What Just Happened?

The Poll Report: Ekos Revenge

Canadians are unpacking their sweaters and scarves just as the federal election is heating up.

Between the Duffy trial, the Carson trial, the Brazeau trial, the Syrian refugee crisis, Pee-gate, the Uni-caller and a confusing economic outlook, there’s plenty of mud to fling. And most of it is aimed at Harper. But the guy just won’t go down.

Look at the polls. They’re going crazy! This is a three-way race and if you graph the tracking polls, the orange, red and blue lines are all twisted up. Didn’t these guys watch Ghostbusters? You’re not supposed to cross the streams!

And while that means the polls can’t as yet give us any idea which party is likely to form government, they do show that at least two out of every three Canadians are yearning for a change.

In fact, Ipsos reports that 71 per cent of voters are ready to toss Harper to the curb. Better late than never, amirite?

Despite all that discontent, a lot of pundits speculate the Conservatives are pulling ahead. And there are some signs in the polls that this could indeed be happening.

Ekos, for instance, now has the Conservatives in the lead with 31.8% national support, while the NDP trails with 29.6% and Liberals trail even further with 26.9%.

Sound grim? Well, Ipsos has the Conservatives in last place at 29 per cent and the NDP in the lead at 34 per cent. The Liberals are squeezed in the middle at 30 per cent. Sound better?

Mash all these numbers together and throw in some Nanos, Abacus, Forum and a few others — the way Eric Grenier does for the CBC’s Poll Tracker — and you get an aggregate of the polls putting the NDP in the lead with 31.2%, the Conservatives a smidgen behind with 30% and the Liberals just a hair behind that at 29.9%.

But when the Poll Tracker breaks those numbers apart to see what’s happening on a riding-by-riding basis, everything is twisted around. By average seat count, the Conservatives are in the lead with 122 seats in the House of Commons and 48 seats away from the 170 they need for a majority. The NDP are in second at 113 seats and the Liberals trail at 102 seats.

And just to complicate matters further, the gaps between the parties in all the polls fall within the margin of error. The Conservative’s seat-count lead could just be a phantom in the numbers. A scary, scary phantom.

And this is why voters need to exercise caution when following polls.

Personally, I still think we’re seeing the start of Harper’s last hurrah. Through the rest of the election, I figure he’ll start to fall further and further out of voters’ good graces (not to mention his party’s).

With all the various court trials of Harper’s various scheming associates, the Canuck mind is starting to wake up to just how corrupt things have gotten on the Conservative’s watch.

And Harper’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis has only succeeded in making his party look like a pack of callous jerks.

Overall, Ekos reports that 55 per cent of voters would like to see Canada put aside the bombs and begin helping refugees directly.
Only Conservative supporters seem less keen on this idea, as just 12 per cent of their party support pulling back on military action in Syria.

Still, it may be asking too much to hope that compassion or ethics will tip the electorate away from Harper as Ipsos reports a whopping 81 per cent of voters want to see a balanced budget.

Right now, Ipsos shows 39 per cent of Canadians think Mulcair is the best guy to handle the economy, while Harper places third, only scoring 29 per cent on this question. That’s a big switch from an April poll where Harper was ranked the best economic steward by a solid 45 per cent of Canadians.

But now that the numbers are in showing the Conservatives did manage to carve out a modest $1.4 billion surplus for 2015, people might warm to Harper as a money manager once again.

That he only managed to get the books in the black by raiding all the government’s cookie jars, selling off everything save the office furniture and somehow convincing half the civil service not to spend the money they’d been allocated, means this is hardly a sustainable return to surplus-ville.

But that likely won’t matter much to his core supporters who’ll point and say, “He balanced the budget!” and that’s as deep as they’ll think on the subject.

But let’s say everything works out and the Conservatives do lose, it seems Canadians don’t want to see him hang around in opposition. According to a recent Ipsos poll, 63 per cent of Canadians believe Harper should resign if the Conservatives lose. And while that just adds to the sense Canadians are ready to say good-bye to Harper, it’s worth noting that he and his party were sitting in an eerily similar position at this point in the game during the 2011 election campaign — and they managed to pull through and win a majority government.

One last disturbing trend: according to another Ipsos poll, four out of 10 Canadian voters struggle when differentiating between the parties, particularly the NDP and Liberals, saying they’re “basically the same”. Also, 54 per cent of Conservative supporters say they can’t tell the difference between the Liberals and the NDP (shocking, I know.)

See you in two weeks! /Ashley Rankin

Be like me and follow Éric Grenier’s seat projections on CBC’s Pollcast and follow the CBC Poll Tracker online, too. Grenier also has his own site, threehundredeight.com, which provides in-depth poll tracking.

2015-09-17