Abacus Data: Trudeau's Liberals in majority territory, but no guarantee

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OTTAWA — There has never been a better time to call a federal election in Canada, says Abacus Data CEO David Coletto, but for one wild card — the unpredictability of a fourth wave.

Federal politicians and their door knockers have already hit the campaign trail, though the official start is not expected until Sunday.

“Canadians are in a good mood, the government helped to successfully facilitate a global-leading vaccination effort, and it’s summer in Canada,” Coletto says of the conditions.

If an election were held now, the Liberals would be in majority territory with 37 percent of the vote, Abacus Data reports in a new poll Thursday morning. The Conservatives would secure 28 percent, the NDP 20 and the Green Party 5 percent.

In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois sits at 22 percent, 15 points behind the Liberals and down 9 points since earlier this month.

Canada’s top doctor warned just last week that the fourth wave of Covid had arrived, with more than 6 million eligible Canadians yet to be vaccinated.

“We’re in a slightly precarious period … in between people trying to get the vaccine in and reopening,” Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, advised. “As soon as that balance is tipped — and it wouldn’t take very much with a highly transmissible virus — you’re going to see an uptake in cases.”

And yet fresh polling from Abacus Data on Thursday suggests 83 percent of Canadians would not be overly concerned about an early-election call.

What about that fourth wave of Covid?

Two-thirds of Canadians polled told Abacus it would have no influence on their vote, though 20 percent reported that they’d be angry enough not to vote Liberal. As for the rest, they said they’d be more likely to vote in the government’s favor given its track record on the pandemic.

“I wouldn’t say a majority is a guarantee,” Coletto tells POLITICO. “But they are certainly as close to a majority as they have been since the last election — minus the early days of the pandemic, when they wouldn’t have dared call an election.”

If the election call is imminent — as is widely expected — Canadians will be in a better mood than they were at the start of the 2019 campaign, Abacus Data reports.

“Forty-six percent think the country is headed in the right direction,” the pollster says. “This is near the highest it has been in over five years and 11 points higher than at the start of the 2019 campaign.”

The 2019 election reduced the Liberal government to a minority status in the House of Commons — always a dance with opposition parties, but never as delicate as during a global pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s early-election call — ahead of the next fixed-election date in 2023 — would be driven by a desire to return to majority status, no matter how he justifies it.

About half of the people Abacus surveyed think the Liberals would win a fall vote, about 20 percent picked Conservatives, and 9 percent chose the NDP. The rest were unsure.

The Abacus survey pressed respondents about preferences. Almost 65 percent said they’d like some sort of Liberal government over Conservative; 36 percent said their first choice would be Conservative over Liberal.

The prime minister’s schedule indicates he’s back from a short holiday and occupied with private meetings on Thursday.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have been on the trail and also arguing that now is not the time for a campaign.

“The risk of a backlash from an election seems small,” Coletto tells POLITICO. “But that doesn’t mean a Liberal victory is a foregone conclusion.”

The Abacus poll suggests Trudeau and Singh are in stronger “reputational shape” than they were at the start of the last campaign. O’Toole is in a worse position than his previous party leader, the poll suggests.

For these reasons, Coletto suggests keeping an eye on Singh: “He’s the most popular leader, and the NDP’s pool of accessible voters is larger today than when the 2019 campaign started.”

The Abacus survey was conducted Aug. 6-11 among 3,000 Canadian adults. Read more about the methodology here.

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