COMMENTARY: When a big lead in the polls isn’t quite what it seems – National

The most recent Ipsos poll for PKBNEWS shows that Pierre Poilievre’s Conservative Party is well ahead of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

This nine-point lead is the largest we’ve seen for the Conservatives since support for the Liberal Party plummeted after the SNC-Lavalin scandal before the 2019 election. If an election were to be held tomorrow, a nine-point lead should probably put the Conservatives comfortably in the majority.

But is a conservative majority guaranteed? Not yet.

Conservatives still face a significant voting efficiency problem. As we observed in 2019 and 2021, the Liberals managed to win both elections, even though the Conservatives received around 200,000 more votes each time.

Winning the popular vote but losing the number of seats is equivalent to winning battles but losing the political war. The weakness of the Conservatives’ nine-point lead lies not in its size but in its distribution.

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As in previous elections, the Conservative vote is concentrated in the West. Although conquering the West is a good start, even if the Conservatives won all the seats in the region (which is unlikely), it would not be enough to obtain a majority. The Conservatives need to make significant gains in seat-rich central Canada, but that’s where their lead is diminishing.

In Ontario, the Conservatives are tied with the Liberals in terms of popular vote. This represents a substantial improvement compared to the last three elections but does not guarantee them a majority of seats in the province.

In Quebec, the Liberals are lagging behind the Bloc Québécois, with the Conservatives a distant third. Since Brian Mulroney retired from politics in 1992, the Conservatives have struggled to increase their number of seats in Quebec. Even with a nine-point lead nationally, Poilievre’s Conservatives have not seen a significant improvement in their position in Canada’s second-most populous province.

Although the current distribution of votes does not guarantee a Conservative majority, Poilievre enjoys certain advantages that no previous Conservative leader has enjoyed since Stephen Harper obtained his majority in 2011.

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Poilievre has a significant lead over Trudeau as preferred prime minister. He also outperforms Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in most leadership criteria tested, including handling key issues such as housing, cost of living and economic management.

Poilievre even leads on character traits such as trustworthiness, lack of a hidden agenda and ability to heal Canada’s divisions.

All of these factors indicate that Poilievre’s Conservatives are in a favorable position when it comes to increasing votes. However, they have yet to see a significant impact in Ontario and Quebec, at least not enough to secure a majority if elections were to take place tomorrow.

Our polling data shows that the Liberals and NDP face significant public opinion challenges. Moreover, credible seat models suggest that their cumulative performance in the next election is unlikely to exceed that of the Conservatives.

This implies that a viable governing arrangement for the Trudeau Liberals could require the support of both the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. Looking back at then-Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion’s 2008 attempt to form a similar alliance, it quickly fell apart and ultimately harmed Dion’s leadership, potentially helping the Conservatives in Harper to obtain their majority in 2011.

It’s also true that Poilievre’s Conservatives might struggle to govern without a majority. However, as Harper demonstrated after the 2006 and 2008 elections, there are opportunities to govern effectively without relying on a formal relationship like the one the Liberals and NDP have today, especially if the Conservatives have a significant lead over the party that came in second place in terms of seats.

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Finally, what about the NDP? An interesting finding from our poll is that support for the NDP has not increased despite the Liberals’ decline.

This is confusing given that the largest group of voters are NDP and Liberal voters. Disappointed Liberal voters do not seem to be turning to the NDP. The explanation probably lies in the government agreement that Singh and the NDP reached with the Liberals. As we have seen previously, junior partners in such governance arrangements often face the same challenges as their senior partners without reaping the electoral benefits.

In summary, the most recent poll indicates that the Conservatives are in a better position today than they have been since the 2015 election. However, unless they can increase their support in Ontario and in Quebec, the majority is not guaranteed in the next elections.

On the other hand, even though the Trudeau Liberals face significant challenges, they are still holding their own in Ontario. While this may not be enough to secure a majority or even a minority in the next election, it could potentially prevent Poilievre’s Conservatives from securing a majority.

The NDP appears to have found itself in an impa*se due to its governing relationship with the Liberals. Right now, it appears they have sacrificed the opportunity to attract a significant number of liberal shifters in the upcoming election.

Finally, the Bloc Québécois has the potential to become an important player after the next elections. The Liberals and Conservatives may need their support to some extent to form a government.

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