The Conservative campaign narrative in 2011 was that Canada’s economic condition was too precarious and that political stability was needed to insure we weathered the storm. Barely three years after the largest financial collapse since the Great Depression, that message really played well, and the net result was that after two successive minority Parliaments, the Conservatives won their majority. All signs point to the Conservatives playing a similar game in 2015, but the effect – making Canadians afraid of change – doesn’t seem to be working this time.
A new poll from Abacus Data yesterday measured voter reaction to the somewhat mixed bag economic news, how they feel the opposition parties would handle major portfolios, and whether they thought that effect would be positive or negative. The Abacus poll asked about seven main areas:
- Fears of what would happen if the Liberals or NDP won are limited right now. Fewer than a third of voters think a change in government would make things worse on any of 7 issues.
- When it comes to economic growth, 30% say the NDP would make things better, 25% say the NDP would make things worse, and 49% say things would be no different. The numbers for the Liberals are similar. 28% say a Liberal government would mean a stronger economy, 25% weaker, and 47% no different.
- On job creation, 36% say the NDP would make things better, 31% say the Liberals would. Just 20% say things would be worse under either a Liberal or an NDP government.
- On infrastructure, only 14% think an NDP government would be worse, 37% better. Only 17% think a Liberal government would be worse, 30% better.
- On the environment, 34% say the Liberals would make things better, only 17% said it would be worse. For the NDP, 44% say things would be better, 12% worse.
- On keeping Canada safe from terrorism, only 20% think an NDP government would make things worse, only 23% think that about the Liberals.
- When it comes to Canada’s standing in the world, 31% say a Liberal government would make things better, only 21% worse. For the NDP the numbers are almost identical, 29% better, 21% worse.
- On taxes, 32% say the Liberals would make things worse, 26% say the NDP would make things worse.
That last point out of the seven was the only one that worked to the Conservative’s favour, and not unrealistically, both the NDP and the Liberals have pledged to rollback some of the government’s recent tax breaks, especially income splitting.
More concerning for the Conservatives is that their economic message is not playing well beyond their base. In a similar poll in 2011, half the voters polled thought that a Liberal or NDP government would have a negative effect on the economy, while now, the vast majority of voters do not see negative economic consequences to voting for change in the upcoming election. Even more concerning for the Conservatives is that the poll was conducted between July 3 and 6, before worries about recession got louder this week with more negative indicators, and economists with the Bank of America saying that Canada’s already in a recession. It’s getting harder and harder for the government to ignore the ‘R’ word, which puts them on a defense footing on their best issue just weeks ahead of the official start of the campaign.
As to the other major Conservative issue, terrorism and public safety, the numbers are even more dire. Less than 1 in 4 people think that the Liberals or the NDP will make Canada less safe, which suggests that there are a lot of potential Conservative voters out there either a) unconvinced that the treat is as immediate as the Harper government would have us think, or b) that the left-of-centre opposition parties are just as capable, if not more capable, of administering the nation’s security needs. Either way, the panic button seems to be stuck when it comes to the mind of Canadian voters.
The current standings according to ThreeHundredEight.com:
NDP: 32.1 %, Conservatives: 28.4%, Liberals: 27.3%, Bloc: 5.5%, Green: 5%