Though a traditionally safe riding for the federal Conservatives, Pierre Poilievre and his team increased their previous vote percentage and won two-thirds of ballots cast in Calgary Heritage last week, just days before an Abacus poll put the party a full 10 points ahead of the governing Liberals. Photo credit: Twitter/Pierre Poilievre
Last week, the Liberal government’s long-awaited cabinet shuffle finally happened. The shuffle had more moving parts than an IKEA standing desk. The Prime Minister gave the boot to a few struggling ministers and welcomed several newbies to the big table. What was lost in the hustle and bustle of a new cabinet was a by-election in Calgary.
To no one’s surprise, the Tories steam-rolled their way to first place, leaving the Liberals and NDP fighting for a distant second and third place. Not only was it an Alberta riding, the holy land of Conservativism, but it included a part of former Prime Minister Harper’s riding, which he won in 2015.
What was interesting in the results was not that the Conservatives won, but by how decisive the win was. When the final vote was counted, the Conservative candidate took home over 65 per cent of the vote, which was a better result than in the 2021 election. Given the nail bitter the Conservatives had in their last round of by-elections, this was a substantive improvement.
The win, though not surprising, showed something that was confirmed by the latest national poll from Abacus Data: the Tories have momentum, while the Liberals are sinking like a rock.
Released just before the shuffle last week, Abacus found that the Conservatives have a 10-point lead over the Liberals nationally and are leading in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. While they are tied with the Liberals in Atlantic Canada, which is usually a Liberal stronghold. The government’s approval rate is at 32 per cent, the lowest it has been since July 2021, and the Prime Minister’s approval rating is at an all-time low of is at -22 (29 per cent positive vs. 51 per cent negative).
The desire for change is high, with nearly half of all Canadians saying they want a change in government. Thirty-one per cent of respondents think it is time for a change, but don’t feel there’s a good alternative. While only 19 per cent of those polled are confident in the government and would like to see them re-elected.
For the Conservatives, this desire for change is an exhibiting thing. It means that their attacks on the government are working. The top issues on the minds of Canadians remain the cost of living, housing affordability and the economy, which are issues that Conservatives like to talk about. In fact, these issues have been the cornerstone of their offensive efforts in the last few months.
As the poll indicates, the Conservatives are leading across all age groups, including those under 30 and female voters. Both demographics are important to mount a victory in the next election. The challenge that they will face is comforting Canadians with the idea of a future Conservative, Poilievre-led government, as voters are unsure of him.
For the Liberals, their only hope is to get back into the driver’s seat, have their new ministers front and centre on the issues that Canadians care about and push back on the Conservatives’ attacks. They need to make up some serious ground by reconnecting and reassuring voters that Canada is best served with them at the helm.
While the Conservatives have to do the opposite. They have to have their leader front and centre to introduce him to voters as a guy who is ready to lead. Painting him as an approachable person and not the boogieman others try to make him out to be.
As the mid-way point of summer is closing in, there is still a lot of politics left to be done. The Liberals have shuffled their cabinet (deck), but is that enough to have the odds return to their favour or do the Tories have it in hand? Time will tell.
Daniel Perry is a consultant with Summa Strategies Canada, one of the country’s leading public affairs firms. During the most recent federal election, he was a regular panelist on CBC’s Power and Politics and CTV Morning Ottawa.