The federal Conservatives have gained a seven-point lead over the Liberals in the latest weekly ballot tracking by Nanos Research.
According to 1,084 random interviews conducted during the week ending Jan. 13, Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives would capture 35.6 per cent of the vote if an election were held today, while the Liberals would get 28.3 per cent, the NDP 20.7 per cent, the Bloc 7.4 per cent, the Green Party 5.8 per cent and the People’s Party 2.1 per cent.
The Conservative lead – which has been creeping up steadily since December — is now outside the margin of error, and with the NDP increasing their share of the ballot, the Liberals are having their support chipped away at, both sides. In an interview on CTV News’ Trend Line podcast, Nanos Research founder Nik Nanos called the numbers “very grim” for the Liberals.
“This is the worst way for the Liberals to start off their year, because they’re basically back on their heels, and it looks like a significant number of Canadians are looking at the Conservatives,” Nanos told host Michael Stittle on Wednesday.
“I think what the Liberals have to worry about is a one-two-punch, basically getting squeezed by the Conservatives on the one side, the New Democrats on the other, and vote splits that will be working against the Liberals.”
IS HEALTH CRISIS TESTING AGREEMENT WITH NDP?
Nanos said heading into the 2023 parliamentary season, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government might have its supply-and-confidence deal with the NDP tested, as the Liberals look to forge health-care funding agreements with the provinces while balancing outstanding health commitments on dental and pharmacare as part of the parliamentary pact.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on the Liberals to make protecting the universal public system a condition in any coming deal with the provinces to increase the Canada Health Transfer. Though, Singh has yet to say whether he’d be willing to pull out of the agreement that’s poised to see the Liberals stay in power until 2025 over the issue.
According to the latest Nanos issue tracking, health care is the top unprompted national issue of concern for Canadians, followed by inflation, jobs and economy and the environment. Nanos pointed out that health care has traditionally been a strong policy area for the NDP.
“The New Democrats have a big interest in protecting public health care,” he said.
“So expect Singh to put the political vice grips on the Liberals to protect and enhance public health care and access to public health care. I think that the initial battle lines might actually be between the New Democrats and the Liberals on this issue.”
BIDEN’S VISIT PRESENTS OPPORTUNITY
He said the Liberals may also want to use the 2023 federal budget as an opportunity to prove they have a strong vision for their next mandate and that they’re not just coasting through this one. Following the upcoming March visit by U.S. President Joe Biden to Canada, Nanos said the government would be smart to announce what they accomplished in meetings with the Biden administration.
“It’s not enough just to say, ‘Oh, we’re friends, we like each other, we have a great relationship,'” he said. “What the Liberals have to do, ideally, is put something in the window in terms of something specific being accomplished in the bi-national relationship.”
TRUDEAU STILL PREFERRED PM
Another area where Nanos said the Liberals might find a foothold is public perception of the federal leaders. According to the research firm’s latest Preferred PM numbers, while the Conservative party is gaining favour among those surveyed, its leader Poilievre, is statistically tied with Trudeau.
Nanos tracking has Trudeau as the preferred choice for prime minister at 30 per cent of Canadians, followed by Poilievre at 27.5 per cent, Singh at 16.2 per cent, Elizabeth May at 4.2 per cent and Maxime Bernier at two per cent. Sixteen per cent of Canadians were unsure whom they preferred.
For this reason, he said the Liberals may choose to concentrate on undermining Poilievre’s “brand” this year, ahead of the 2025 election.
“(Poilievre) and his brand will be the main focus of a lot of the political dialogue in 2023 as he tries to build up his brand and the Liberals try to tear him down,” he said.
“I would expect that the Liberals are probably going to come out swinging through 2023, because they’ve got to change the trend line.”
Each week, Nanos measures the political pulse of Canadian voters through hundreds of telephone surveys. The data is based on random interviews with 1,000 Canadian consumers (recruited by RDD land- and cell-line sample), using a four-week rolling average of 250 respondents each week, 18 years of age and over. The random sample of 1,000 respondents may be weighted using the latest census information for Canada. The interviews are compiled into a four-week rolling average of 1,000 interviews where each week, the oldest group of 250 interviews is dropped and a new group of 250 interviews is added.
A random survey of 1,000 respondents in Canada is accurate 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.
More on Nanos’ political and issue tracking methodology
– With files from Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello