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Previously Frozen Political Landscape Now Moving in Favour of Liberals


[Ottawa – May 7, 2021] In a new poll, the relative stability of the political landscape appears to have been disrupted by a sharp rise in public belief that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. As vaccine rollout rises dramatically, the fortunes of the Conservative Party, who had staked out a view that the vaccine rollout was going to be calamitously distant in the future, are falling in lockstep.

The numbers are particularly troubling for Mr. O’Toole’s new leadership of the Conservative Party. His main strategic thrusts, to move the party to more moderate centre terrain, to admonish the Liberals for a disastrous vaccine procurement performance and to pursue the working class and union vote, have all been singularly ineffective to date.

The wager that the vaccine delivery would be worse than promised by the Liberals has turned out to be the opposite in reality. The move to a more moderate centrist conservatism may pay off in the future but, so far, it appears to have resuscitated the moribund People’s Party, who have seen their fortunes rising dramatically since a terrible election outing. Finally, the Conservatives have lost their previous leadership with self-defined working-class voters and now lead only with upper-class voters. All in all, these strategies see Mr. O’Toole fully eight points behind the popular vote than what Mr. Scheer secured in the last election with no evidence that any of his strategic directions are yielding any fruit.

For the Liberals, the key to their newly commanding position seems to link to a rapid shift in outlook on whether the worst of the pandemic is ahead or behind us. Only two months ago, by a two-to-one margin, Canadians felt the worst was still ahead (this was caused by the onset of the third wave of the pandemic). Now, those figures have reversed again (very recently); undoubtedly buoyed by a much better than expected rollout of the vaccines. It would appear that under-promising and over-delivering has worked very well for the Liberals and that projecting exaggerated calamity has turned out to be a bad wager for the Conservatives.

If this is indeed the underlying force explaining the recent shift in the political winds, it may well add impetus to Liberals’ thoughts of a midsummer election. Furthering that case is the regional distribution of the vote preferences. With commanding leads in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic, the Liberals would have the foundations for a strong majority. The Conservatives are still caught in their Alberta and Saskatchewan fortresses, but their diminished voter base may see some of the defectors who have gone to the People’s Party not feeling the need to return to the Conservatives in any late campaign if they see this as a futile attempt to prevent an inevitable Liberal victory.

Also notable is the resurgence of the previously moribund NDP. They have risen to around 20 points (not far off the margin of error from the position of the flagging Conservative Party). Notably, the NDP rise is rooted in a very strong performance with under-35 voters. The NDP have also been buoyed by private union voters.

Finally, the Bloc Québécois appear to be doing poorly in Quebec, but this may be a temporary lull. What seems to be driving Liberals fortunes upward in Quebec is relatively high satisfaction with federal performance on the pandemic in general and in terms of vaccine procurement in particular.

All in all, these newer shifts and forces are coming into alignment for the Liberals and they may not persist until the fall when any celebration of the end of the pandemic might fade as sticker shock at the lingering costs of the measures to deal with the crisis begins to set in. Therefore, do not be surprised a by a midsummer election.


This survey was conducted using High Definition Interactive Voice Response (HD-IVR™) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator. In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, we created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, we are able to reach those with a landline and cell phone, as well as cell phone only households and landline only households.

The field dates for this survey are April 30-May 6, 2021. In total, a random sample of 1,808 Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, and region to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.

Please click here for a copy of the questionnaire that was used for this survey.

Please click here for a copy of the data tables.

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