338Canada: Is Canada’s conservative race obvious?

— According to an Ipsos poll conducted in mid-July, favorable impressions of Charest have increased 18 points among CPC voters since the Ipsos poll in April. At 45%, his favorable impressions are statistically tied to those of Poilievre at 49%.

Charest’s unfavorable impressions have dropped 5 points to 35%, while Poilievre’s unfavorable impressions sit at 29%, a statistically significant increase of 9 points since the spring.

– A second survey by Abacus Data measured leaders’ positive and negative impressions of leadership. While the figures differ somewhat from those of Ipsos, the trends for Charest are similar. Compared to an Abacus poll in June, negative impressions of Charest fell to 18% from 27 and positive impressions rose to 37% from 24.

His net impressions (positive impression minus negative impression) went from minus-3 to plus-19. Although this ratings increase is less than Poilievre’s, it is a remarkable turnaround for a politician whose time many have said has passed.

— A third poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute tested hypothetical national voting intentions. The results show the CCP would lead the national voting intentions at 34% with either Poilievre or Charest at the helm (similar to the CCP’s result in the last election). However, the regional breakdown of the poll suggests entirely different scenarios.

Under Poilievre, the CPC would — once again — up the scoreline in Alberta and the Prairies, where the party has few additional seats to add to its current tally. The Conservatives would take third place in Quebec (again) and battle it out in a three-way race in Ontario with the Liberals and NDP.

– What happens after: Let’s have some fun with these numbers, even though they are very hypothetical.

The results suggest the next election could result in a shrunken Liberal minority, possibly even a broken Parliament – meaning no natural coalition would seem possible – as Liberal and New Democrat seats would be unlikely to reach the threshold. 170 for a majority in the House of Commons.

However, with Charest as leader, the Conservatives would take the lead in Atlantic Canada, significantly hurt the Liberals in Quebec, and outperform Poilievre in seat-rich Ontario.

Naturally, these are survey numbers that Charest could have used during the member registration period, which ended in June. It was a fair assumption by many observers that Charest would potentially fare better than Poilievre in central Canada, where the CPC desperately needs more support to win. The Angus Reid poll goes in this direction. Simply put: Charest’s higher numbers would translate to a better chance of the CCP winning a general election.

That said, Poilievre’s numbers (above) undoubtedly show he would be competitive and could potentially win. This should put an end to the idea that Poilievre’s partisan rhetoric will sink the CCP.

— Strategy of the favourite: No wonder Poilievre refused to participate in the CCP debate this week. He doesn’t need to debate Charest any further to secure the lead, nor risk a stumble that would give his opponent momentum.

In a statement explaining his decision to absent himself from the debate, Poilievre took another swipe at Charest (“tax and spend, carbon tax loving, defeated Liberal premier”) and used his trademark word salad (“elite Laurentian liberal media”) to attack his own party and his choice of moderator for the Edmonton debate in May, which he described as “an embarrassment”.

While these are not the actions of a candidate who believes the race is in the bag, this strategy — always on offense and never on defense — made Poilievre the darling of die-hard Conservative supporters, many of whom believe Charest aligns himself too closely with the Liberals, in policy and attitude.

Either way, while Poilievre has recruited over 300,000 new members as he claims, his team alone has managed to nearly double the total number of CPC members. We also know from the myriad of polls released from April to June that Poilievre had the support of current members. Add to that the blessing of the only CCP prime minister and father figure to Stephen Harper and you have all the ingredients for a victory in the first round – or very close.

— After September 10: If that’s what happens, the next question will be, “Will Poilievre tone down his divisive rhetoric to keep his caucus together?” Those who have followed Poilievre’s already long political career know that is highly unlikely.

Still, between a CPC led by Poilievre and a Trudeau-NDP coalition — er, “trust and supply agreement” — it looks like an already deep chasm in Canada’s political spectrum could widen.

Surely there could be a time when the Red Tories and Blue Grits would consider working to fill that void? If any moderate conservatives (including some current CCP MPs) find themselves drowned out by the pro-convoy, anti-vaccination crowd, it’s fair to assume that some might not stay.

Could Charest’s Summer of Redemption tour lead to the long-awaited creation of a…new Progressive Conservative Party?

Of course, we can only speculate. The odds seem slim, although Charest’s recent support boost makes that outcome almost unthinkable, well, somewhat thinkable.


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