Geopolitics

Canada: The federal liberals keep stable. Jason Kenney is sinking.

Philippe J. Fournier: While Canadians still largely approve of their political leaders, a spring election may depend on a smooth launch of the vaccine

Although many Canadians are restricted to family visits over the upcoming Christmas break, reports from the scientific community suggest that the end of the pandemic may come sooner rather than later. In a recent column in Nature, science writer Asher Mullard stated that “Canada tops all vaccine deals per capita, with nearly nine doses per person,” and added a quote from Dr. Andrea Taylor of Duke University’s Global Health Institute added, “Canada did exactly what we would expect a high-income country to do, and they did the right thing for their country.”

While uncertainty remains about when and how this mass vaccination program will develop in Canada during 2021, such news should help many Canadians be cautiously optimistic about 2021.

Regarding Canadians ‘impressions of their governments’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, several polls released in recent weeks show that elected Canadian officials, with a few notable regional exceptions, remain broadly supported.

In his latest weekly report, Léger measures satisfaction with the federal government at 65 percent at the national level, of which 68 and 67 percent in Quebec and Ontario, respectively. However, it was the Alberta numbers that gave us a break: 46 percent of Albertans are in favor of the federal government’s handling of the pandemic, while only 30 percent of Alberta respondents are in favor of their own provincial government. While the survey’s Alberta sample was modest, and therefore more uncertain, Jason Kenney and the UCP, losing their support, have become a trend over the past few weeks and have been discovered by other survey participants as well. Nationwide, 60 percent of Canadians are in favor of their provincial government dealing with the pandemic, which, according to Léger, corresponds to a decrease of 20 points since July. The Angus Reid Institute also released its latest approval numbers last week and they showed largely similar trends. On the federal front, ARI measures that a majority of Canadians (56 percent) still approve of the federal government, although that number has fallen by 10 points since late summer. In the province, ARI also sees problems for Jason Kenny on the horizon: Only 40 percent approval of the Albertans, the second lowest of the nine provinces included in the report. Finally, Ipsos has also had 60 percent of Canadians who agree with Justin Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic, stable levels since October. Ipsos’ numbers confirm current trends: John Horgan in British Columbia (78 percent), François Legault in Quebec (75 percent) and Doug Ford in Ontario (69 percent) receive mostly positive marks from their constituents, while Jason Kenney in Alberta is far behind with only 37 percent.

We are adding these and many other surveys to 338Canada’s federal model, and today we present this projection update. As usual, you will find all federal surveys on this page. Further information on the methodology can be found on this page.

Nationally, the Liberals receive an average support of 35 percent and maintain a modest but stable lead over the Conservatives, who stand at 31 percent. The NDP is currently at 18 percent and thus slightly above the election result of October 2019:

[On the graph above, the coloured bars represent the projection’s 95 per cent confidence intervals and the black dots, the 2019 federal election results.]

However, note in the graph above that each party’s 2019 result is well within the projection confidence intervals. Apart from the spring and summer pandemic of the Liberals, the federal numbers have hardly changed throughout the year:

As is often the case, the regional numbers give a better picture of where the main parties stand:

In Atlantic Canada, Liberals have a massive average of 20 points ahead of Conservatives and, on those numbers, would likely not suffer any seat loss in the region (LPC won 26 seats out of 32 in Atlantic Canada in 2019). In Quebec, polls measure a tight race for first place between the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois, with the LPC having an advantage. However, with Quebec’s liberal support more focused on urban Montreal and Quebec, the bloc could still fight for most of the provincial seats. Conservatives are stuck in the province at 16 percent, a level in line with their 2019 results in Quebec. In Ontario, the Liberals lead the 33 percent of the Conservatives, averaging 40 percent. The Liberals are expected to lead in over 70 of the province’s 121 federal seats (they won 79 seats in Ontario in 2019). In Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, Conservatives are said to be leaders in nearly every region except in and around Winnipeg. After all, British Columbia continues to be a mystery to federal respondents. In the past week alone we have seen polls in which the Liberals were double-digit (Léger), all three main parties in a virtual tie (Angus Reid) and the NPD at the top (Nanos Research, Paywalled). The current average of 338 Canada has the Liberals in the province four points ahead of the NDP – a gap much smaller than the projection’s confidence intervals.

In terms of seats, the Liberals stay ahead with an average of 164 seats, just under the 170 seat threshold for a majority in the lower house. The Conservatives have an average of 113 seats:


The projection of the NDP currently has 31 seats, the Bloc Québécois 27 seats and the Greens 2 seats. These prognoses are also in close agreement with the results of the general election last year.

The focus by early 2021 will certainly be on how and when Canadians get the COVID-19 vaccines. Ottawa may have bought more than its share of vaccines by now, but the logistics of this mass vaccination – and the extent to which provincial and federal agencies will coordinate their operations – will be a test for many elected officials in this country.

If vaccinations begin in early 2021 (we should assume health workers and seniors come first) and the rollout goes largely smoothly through winter and into spring, Liberals might be tempted to take advantage of this unique situation and resolve it elect a spring election to regain the majority – perhaps even before Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland presents the ominously historic budget.

On the other hand, if there are massive delays in implementation and mounting disputes between the provinces and the federal government, it could be the opposition parties who smell liberal blood in the waters. Although the Conservatives would likely bring most of the bloc MPs on board for an early election, it would again fall on Jagmeet Singh’s party to rescue the Liberals from a vote of confidence – unless Justin Trudeau decides to put all of his chips in for one to push the pot last step on the can?

And how efficient the introduction of the vaccine is, the fate of this 43rd Bundestag could determine. We here at 338 HQ will continue to track all the numbers in an attempt to accurately map the political landscape in Canada. Although the second wave hits the country much harder than the first, optimism should be in the air for 2021. It sure won’t get boring. Stay safe out there, dear readers.

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