Is it time for the Conservatives to start panicking over polls showing a rising Liberal Party? Damn right it is.
Let’s be honest here and say that the polls are erratic.
Ekos released new numbers this week showing a decent Conservative lead nationally (35.1% CPC, 30.9% LPC, 22.2% NDP). That contradicts Ipsos which released a poll Monday showing the Conservatives with a narrow lead (33% CPC, 32% LPC, 26% NDP).
Meanwhile, Mainstreet says the Conservatives are far in the lead (37% CPC, 29% LPC, 24% NDP).
That should be fine, no need to panic, right? Wrong.
With varied results like that a sensible person might just throw their hands up in the air or repeat the oft cited quip that polls are for dogs.
Here is the thing, despite these varied national numbers the polls show one trend that has to be worrying for the Conservatives and that is the rise of the Liberals in Ontario.
Nanos has been showing a steady rise for the Liberals in the most populous province in the country and the home of a little more than one-third of the seats in Parliament. Having travelled Eastern Ontario, the Toronto area and the suburbs surrounding it, the Nanos numbers on the Liberal rise made little sense to me.
Then the Ipsos numbers came out showing a collapse of the NDP vote in the 905 regions surrounding Toronto. It’s not that Conservatives were sinking said Ipsos, it’s that the NDP vote was evaporating, running back to Trudeau and the Liberals.
New Democrats have been telling me for some time that Ontario has been a tough nut for them to crack, even as fortunes have turned elsewhere, the ghost of Bob Rae’s provincial NDP government has been haunting NDP candidates at the door.
The crack Mulcair made about Bob Rae during the Munk Debate, it wasn’t an accident.
If NDP, or generally left leaning voters are moving to the Liberals in large numbers in Ontario this has to worry the Conservatives.
I still maintain that there is no real national trend this election – the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies and BC are five distinct campaigns and even within them there are different areas, different trends.
But with 121 seats Ontario matters greatly.
In 2011 the Conservatives took 73 of 106 seats in Ontario, this time out the Liberals hope to take 70 of what is now 121 seats in Ontario. To get there the Liberals are using the machine and the blueprint laid out by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
If the Liberals come close to 70 seats in Ontario then they come close to forming government. With strength in Atlantic Canada, a return of some – though not that many – seats in Quebec and even pick-ups in Manitoba, Alberta and BC, the Liberals start to move from dead to a path to victory.
The NDP have to be scared of this as well.
If the numbers in Ontario continue on this path then long held NDP seats in places like Hamilton and more recent additions like Welland are in trouble, so is Tom Mulcair’s time as opposition leader.
Too many people, even in the media party commentariat, see the NDP and Liberals as being on the same team – progressive, anti-Harper. That is a mistake.
The NDP and Liberals hate each other, especially now.
To the NDP a Liberal win is as bad as a Conservative win, possibly worse because it would certainly mean their return to third place status.
What is that old NDP slogan? Liberal, Tory, same old story.
In fact, Mulcair is now starting the claim the other two leaders are essentially the same, hoping to bring back voters that have moved to Trudeau.
Expect a major play in these last two weeks from the NDP as well as the Conservatives all aimed at taking down Trudeau.
In addition to tying Trudeau to Harper, Mulcair will claim not only is Trudeau not ready but that he won’t stand up for Canadian jobs and fight against the Trans Pacific Partnership deal.
Fighting the just announced trade deal will be a focus for Mulcair until October 19.
Stephen Harper will spend his time touting his economic record and promoting the benefits of the TPP, the opportunities for Canadian business. But as Harper talks trade and economics look for others to play wedge politics. Of course the media will mostly ask him about niqab, but he is talking the economy.
Why wedge Trudeau? Because Trudeau is weak on terrorism, he doesn’t support fighting ISIS, he backs the wearing of face veils during citizenship ceremonies, he opposes stripping dual nationals convicted of terrorist offences of their Canadian citizenship.
While those issues don’t resonate with the media party in Ottawa or those on the campaign trail, they do resonate with Canadians of all parties. Look at our poll on citizenship revocation – 84% across the country support it.
This election is not over, not by a long shot -- but the trend of the Liberal rise in Ontario dictates what must happen in the closing days.
By the way, last election I said live on Sun News, during our election night coverage, that the Conservatives would win 165 seats. They took 166.
I’ll update my call during The Rebel’s election coverage on October 19.
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