By Kait Bolongaro
“The Conservatives are traditionally strongest on these measures,” pollster Nik Nanos said by email. “In my experience, if the Conservatives are not seen as being better fiscal stewards than the Liberals, a Conservative win is not in the cards.”
Canada’s economy suffered an historic 5.4% contraction last year despite hundreds of billions in debt-financed spending from Trudeau’s government. But a surprisingly strong start to 2021 combined with a string of good news on vaccines leave the Liberals well positioned.
While the prime minister insists he doesn’t want an election, his move to shore up his front bench in January touched off speculation that he’s eager to try to win back the parliamentary majority he lost in 2019. The average lifespan of minority governments in Canada is about two years.
O’Toole, who won the Conservative leadership in August by wooing the party’s right flank but has since tacked to the center, is struggling to make an impression with voters.
The Nanos poll shows 35% of respondents in the energy-rich prairie provinces trust the Conservatives most on fiscal matters, but the Liberals have a commanding lead in every other region. O’Toole has to expand beyond his western base and appeal to voters in Ontario and Quebec, which combined account for more than three fifths of Canada’s population, if he’s to have any chance at defeating Trudeau.
A campaign could be triggered soon after the Liberal government presents its first full budget since the pandemic hit, likely next month. That document, and Conservative criticism of it, will prove key for both parties in trying win over the 26% of Canadians who say they don’t trust any political party with the nation’s finances.
The Nanos poll was a hybrid phone and online survey of 1,016 Canadians, conducted between Feb. 28 and March 4. It’s considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.