The Liberal Party of Canada now has more electoral support than the Conservatives in Quebec and Ontario, according to a new poll. Not coincidentally, the Liberals have a new leader, Michael Ignatieff:
The Liberals have moved into a statistical tie with the governing Tories, according to the Nanos Research survey provided exclusively to The Canadian Press.
Liberal support stood at 34 per cent, one point ahead of the Conservatives and up eight points from the Liberals’ dismal showing in the Oct. 14 election under the leadership of Stéphane Dion.
The Tories slipped almost five points from the election to 33 per cent while NDP and Green support was virtually unchanged at 19 per cent and seven per cent respectively.
The Liberal resurgence was particularly pronounced in Quebec, where the poll indicates the party vaulted into the lead with 39 per cent support to 29 per cent for the Bloc Québécois, 17 per cent for the Tories and 14 per cent for the New Democrats. […]
[Mr. Nanos] said the poll could foreshadow a return to a more traditional two-party, east-west dynamic in federal politics, wherein the Tories dominate the West and are competitive with the Liberals in Ontario while the Grits are strong in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
“If the Liberals do manage to pick up support in Quebec, we’re actually going back the way Canadian politics was a decade ago,” he said.
According to the survey, Liberals expanded their lead in Atlantic Canada (44 per cent to the Tories’ 28 ) and regained a narrow lead in Ontario (39 per cent to the Tories’ 35 and the NDP’s 16).
The Conservatives continued to dominate western Canada, with 44 per cent to the Liberals’ 24 per cent and the NDP’s 23 per cent.
Regular readers will know that I predicted this development two months ago — before the abortive Liberal/NDP coalition, and before Michael Ignatieff was installed as Liberal leader. I wrote:
Canadian voters are waiting for Liberal Party to clean up its act. The other parties had two opportunities, in 2006 and 2008, to supplant the Liberals as Canada’s “natural governing party”. It didn’t happen. The Liberals have been given another opportunity to regroup.
Before long, Conservatives will be looking over their shoulders at a revitalized Liberal Party. The Bloc Québécois, the NDP, and the Green Party will be growing increasingly anxious, too — with good reason.
Mind you, it’s early days yet. I also commented, “The Liberals have a big rehabilitation project ahead of them, aside from merely choosing a new leader.”
In Quebec, the Liberals may be leading in the polls, but they still lack an effective political organization (a hang-over from their collapse following the sponsorship scandal). Without that organization, it’s impossible to turn poll numbers into votes.
And of course, Ignatieff could be enjoying a honeymoon with voters. Political honeymoons (just like marital honeymoons) can turn abruptly frosty.
But there has been a big change in media coverage. When the media discuss the economic crisis, they give prominent coverage to Ignatieff (e.g. here and here) along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
From the perspective of media coverage, we’ve returned to a two-party system: the Government and the official opposition — a kind of government-in-waiting. The other three parties are relatively marginalized.
If the Liberals can deliver those seats in Quebec (where Ignatieff’s personal popularity is very high), Ontario would then become the electoral battleground. Whichever party wins in Ontario will form a government.
That is, whenever the next election comes around. Ignatieff will want some months to rebuild organizationally before the Liberals will trigger the fall of the Harper government.
As I said in November, we’ve entered an exciting time in Canadian politics.