AS we enter the New Year, only one party manages to exceed the pretty humble yardstick of 30 per cent – barely. At 30 points, the Liberals have an insignificant, fraction-of-a-point lead over the Conservatives, according to an EKOS poll conducted January 7-17. The margin of error of the poll is +/-1.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The NDP is at 20 points and the Bloc is at 25 per cent in Quebec.
At five points, the leaderless Green Party is not a factor and the People’s Party is at nine points.
The Liberals do better with urban residents, university graduates, and older voters, particularly older women.
The Conservative Party fares better with rural voters, residents of the Prairies, and non-university educated voters, though even among these demographics, their support is rather tepid by normal standards.
The NDP do better with the vote-rich but sketchy-turnout millennial cohort, particularly women under 35.
Interestingly, the People’s Party is up from the last election, but those same voters were less likely to say they voted People’s Party in the fall. This finding suggests that support for the People’s Party will not express itself in the ballot booth for a number of clear reasons (no representation due to First Past the Post, fear of inadvertently electing Liberals, etc.).
It will, however, pose a challenge for Erin O’Toole who much straddle this constituency and the roughly half of his current constituency who share similar outlooks as People’s Party voters, particularly on the critical issue of vaccine mandates.
The sour public mood probably explains the lack of convincing support for any federal party and this is reflected in modest approval ratings.
At 29 points, Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole has roughly the same approval rating as Ontario Premier Doug Ford and also shares the problem of straddling the more populist right wing portion of his constituency and the more traditional status quo conservatives. This is causing considerable tension for O’Toole.
Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau has a better approval rating at 40 points, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh enjoys the approval of 51 per cent of Canadians.
There is nothing particularly clear in the federal voter landscape beyond the obvious topline results which suggest an election would produce an outcome similar to the last two elections. We suspect nothing much will change until the outcome of the latest Omicron wave becomes clear, along with the impacts on the economy and, in particular, affordability and inflation. The big issues around what post-pandemic Canada will look like have yet to come into clear focus, but there is a formidable set of challenges looming. The issue of mandates and vaccines is hugely polarized with a clear and growing majority favouring strong measures to end the current, critical wave.
The issue of mandatory vaccinations has been flown by some leaders and we have tested the idea here. Although there is slim majority support, it falls short of the much higher support for vaccine passports as a tool to convert non-vaccinators to vaccinated status. Support for mandatory vaccines in schools is another matter with strong majority support. As in all of these related issues, there are sharp partisan differences with support for vaccine mandates much stronger among centre-left voters.
The country faces huge challenges beyond the pandemic. How do we deal with the massive spending and economic dislocation from the pandemic? Most think that the country should be different based on lessons learned from the pandemic. Many feel that a climate emergency will be an even bigger crisis than the pandemic. What will the future of work look like? Virtually none of these issues were seriously enjoined in the last election, nor are they having much impact on current political landscape.
The public are caught in a dark mood but this might all shift quite rapidly if this current wave marks the transition to a more ‘normal’ and manageable period. The future and its impacts on the political and societal landscape has never been so uncertain.
- EKOS Politics