Federal Politics: Liberals open more daylight over CPC; but opposition leaders seen as better on core issues

Federal Politics: Liberals open more daylight over CPC; but opposition leaders seen as better on core issues

Trudeau preferred on COVID-19, O’Toole leads on economic issues, Singh on affordability and poverty

August 5, 2021 – The threat of a fourth wave of COVID-19, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, has Canadian governments and health officials pulling out all the stops to get their constituents fully vaccinated against the virus.

So far, however, it has had little effect on the march towards what is expected to be a September general election.

The latest data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds the Liberal Party holding a five-point advantage over the opposition Conservatives, as pandemic management rises in the minds of Canadians as an issue critical to them, and the country.

Indeed, COVID-19 management is up nine points since last week as a top priority for Canadians. It now ranks just behind climate change and health-care policy as the clear top three issues facing the nation.

Asked which of the main federal party leaders they prefer on ten core federal issues, Prime Minister Trudeau leads by a considerable margin on COVID-19 management – but holds an advantage in no other area.

For Erin O’Toole, the economy is a strength. While he holds a favourable view among just 27 per cent of Canadians, the opposition leader is the top choice to handle the economy, the deficit and the natural resource file.

Meantime, Canada’s most favourably viewed federal leader, the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh (48{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}), is preferred on a number of issues – housing affordability, income inequality, Indigenous affairs and immigration.

More Key Findings:

  • 38 per cent of Canadians view Prime Minister Trudeau favourably – unchanged from the previous week. Over half (58{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}) view him unfavourably (see detailed tables)
  • The top five federal priorities for Canadians are climate change (35{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}), health care (33{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}), COVID-19 (31{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}), the deficit (25{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}) and housing affordability (26{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a})


About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.



Part One: Priorities of Canadians

Part Two: Leadership on important issues

  • Who’s best on top issues?

  • O’Toole best on economic issues

  • Singh preferred on social governance

Part Three: Vote intention

  • Four-in-five say they’re committed to their vote already

  • NDP tops ‘second choice’ preference


Part One: Priorities of Canadians

With wildfires raging across the interior of B.C. and northwestern Ontario, and a fourth wave of COVID-19 threatening communities across the country, many Canadians are likely less keyed into election speculation than pundits and politicos. That said, there are core issues on which the Liberal government and its challengers will be evaluated if and when Canadians head to the polls, which are very much commanding Canadians’ attention.

Asked which issues facing the federal government they care most, Canadians identify climate change, health care and the COVID-19 response. Economic issues loom large as well. One-quarter say that the deficit, housing affordability, and the economy are among their top concerns:

The biggest change in tracking on these issues is the re-appearance of COVID-19 in the top three, after a brief reprieve. Uncertainty over the impact of the Delta variant, which is running rampant around the globe, is affecting Canadian perspectives:

While health care, COVID-19 and the environment are relatively consistent as top concerns from region to region, residents in Alberta and Saskatchewan are focused on the federal deficit and economic recovery at much higher rates:

Though COVID-19 registers as a major issue everywhere except in Alberta and Saskatchewan, only one party’s supporters rank it highly amongst their concerns. It’s the top priority for Liberal supporters, who rank the pandemic alongside the environment and health care as their top three. Likely NDP voters are more concerned with housing affordability and income inequality, while likely Conservative voters lean heavily toward economic issues:


Part Two: Leadership on important issues

Who’s best on top issues?

One key aspect of a potential federal election campaign for the Liberal Party will be its pandemic management. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, alongside top doctor Theresa Tam and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, have been the national face of the response over the past year and a half. Asked which federal party leader is best suited to deal with COVID-19, Trudeau is the clear preference. Trudeau doubles his closest contender on this file – Erin O’Toole (34{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a} to 16{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}).

That’s the good news for Justin Trudeau. The bad news is that this is the only file among ten canvassed on which the prime minister leads. On health care, Trudeau is in a deadlock with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh as to who is best. Singh holds a small advantage on climate change – though notably, he is tied with “none of them” as best to lead on this file:

O’Toole best on economic issues

While his favourability ratings remain low overall, Erin O’Toole has emerged as the top choice among Canadians for handling energy and economic issues – traditionally a Conservative Party strength, and notably, as detailed above, a top concern amongst the party’s likely supporters.

One-in-three Canadians (32{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}) believe that the CPC leader is best suited to managing the national deficit and government spending. For his part, Erin O’Toole has promised that the Conservative Party would balance the budget over the next decade. This will be an immense challenge as the nation’s projected debt ballooned to record levels this year.

O’Toole has made the economy a central part of his pre-campaign pitch — including proposing significant fiscal reforms aimed at ending the “mistreatment of Western Canadians.”

Related: What unites & defines the “West”?

Singh preferred on social governance

Each of the three main federal party leaders evidently has his strengths and weaknesses. For NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, he is seen as the best equipped to tackle a range of socio-economic issues.

When it comes to housing affordability, a top concern in key ridings in British Columbia and Ontario, over a quarter (27{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}) of Canadians think Jagmeet Singh would do the best job.

Singh also emerges as a clear favourite on questions of income inequality and poverty. One-in-three Canadians (34{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}) tap the leader of the NDP as the top person for the job, fully 20 percentage points above either Erin O’Toole or Justin Trudeau.

While details on exactly how the NDP might approach these issues remain scarce, they have promised to bring in an excess profit tax on large corporations and to use this money to support small businesses.

Part Three: Vote intention

The Liberal Party holds a five-point advantage in vote intention over the opposition Conservatives. Thirty-five per cent of Canadians currently say they will vote for Justin Trudeau’s party, while three-in-10 say they will support the Conservatives. The NDP continue to garner support from one-in-five intended voters:

The five-point gap between the Liberals and the Conservatives is the largest noted since January. Since March, when the gap was four points, the two parties have been separated by no more than three per cent of intended voters:

Across the country, the picture looks similar to recent ARI snapshots: B.C. remains a tight race between the three major federal parties, a majority in Alberta and Saskatchewan and a plurality in Manitoba intend to vote Conservative, and the Liberals enjoy key support in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces:

The youngest voters are the most split. At least one-quarter of men aged 18-to-34 support each of the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP, while women aged 18-to-34 show equal preference for the Liberals (35{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}) and the NDP (36{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}). The older demographics show clearer preferences: men 35 and over prefer the CPC while women 35 and over prefer the Liberals:

Four-in-five say they’re committed to their vote already

Voters who have picked a party are fairly committed. Four-in-five say they are either “very” or “fairly” committed and are unlikely to switch votes. Liberal voters are the least committed of the major parties; one-in-four who are voting Liberal say they are “not very” or “not committed at all”:

*Small sample size, interpret with caution

NDP tops ‘second choice’ preference

When it looked like Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives could form government during the 2019 election, many NDP supporters voted Liberal to keep him out. In an election this fall, the NDP appear once again to be positioned as a second choice. Over one-quarter of committed voters (27{86e0a159f932a6959a9358aea9fc132753539da69f5fd25cde47fd632832652a}) say Jagmeet Singh’s party is their second choice, while only 14 per cent say the same of the Liberals and less than one-in-10 would select the Conservatives:

It’s clear there is a significant number of swing voters between the major centrist and left-wing Canadian parties. Three-in-five Liberal voters say their second choice is the NDP and 44 per cent of NDP voters pick the Liberals as their second choice. Conservatives aren’t sure where to turn for their second option: two-in-five have no second option, one-quarter would pick an independent party and slightly more would pick the NDP over the Liberals:

*Small sample size, interpret with caution

Survey Methodology

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from July 30 – Aug. 3, 2021 among a representative randomized sample of 1,605 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI. Detailed tables are found at the end of this release.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

To read the full report including detailed tables and methodology, click here.

To read the questionnaire, click here.


Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 [email protected] @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 [email protected]