As they gear up to unveil their 2023 budget in a few weeks, the federal Liberals are in an uphill battle against the Conservatives in both ballot support and preferred prime minister numbers, according to Nanos Research.
With health care still the top national issue of concern for Canadians, the Liberals in January and beginning of February were enjoying a significant uptick in public support — with their health-care funding deals with the provinces prominently in the headlines.
It resulted in positive movement for them in Nanos’ weekly ballot tracking over a four-week period, said Nanos Research Chair Nik Nanos on the latest episode of CTV News Trend Line.
“But what we’ve now seen in the last number of weeks is that the Liberal numbers are going down,” said Nanos.
Nanos weekly ballot support tracking as of March 15, 2023.
There was no significant change for Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives over the past four weeks, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took a five-percentage point dip.
“What’s happening right now is the Conservative numbers are holding,” said Nanos, while “there’s been downward pressure on the Liberals.” He added that “any number for the Liberals that has a ‘two’ in front of it is bad news [for them].”
VOTE SPLIT SCENARIO
The NDP numbers, meanwhile, remain flat, while the Bloc Quebecois are up a few percentage points to nine per cent nationally.
“Nine per cent nationally for the Bloc is actually significantly higher in the province of Quebec,” said Nanos. And with the NDP in the twenties and the Bloc up, “that’s the scenario that creates vote splits,” said Nanos.
“It creates vote splits in Quebec, it creates vote splits in Ontario, in British Columbia; and those vote splits usually hurt the Liberals and they help when it comes to generating seats both for federal Conservatives and the New Democrats.”
PREFERRED PRIME MINISTER
When it comes to leadership and public support, the Liberals find themselves in a similar downward trend as their ballot numbers. Historically, long-term trends show the prime minister with a “baked-in” four- or five-point advantage simply because they’re the head of government.
“But when you check out the trend right now, you can see almost a perfect statistical dead heat between Justin Trudeau in Pierre Poilevre,” said Nanos.
Nanos’ Preferred Prime Minister numbers as of March 15, 2023.
“Trudeau’s down four or five points in the last four weeks. Pierre Polievre’s up two. Jagmeet Singh is at 16, which isn’t a bad number for the New Democrats,” said Nanos, adding that “whenever you’re the incumbent prime minister and you don’t have an advantage over your challenger, that’s bad news.”
STAKES HIGH FOR LIBERALS IN UPCOMING BUDGET
The federal budget due on March 28 could be an opportunity for the Liberals to turn things around, and Nanos said the “stakes are quite high” for Trudeau’s minority Liberals.
“Every budget is important for whoever the government of the day happens to be, because it’s usually a platform to dominate the narrative in the news and get your message out,” said Nanos. But the complicating factor for the Liberals is their agreement with the NDP to support the minority Liberal government on key votes in the House of Commons to avoid triggering an election.
“The big question is, what will there be in the federal budget that the Liberals will have, to placate or ameliorate the New Democrats? And what will [NDP Leader] Jagmeet Singh be asking for? I think the reality is that the NDP are probably going to support the budget, regardless, because I’m not sure if they want an election right now. But depending on how closely the Liberals appease or not appease the New Democrats, that’ll probably be the first signal as to how long this particular parliament could last.”
Watch the full episode of Trend Line in our video player at the top of this article. You can also listen in our audio player below, or wherever you get your podcasts. The next episode comes out Wednesday, March 29, the day after the federal budget is released.