The so-called “freedom convoy” that blocked Parliament Hill and several Canada-U.S. border crossings may have dispersed earlier this year, but it won’t be leaving our political conversation anytime soon. At least, not if opponents of the federal Conservative Party and their new leader, Pierre Poilievre, have anything to say about it.
The most recent polling Ipsos conducted for Global News shows why.
The party most interested in reminding Canadians about ties between the convoy and Pierre Poilievre will be the Liberal Party. Why? The Liberals are in a very difficult spot. They currently trail the Conservatives in the national popular vote by five points. The Conservatives also lead the Liberals in all regions of the country west of Quebec, with a stunning seven-point lead in seat-rich Ontario. With these numbers, if an election were held tomorrow, the Conservatives would easily win a plurality of seats.
It gets worse for the Liberals.
Justin Trudeau trails Pierre Poilievre as preferred prime minister by about the same amount as the Liberal Party trails the Conservative Party on vote. Most worrying for the prime minister is how high his negatives are. Canadians who strongly disapprove of Trudeau outnumber those who strongly approve of him by a ratio of four-to-one. These negatives are also well ahead of those of Poilievre, who remains largely unknown to a significant number of Canadians.
Trudeau’s relationship with Canadians has gone through the full cycle of Ds: darling, to disappointment, to dislike. This situation will be difficult to reverse, even for a gifted politician like Trudeau.
Poilievre overtakes Trudeau as leader seen as best choice for prime minister: poll
Further on leadership, two data points jump out of the polling on how Canadians view Trudeau and Poilievre. Trudeau leads Poilievre by 16 points on which federal leader is most likely to “be in over his head.” This is astounding given that Trudeau has been prime minister for seven years and Canadians barely know Poilievre.
As worrying for the Liberals is that Poilievre and Trudeau are separated by only two points on which leader is most likely to have a hidden agenda. In the past, this issue has proven to be an Achilles Heel for the Conservatives. Not so much for the new Conservative leader.
If the Liberals can’t count on their governing record or the strength of their leader to provide them with an advantage going into the next election, then what about their strengths on policy? Unfortunately, there isn’t much for them to work with here either.
We asked Canadians about which issues they are most focused on for the next election. The top five that came back are: health care, the economy, housing, inflation/interest rates, and taxes. Unfortunately for the Liberals, the Conservatives lead on all these issues with the exception of health care, where there is a three-way tie. Even on the sixth issue, climate, a signature issue for the Liberals, the Liberals are tied with the NDP. In other words, the policy door is closed for the Liberals too.
If the Liberals can’t count on their record, their leader, or a specific policy issue to defeat the Conservatives in the next election then how will they win a fourth mandate? This is where the convoy comes back in. The poll shows Poilievre’s support of the protesters is a potential vulnerability available for the Liberals to exploit. The Liberals are too good at running effective, disciplined, and ruthless election campaigns to miss it.
Conservatives hold 5-point lead on Liberals among Canada’s decided voters after Poilievre elected leader: poll
Ipsos asked Canadians the following question: “As you know, Pierre Poilievre, the new leader of the Conservative Party, expressed his support for the freedom convoy protests that occurred in Ottawa and at border crossings last year. Are you more or less likely to vote for the Conservative Party because of his stance on this issue?”
Seventeen per cent of Canadians told us they would be more likely to vote for the Conservatives because of Poilievre’s support for the truckers. Conversely, 41 per cent said they would be less likely to vote for the Conservatives due to Poilievre’s position. Most importantly though, 41 per cent said Poilievre’s stance on the truckers would have no impact on their future vote.
If the numbers on the convoy continue as they are, then this issue won’t have much influence on the outcome of the next election. That’s because 58 per cent of Canadians either support Poilievre’s position or say it won’t factor into their vote.
The Liberals will not allow this much fence sitting to continue without challenge. They will push voters to pick a side. If the fence sitters split in the same ratio (roughly 2:1 to unfavourable) as those who have already made up their minds, then the Liberals will have something to work with. That’s why they will go all in on making the truck convoy and various adjacent issues the focus of their campaign. Otherwise, they can only wait for Poilievre to make a serious error or for some crisis to change their prospects. Nearly a decade in power has left the Liberals little else to work with.
Darrell Bricker is CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs.