Canada’s federal Conservative Party has made recent gains compared with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, recent polls show, less than two weeks after Trudeau called an early election in a bid to get a parliamentary majority.
The Conservatives, led by Erin O’Toole, were favoured by 33.3 percent of eligible voters, according to a tracking survey released on Saturday by Nanos Research that was conducted for CTV News and The Globe and Mail newspaper.
The Liberal Party had 30.8 percent support, a difference just within the poll’s margin of error but which nevertheless reflects a steady swing away from the Liberals in recent days.
“What was a tie early this week, it looks like the Conservatives are now gaining the upper hand and there is definitely negative pressure on the Liberals right now,” Nik Nanos, founder and chief data scientist at Nanos Research, told CTV News on Saturday.
Trudeau on August 15 triggered a snap election two years ahead of schedule in hopes of getting a renewed majority in the House of Commons in the face of what analysts had described as a weak and divided political opposition.
“Canadians will … go to the polls on September 20,” Trudeau told reporters in the capital, Ottawa.
But the campaign this week was dominated by bleak news from Afghanistan, including the end of Canadian evacuation operations that spurred widespread criticism from observers who said the government had not done enough to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety.
Trudeau has also faced pushback over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
O’Toole and left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh had criticised Trudeau for calling an election as Canada faces a fourth wave of the pandemic linked in large part to the highly contagious Delta variant.
The country has reported 1.49 million cases and nearly 27,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Canada is among the top nations in the world in terms of COVID-19 vaccinations, however, and it eased border restrictions for United States tourists earlier this month due to declining hospitalisations, infections and deaths.
But fears of a fourth wave have prompted some Canadian provinces to announce vaccine passport systems in a bid to stem the potential spread of the virus in public places such as restaurants, bars and gyms.
On Friday, Trudeau had to cancel an election rally in the Toronto region because of angry anti-vaccination and anti-masking protests.
“Canadians have had a hard year,” he later said, as reported by Global News. “And these protesters have also had a hard year … I know and I feel the anger, the frustration, perhaps the fear.
“But we must meet that anger with compassion.”
Kyle Seeback, a Conservative Party candidate, said some of his supporters attended the protests and were “no longer welcome” on his campaign. “My campaign has zero-tolerance for obscenities or threatening behaviour against any candidate,” Seeback said in a statement shared on Twitter.
Please see my statement below ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/3aIF0Lon2M
— kyleseeback (@kyleseeback) August 28, 2021
The rolling Nanos poll is conducted by phone, with one-third of its 1,200 respondents contacted each night, and has a 2.8-point margin of error.
It put the NDP in the third position, supported by 21.7 percent of eligible voters. Nanos also showed O’Toole with a rising approval rating, up 3.2 points to 27.2 percent since August 23, while approval for Trudeau slid by 2.8 percent, to 29.9 percent, over the same period.
CBC News Poll Tracker, which aggregates all publicly available polling data, on Saturday morning showed the Conservatives with 32.5 percent support, which gave the party a slim lead over the Liberals’ 32.2 percent. The NDP was in third with 20.2 percent.