For a while here, on the East Coast, it seemed that the federal Liberals could do no wrong. They had a majority approval rating of nearly 50 per cent in the run-up to the national election. They had a youthful, passionate and sometimes articulate leader in the body of Justin Trudeau.
But at some point between the time the writ dropped and the last summer barbecue ended, a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box: Atlantic Canadians lost faith in the ability of a red tide to subsume the prevailing blue wave. Now, some are talking about an orange crush, Quebec-style.
This turn of events frankly amazes Don Mills of Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates, whose company conducted the latest survey of public opinion. “It’s all very close now within the margin of error for (the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP),” he told the Brunswick News organization last week. “New Brunswick is starting to look a lot like Canada. It’s going to make it a lot more competitive than, perhaps, it has been in the past.”
According to his most recent results, “Support for the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) has increased once again this quarter. . .Four in ten decided and leaning voters in Atlantic Canada support the Liberal Party of Canada (40 per cent, compared with 43 per cent of decided voters three months ago), while one-third prefer the NDP (33 per cent, compared with 29 per cent decided voters).
“Meanwhile, backing for the Conservative Party of Canada is consistent with last quarter (22 per cent, compared with 24 per cent of decided voters), while four per cent of decided and leaning Atlantic Canadians prefer the Green Party of Canada (unchanged). One-quarter (25 per cent, down from 41 per cent) of residents in the region are undecided, refuse to state a preference, or do not plan to vote.”
What’s more, Corporate Research’s results show that “Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper’s popularity currently stands at 17 per cent (compared with 19 per cent in May 2015). Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party is preferred by three in ten Atlantic Canadians (29 per, down from 36 per cent), while preference for Thomas Mulcair of the NDP increased to one-quarter (27 per cent, up from 22 per cent), and Elizabeth May of the Green Party is preferred by seven percent (up from 5 per cent).”
As for New Brunswick, specifically, the numbers shake out this way: Twenty-seven per cent of those surveyed are “completely dissatisfied” with the Harper government; another 30 per cent are “mostly dissatisfied”; only 31 per cent are either completely or mostly satisfied. That’s a ratio of nearly two to one against returning the incumbents to office.
As for leadership preferences, the results are even more compelling. On the question, “Which one of the following party leaders would you most prefer as Prime Minister of Canada?”, New Brunswickers answered thusly: Thomas Mulcair of the NDippers, 27 per cent; Mr. Trudeau of the Grits, 22 per cent; Mr. Harper of the Tories, 21 per cent.
Of course, there’s much turf yet to be covered in this horse race. Still, as Mr. Mills’ research indicates, “A majority of Atlantic Canadians continue to be dissatisfied with the current federal government. Two-thirds of residents (66 per cent, as compared to 63 per cent in May 2015) are dissatisfied in this regard”
All of which may not suggest an actual, Quebec-style orange crush for the NDP in New Brunswick next month.
But the chances of a blue day for the Conservative Party are certainly improving.