Conservative Party Gaining Support as Seat Projection Shows Close Race

The Conservatives Party of Canada continues to show signs it gained support ahead of the Liberals Party in ballot support and has also all but erased the previous Liberal lead in projected seats, according to nightly tracking conducted by Nanos Research.

With just three weeks to go until the September 20 federal election votes, tracking data ending Sunday and released Monday morning shows the Liberals projected to win 111 seats versus 107 for the Conservatives, a sharp change from an August 22 projection that had the Liberals ahead of the Conservatives 128 to 94. A projection from June had the Liberals at 171 seats versus 59 for the Conservatives.

“Check out the trendline, it’s basically a rocket for the Conservatives,” Mr. Nanos said on Friday’s edition of CTV’s Trend Line podcast. It’s basically a tie for all intents and purposes.”

The data projects 31 seats for the NDP and 9 seats for the Bloc Quebecois. It also shows 79 seats considered too close to call, providing plenty of room for the results to shift before the election.

The narrowing seat projection follows substantial gains by the Conservatives in ballot preference during the campaign, which began on Aug. 15. The latest results show the Conservatives in the lead at 32.7 percent, followed by the Liberals at 31.3 percent.

However, the near-tie in the seat projection marks a departure from the 2019 election, in which the Conservatives narrowly won the popular vote, but took only 95 seats to the Liberals’ 121.

“Conservative support is much better distributed in this particular election than in previous elections,” said Mr. Nanos. “The old structural advantage of the Liberals is not as strong.”

He also attributed the better showing to Erin O’Toole’s increasing appeal as a potential leader and his positioning on issues such as mental health and on reproductive rights, where he is pro-choice.

Indeed, Mr. O’Toole’s support as a potential leader has been gaining steadily, from 24.0 percent on August   23 to 27.9 percent in the most recent result. Trudeau has seen his support decline from 32.7 percent to 30.4 percent in the same period.

“(O’Toole’s positioning) has probably broadened the potential for the Conservative Party in a lot of different parts of the country,” said Nanos.

The tracking shows the NDP holding steady at 20.0 percent of ballot support, while the Green Party sits at 5.9 percent, the Bloc is at 5.8 percent, and the People’s Party of Canada holds 3.6 percent support.

While the PPC has consistently polled in the last place, the party’s ballot support has remained steady in recent tracking, while leader Maxime Bernier’s preferred candidate results have strengthened to 4.0 percent in the most recent tracking, ahead of Green Leader Annamie Paul at 2.0 percent, and Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet at 2.6 percent.

Mr. Bernier’s libertarian-style campaign has stood apart from other candidates, as he has spoken out against lockdowns and vaccine passports, and is the only major political leader to not have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Mr. Nanos pointed out that Bernier will not be included in the leaders’ debates on Sept. 8 and 9, which means some of the support could flow to other parties in the actual election.

“I think (PPC support) is a parking space for some disaffected and angry voters. It’s probably also a parking space for some folks that don’t like mandatory vaccinations,” said Mr. Nanos.

Instead, Mr. Nanos predicted a potential debate storyline could be a breakout for the NDP if Leader Jagmeet Singh turns in a strong performance.

“Because the race is closer, much more competitive, I think a lot more Canadians are going to tune into the debate,’” he said.

Mr. Nanos said the key for Singh would be to turn progressive voters who may have voted Liberal previously, but who are wondering if they want to stick with Mr. Trudeau.

“Jagmeet Singh has been in a number of debates and has done well in past leaders’ debates, so there will probably be an expectation that he’ll do well in the debate,” said Mr. Nanos.

Another question for the debate is whether Trudeau will use it as an opportunity to attack the Conservatives over crowds of anti-vaccine protesters that have dogged the Liberal campaign and forced the cancellation of a planned rally in Bolton, Ont. over security concerns.

Mr. Nanos noted that Trudeau’s response to the protests so far has been measured on the issue.

“There’s no use in attacking O’Toole and trying to draw him out on this when Canadians might not be paying as much attention as they will during the debate,” said Mr. Nanos. “I think Trudeau’s trying to keep his powder dry and probably even if there are more disruptions will just… wait for the debate to take to try to land a big punch on Erin O’Toole.”

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