OTTAWA — The three big federal parties are effectively tied for support in Manitoba, according to Probe Research polling commissioned by the Winnipeg Free Press.
Ahead of a widely expected election, the federal NDP in Manitoba has been on the rise with the Tories’ numbers dropping and the Liberals treading water.
"After so much stability, and Manitoba being a bit of an afterthought, there might be a bit of movement going on," said Curtis Brown, a principal at Probe.
"The federal Conservatives are maybe getting held down a bit by the unpopularity of the provincial party."
Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives have dropped provincewide from 37 per cent support in March to 32 per cent this month. The NDP has gained some ground, going from 25 to 29 per cent in that time.
That ties them with the Trudeau Liberals, who remain static at 29 per cent.
Within Winnipeg, the Liberals have seen a consistent drop since their 45 per cent support in June 2020, months into the COVID-19 pandemic. They now sit at 35 per cent.
The Tories’ support in the city has held flat since last fall, at 26 per cent this month. In that time, the NDP has slightly risen from 27 to 32 per cent support.
"The trend-line is not great for the Liberals," Brown said. "It certainly doesn’t look like they’d be in a position to make any gains."
The results sorted by city quadrant don’t suggest any obvious change to the seats MPs currently hold, with the Tories not seeing strong enough support to take Winnipeg’s southern suburbs.
Inside and outside the Perimeter Highway, 16 per cent of respondents were undecided, which is only slightly higher than normal.
Brown argued the federal NDP might be benefiting from its provincial cousins’ boost in Manitoba polling, particularly among women and university graduates.
"Some of those people on that progressive side of the scale, who might have voted for the Liberals in the last couple of federal elections are now giving the NDP a bit of a look; that certainly seems to be what’s happening in Winnipeg," he added.
"That might make Winnipeg North a more competitive race," he said. "If the NDP were to make gains in the province, that would be the first one on their list."
That could also be a sign of Canadians’ shifting expectations for the role of government, argues Brandon University political scientist Kelly Saunders.
She pointed to increasing support for expanding welfare to include casual workers, providing heavily subsidized child care and better protecting elderly people in assisted living.
That’s similar to the post-war recovery, when governments helped returning soldiers and impoverished cities get on their feet with subsidized housing and social safety net.
"This is our World War Two, this pandemic," she said.
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Saunders said the challenge conservative parties face is shifting to meet that mood while not alienating a conservative base that prioritizes controlling spending and eliminating deficits.
"They’re going to have to reset their ideology a little bit (…) to win majority governments going forward, if in fact that is where Canadian culture has shifted," she said.
She added that base could feel even more isolated if governments increase social spending instead of paying down debts, leading to a splintering of the right seen in the emergence of the Reform party.
"The NDP have been flat at the national level, and yet here in Manitoba they seem to be increasing," Saunders said.
"I would have presumed the Liberals would be benefiting more from the drop in Conservative support."
Probe Research surveyed a random and representative sample of 1,000 adults in Manitoba, from June 2 to 11.
The survey results are plus or minus 3.1 percentage points of what they would've been if the entire adult population had been surveyed, with 95 per cent certainty.
The question was:
If a federal election were held tomorrow, which party’s candidate would you be most likely to support? And is there a federal party’s candidate that you think you might want to support or are currently leaning towards?