A throne speech packed with consumer-friendly goodies and a trade deal with the European Union is a good fall start for the prime minister, particularly considering a new poll suggests his party trails Justin Trudeau's Liberals by 10 points.
The poll, conducted by EKOS Research for iPolitics between October 10 and 14, found Liberals to be well ahead with 36 per cent support, compared to just 26 per cent for Conservatives and 25 per cent for New Democrats. The Greens had just under seven per cent, while the Bloc Québécois had five per cent (22 per cent in Quebec).
It has to be admitted that these results raise a few eyebrows, as it is one of the worst results the Conservatives have registered since before Trudeau's arrival on the scene.
EKOS did peg Tory support at around 26 per cent in April and May, but no other firm has had the Tories below 27 per cent since well before the 2011 federal election. And for the Liberals, the 10-point gap is the widest that has been seen since the heady days following Trudeau's leadership victory.
That means one of two things: that EKOS Research is picking up a lull in Conservative support that has benefited the Liberals, or the results are on the outside edge of the survey's margin of error. Subsequent polls will tell us which is closer to the truth.
But if Liberals are rebounding from a somewhat lacklustre September, there are a lot of positive things in this poll for the party. For instance, EKOS gives the Liberals 41 per cent support among Canadians who were born abroad — 20 points more than the Conservatives. This is a demographic that helped elect Harper's majority government in 2011. The small sample size means the margin of error for this group is about +/- eight points, but that still bodes well for the party going forward. A breakthrough in the suburbs of Toronto, where many immigrants have set up roots, is key to any Liberal victory in 2015.
The poll does suggest that the Liberals are doing well in Ontario, giving the party 40 per cent support to just 27 per cent for the Tories — one point behind the NDP. This is likely an anomalous result, however, as no poll has put the Tories in third place in seat-rich Ontario in recent memory.
The numbers in Quebec appear to fall more within the norm, with Liberals showing weakness in the province after Trudeau's initial surge. EKOS gave the Liberals 31 per cent support in Quebec, compared to 29 per cent for the NDP. A close race in Quebec, with the edge going to the Liberals, is generally the polling consensus for the province.
The Bloc trailed in third with 22 per cent, while Tories were at 13 per cent. The Tories have hardly budged from that low level of support since the beginning of the summer (it was even lower in the spring). It makes it difficult to envision a comeback for the party in Quebec, and even puts the re-election of a few of their five MPs in the province in doubt.
The return to work on Parliament Hill and the plan laid out in the throne speech, however, give Conservatives an opportunity for a bit of a reset. But the scandals in the Senate are certainly not going away and the speech was received by the commentariat with a bit of a yawn. The long-promised EU deal is better news.
But if this poll is close to the mark, the Tories face a long road back.
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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