TORONTO — The Liberals’ repeated attacks against the Conservatives concerning Canada’s public health-care system might be working, in the words of Nanos Research’s Nik Nanos, who says the party has been enjoying increasing support in recent days.
According to the latest nightly tracking conducted by Nanos Research for CTV News and The Globe and Mail, support for the Liberals is at 35.9 per cent, the Conservatives are at 32.7 per cent, and the NDP have dropped down to 16.8 per cent.
It’s a notable shift from last week’s polling data that showed the Conservatives gaining momentum during the first week of the campaign.
So what’s changed?
Nanos suspects the Liberals’ recent focus on health care may be partly responsible for the changing tide.
On Sunday, Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland posted an edited video clip of Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole speaking about health care in July 2020 on Twitter. In the clip, O’Toole expressed support for exploring more private, for-profit options in Canada’s health-care system.
The clip was later flagged by Twitter as “manipulated media” after it was revealed that O’Toole’s subsequent comment that “universal access remains paramount” had been edited out.
Despite the ensuing uproar over the clip, the Liberals doubled down this week and continued to suggest that a Conservative government would threaten Canada’s universal public health-care system, despite O’Toole’s assurances to the contrary.
“Maybe this is working,” Nanos said on Wednesday’s edition of CTV’s Trend Line podcast. “We talked about in the past that last week was about the Liberals and their numbers suffered… didn’t we say they were going to throw the kitchen sink and the kitchen table and the chairs? Well, they did. It looks like that’s in the form of a health-care attack on Erin O’Toole.”
Nanos said it will be interesting to see whether O’Toole’s popularity suffers in the coming days due to the line attack from the Liberals and if he will be able to hold on to the gains he made during week one of the campaign.
“Erin O’Toole is still doing well compared to the past for him, but he is trailing Justin Trudeau on the preferred prime minister front,” he said.
The nightly tracking data for preferred prime minister shows Trudeau ahead with 34.5 per cent support, O’Toole with 26.9 per cent, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh trailing at 17.6 per cent.
“O’Toole is doing better than he did 10 days ago, he’s about nine points better than he was 10 days ago, but still trailing on that front,” Nanos said.
LIBERALS UP; NDP DOWN
While the Liberals’ support appears to be trending in a positive direction, Nanos said the opposite is true for the NDP.
According to the nightly tracking data over the past couple of days, the NDP’s share of support has decreased as the Liberals’ share has increased.
“What’s interesting is that there may be a new trend emerging. You can see in the last couple nights, the Liberal numbers going up, the NDP numbers starting to trend down,” he said. “They’re mirror images of themselves.”
A possible explanation for this divergence?
Nanos said the topic of health care, again, could be why the NDP is losing support. As the Liberals attack the Conservatives on this file, the NDP’s support bleeds to them because voters who believe the Liberals’ claims might vote strategically to prevent a Tory win.
If the NDP goes after the Conservatives on health care themselves, Nanos said they might run into the same problem.
“The challenge for Jagmeet Singh is if he attacks the Conservatives, he might drive his own supporters to the Liberals in this kind of weird and tormented world of strategic voting, because the rest of voters will be worried about the Conservatives potentially winning the or being competitive in this election,” he said.
Nanos said the best course of action for Singh and the NDP is to highlight their own policies on health care, independent of the other parties.
“I think what he has to do, perhaps, is to advance his own vision for health care, distinct from the Liberals, firmly planting I’ll call it the public health care universal Access Flag on the NDP political turf and to have what I’ll say the high ground on this policy issue,” he said.
A national random telephone survey (land- and cellular-line sample using live agents) of 1,200 Canadians is conducted by Nanos Research throughout the campaign over a three-day period. Each evening a new group of 400 eligible voters are interviewed. The daily tracking figures are based on a three-day rolling sample comprising 1,200 interviews. To update the tracking a new day of interviewing Is added and the oldest day dropped. The margin of error for a survey of 1,200 respondents is ± 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The respondent sample is stratified geographically and by gender. The data may be weighted by age according to data from the 2016 Canadian Census administered by Statistics Canada. Percentages reported may not add up to 100 due to rounding.