OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau's Liberals are statistically tied with a resurgent Conservative Opposition as they near the midway point of their four-year mandate, while the NDP's new leader finds himself facing a familiar electoral challenge, a new poll suggests.
The poll, conducted by Ekos Research and commissioned for The Canadian Press, puts the governing Liberals at 34 per cent and the Conservatives at 33 per cent, while the New Democrats — still smarting from a disappointing 2015 campaign — remain a distant third at 15 per cent.
The Ekos-Canadian Press poll, which surveyed 4,839 people via both cellphone and land line during the last two weeks of September, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Its findings suggest the Liberals have finally been forced to confront the political realities of Parliament Hill after more than a year of flying high on a massive lead in public support following the 2015 election, said Ekos president Frank Graves.
"I think the Liberals did have a very clear movement back to earth, but that occurred in the winter and spring," said Graves, noting that the latest poll shows results that are similar to polling the firm conducted in June.
The Liberal government's controversial tax reforms — criticized by opposition parties as well as many doctors, farmers and small business owners — don't appear to be having a significant impact among Liberal or potential Liberal voters, he added.
Consultations on the proposed changes, which began in July, wrapped up late Monday.
"Some have speculated they're really taking it on the chin because of the (Finance Minister Bill) Morneau proposals, whereas — if that's the case — how do you explain they're basically at the same place they were before those proposals were introduced?"
In the months ahead, Graves predicted the Liberals would be eyeing the NDP's numbers closely, particularly given the risk that they're losing the support of so-called "progressive" voters after abandoning their electoral reform promise and approving the Trans Mountain pipeline.
That may help explain the political motives behind the tax measures, which are aimed at tightening "unfair" loopholes for private corporations that the government says have enabled many wealthy Canadians to pay less than their fair share of taxes.
Such measures resonate with supporters of the New Democrats and their charismatic new leader, Jagmeet Singh, who cruised to a definitive first-ballot victory Sunday in the NDP leadership race. It's too early to predict what his impact will be, Graves said.
"The Liberals have to be very mindful of possibility of some erosion of their progressive vote away from the party and the NDP ... there's a really good chance that they will be revitalized by this new leader," he said.
"The real question is, how is he being received by voters and potential NDP voters?"
Singh became the first visible minority to claim the leadership of a federal party with 35,266 votes — a convincing 53.8 per cent of eligible ballots.
Northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus — widely viewed as Singh's closest challenger — came in second with 12,705 votes, followed by Manitoba MP Niki Ashton with 11,374 and Quebec MP Guy Caron with 6,164.
One of Singh's first challenges will be to resurrect the federal party's flagging public profile, something his dramatic leadership victory has already gone a long way towards helping. The party is in desperate need of a robust fundraising campaign — it's carrying $5.5 million in debt, according to Elections Canada.
Singh also made a clear attempt Tuesday to paper over divides that were exposed during the leadership race by singing the praises of Ashton, arguably the most left-leaning leadership hopeful and one who openly challenged Singh over the course of the race.
"Her ideas, her values, speak to the heart of New Democratic values and she will absolutely have a place in our team," Singh said outside the House of Commons.
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Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press