Polls suggest Conservative government lost ground, confidence in 2013

Matthew Coutts
Canada's PM Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

It hasn't been a banner year for the governing Conservative Party of Canada. The reasons are myriad and well-known at this point – starting with a man named Justin Trudeau and a re-awakened Liberal opposition, progressing through a variety of infighting and of course the Senate scandal.

And so it is no surprise that 2013 would come to a close with polls suggesting those troubled waters could mean rough sailing ahead for Stephen Harper and his ilk.

Two separate polls suggest confidence is waning in the Conservative government, with unhappiness in Prime Minister Stephen Harper playing a key role. A Nanos Research poll found that 55 per cent of respondents believe Harper's Conservatives did a poor job in 2013 – a significant increase from 33 per cent last year and 25 per cent in 2011.

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Meantime, an Ipsos Reid poll released on Monday finds that fewer Canadians believe the Conservative majority government is "working well." The poll suggests that 40 per cent of Canadians are still on side with Harper's progress, down from 44 per cent last December.

While a mere four-point dip isn't much to lose sleep over, the survey also found that more Canadians are convinced that the Liberals will someday return to power – 70 per cent this year, up from 56 per cent last year, before Trudeau was elected leader.

Under Trudeau, the floundering Liberals have regained momentum. They now rank first in public approval polls and are competing with the Conservatives when it comes to collecting donations.

Most notably, Trudeau also ranks the highest when it comes to the leader most Canadians "agree" with. Forty-eight per cent of Canadians say they share Trudeau's values, with 37 per cent saying they share the values of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. Thirty-nine per cent of Canadians said they share Harper's values, down five points from last year.

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Still, polls are one thing and elections are another beast entirely. There has been some chatter that the Tories will call an election as early as this year, instead of waiting until the scheduled 2015 date, presumably in a bid to catch the opposition off guard and, frankly, cash in before things can get any worse.

An Ekos Research poll recently suggested that a 2014 election would be a three-way toss up, with each party hovering below 30 per cent support among likely voters.

A few more interesting findings from the Ipsos poll:

  • The number of Canadians who believe an opposition party can defeat the Conservatives on their own increased from 49 per cent to 57 per cent this year.
  • 43 per cent agree that Harper's approach to politics "has been good for Canada."
  • 39 per cent feel Harper's approach "has been good for Parliament"
  • 41 per cent of Canadians feel Harper should run again in the next election, scheduled for 2015.
  • 44 per cent feel the Liberal Party is ready to be Canada's next government and fewer, 39 per cent, believe Trudeau is ready to be prime minister.
  • 38 per cent of Canadians believe the NDP is ready to form the next government

It is interesting that the Ipsos poll would find that 70 per cent of Canadians are expecting a Liberal government eventually, 44 per cent think they are ready to be the next government and even fewer believe Trudeau is ready to be PM.

That alone should giving the Conservatives hope in the short term, even as their numbers lag and support wavers.