Since Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley swept the election this past spring, Thomas Mulcair’s Federal NDP’s polling numbers have consistently moved upwards. Currently, the NDP and the Conservatives are nearly running neck and neck for the support of Canadians in the upcoming election, according to a new Nanos Research poll that suggests the New Democrats have even more room for growth.
The new ballot-question results from the July 21, 2015 poll put the NDP at 31.4%, while the Conservatives have 30.8% support and Trudeau’s Liberals have 26.8%. The Liberals are leading in Atlantic Canada and are in a tight three-way race in BC, while the Conservatives had the most support in the Prairies and Ontario. The NDP is leading in Quebec and finished second in all other regions.
Prior to becoming Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau was much better known to the public than Thomas Mulcair. While his notoriety certainly helped the Liberals, opinions on Trudeau have always been strong until recently. Trudeau’s approval and disapproval ratings are nearly even throughout most of Canada, and his ratings remain higher than his party. Due to his approval ratings dropping and his disapproval ratings increasing, Justin Trudeau is the most polarizing of the three leaders. Only in Alberta and Atlantic Canada, where Trudeau’s approval rating is 29% and 50% respectively, do voters have a consensus opinion on him. This gives Trudeau less margin of error. Yet, Trudeau remains significantly more popular than his party in every part of the country. If the Liberal Party matched Trudeau’s approval ratings at the ballot box, they’d likely win a majority government, and the same goes for Mulcair and the NDP.
“It speaks to the fact that Mulcair is still a work in progress,” Nick Nanos told the Globe and Mail. “He’s got momentum, and he’s doing much better than he was three months ago… But this speaks to the importance of any attack ads and his ability to stand up to any scrutiny as he becomes a contender.”
Mulcair said the NDP would work with the Liberals if it meant ousting Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but the Liberals are not even entertaining the idea. Mulcair said on July 23, 2015 that his party has always seen the defeat of the Harper Conservatives as a priority. “We know that they’ve done a lot of harm, and we want to start repairing the damage that [Harper's] done,” Mulcair said from Amherstburg, Ontario where he stopped as part of an eight-day tour. “We’ve always worked with others in the past, but every time I’ve raised this prospect with Justin Trudeau, he’s slammed the door on it.”
The Liberal leader did that again that same day in Winnipeg when asked about the possibility of a formal coalition with the Mulcair’s NDP. “Although of course we are open to working with all parties in the House to pass good legislation and to ensure that Canadians’ interests are served, there will be no formal coalition with the NDP,” Trudeau said. “There are fundamental differences of opinion on very important elements of policy, whether it be Canadian unity or the Canadian economy and the need for growth, that we disagree with the NDP on.”
Mulcair reminded reporters of the possibility of a coalition government to oust the Conservatives in 2008. “The NDP said we were willing to make Stephane Dion the prime minister,” said Mulcair. “We thought it was important to replace Mr. Harper’s Conservatives. The Liberals signed a deal. They walked away from it. And, seven years later, we’ve still got Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.” The efforts were actually thwarted by the Governor General at the prime minister’s request when Parliament was prorogued, putting the coalition efforts on pause until the new year, by which time there had been a change in Liberal leadership. The deal between the Liberals and the NDP only would have been possible by including the separatist Bloc Quebecois. That was unacceptable to many Liberals.
NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, Nathan Cullen, raised the issue again in an interview on July 22, 2015. He said winning a majority in a federal election expected this fall remains his party’s goal, but ultimately the party’s number one priority is toppling Harper. “The Liberal voters that I know are as fed up with Stephen Harper as anybody,” Cullen said. “Justin Trudeau will do himself a great deal of damage with progressive voters if he wants to contemplate more years of this Harper government.”
There are several possible results on election day. Canada could see another wave of an Orange Crush that could result in an NDP government led by Mulcair. That same wave could also be concerning for many voters who feel that the NDP are anti-business, and that could push Liberal votes towards Harper’s Conservatives if the Liberal Party’s polling numbers do not match Trudeau’s popularity. On the other hand, if Harper and his Conservatives start sliding in the polls, we could end up seeing a Trudeau led Liberal government instead.
Voters are expected to go to the polls on Oct. 19, as per Canada’s fixed-election-date law.