to the victorious Montreal Alouettes in this Nov. 28, 1970 photo.
Hey, It Was The '70s
Pierre Trudeau leans over to kiss an unidentified young lady to the seeming surprise of his recent bride Margaret. Trudeau and Margaret spent Saturday March 27, 1971 at maple tree farm here near Montreal at a sugaring out party.
Fur Wasn't Always Controversial
Pierre Trudeau accompanies Margaret Sinclair, at the annual Governor General's skating party for members of Parliament in Ottawa Jan. 14, 1970.
Ditto For Seal Hunting
Pierre Trudeau looks through the scope of his rifle while on a seal hunting trip in Baffin Island's Clear Water Fjord, July 29, 1968.
A Leg Up
Pierre Trudeau shoes off his frisbee catching style while waiting to board his plane in Vancouver May 16, 1979.
Calisthenics Were Still Cool
Pierre Trudeau had no trouble keeping himself occupied during a break from a boat trip down the Northwest Territories, Nahanni River, Monday Aug. 4, 1970.
Pierre Trudeau takes a wary look at an ice crevice, decides to chance it and makes the leap successfully during a midnight seal- hunting expedition at Clearwater Fjord in Canada's Arctic, July 29, 1968.
When in France...
Pierre Trudeau receives a kiss from his wife Margaret during a tour of St. Pierre, France, Aug. 1971.
Pierre Trudeau in Guayana 1974.