Summers are usually not great for Canadian federal governments in minority territory.
This one has been particularly challenging for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose Liberal Party faces a renewed Conservative Party with a significant war chest that can be deployed if an election happens soon.
In stark contrast with what Canadians experienced two years ago, there is no motivation for the Liberals to call an early ballot. In the latest survey by Research Co. and Glacier Media, the Conservatives are ahead across the country with the support of 37 per cent of decided voters, up four points since our previous survey conducted in late February. The governing Liberals are second with 31 per cent (down three points), followed by the New Democratic Party (NDP) (17 per cent, down one point), the Bloc Québécois (eight per cent), the Green Party (three per cent) and the People’s Party (one per cent).
Perceptions of three federal parties and their leaders appear entrenched. Practically half of Canadians (48 per cent, down one point) are satisfied with the way NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is handling his duties, but the party is a distant third nationally, in British Columbia (19 per cent) and in Ontario (17 per cent).
The rating for Green Party leader Elizabeth May is stable (32 per cent), while People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier is up four points to 20 per cent. Still, there is no change in the voting intentions for either of these parties.
The strength of the Conservative lead comes primarily from the party’s vast improvement in Ontario (40 per cent, up six points) and B.C. (42 per cent, up four points). The Bloc has gained five points in Quebec (from 29 per cent to 34 per cent), with the Liberals dropping to 30 per cent (down nine points) and the Conservatives static at 20 per cent (up one point).
The issue landscape helps explain why the Conservatives are surging. Housing, homelessness and poverty (25 per cent, up four points) has edged health care (24 per cent, down two points) as the most important concern facing Canada, followed by the economy and jobs (20 per cent, down six points) and the environment (10 per cent, up three points).
It is not a surprise to see housing as the top issue for British Columbians (29 per cent), but now Atlantic Canadians (37 per cent) and Ontarians (29 per cent) are also placing this matter at or near the top of their list. The government and the official Opposition will need to find a way to connect on this file if they want to attract the votes of younger Canadians.
Another worrying sign for Liberal supporters is the fact that Trudeau’s approval rating has fallen from 46 per cent in February to 41 per cent now. In that span, Poilievre’s numbers have not moved (41 per cent).
In February, Trudeau had an eight-point advantage over Poilievre as the preferred prime minister for Canadians (33 per cent versus 25 per cent). This month, the two leaders are tied with 28 per cent, with Singh a distant third at 17 per cent.
One of the key findings this month is Poilievre’s successful connection with voters aged 35 to 54, where he is clearly ahead of Trudeau in the “best prime minister” category (32 per cent versus 24 per cent). This generation, almost equally concerned about housing, health care and jobs, is currently regarding the Conservative leader as qualified.
There is little movement on the questions related to economic management, with 44 per cent of Canadians (unchanged) trusting Trudeau and 42 per cent (up two points) expressing confidence in Poilievre. We do have a drop in the proportion of Canadians who are satisfied with what the Liberals and the NDP have accomplished since their March 2022 supply and confidence agreement (44 per cent, down three points).
Over the past six months, the number of Canadians who see successes in the deal that has effectively blocked an early election has dwindled. This is clearly not the way in which the federal government wanted to start the fall. Trudeau’s approval losses are accompanied by a drop in voter support, particularly in the urban areas where housing is a prevalent worry for young adults.
For Poilievre, tying Trudeau on the “best prime minister” question is a noteworthy feat. Winning points on approval and economic management would solidify the national lead for the Conservatives. At this point, dissatisfaction with the status quo is growing across Canada, but we do not yet see a third of Canadians looking at Poilievre as a head of government in waiting.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted from Sept. 2 to Sept. 4, 2023, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.