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.
Also on HuffPost