Will Jack Layton usurp Michael Ignatieff?

Our polls show the NDP is very close to leapfrogging the Liberals

Thanks to a late-campaign surge, the NDP has a real shot at replacing the Liberals as the main alternative to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Jack Layton’s party is arguably closer to forming a government than it’s ever been. But that doesn’t mean the party is actually contending for power. There are clear limits emerging to just how far the party’s sudden popularity might take it.

According to an Innovative Research poll conducted for Maclean’s and L’actualité between April 21 and April 25, the New Democrats are now very close to leapfrogging the Liberals for second place among decided voters. The NDP’s popularity sits at 23.9 per cent, just a point behind the Liberals’ 24.9 per cent. Despite their stagnating fortunes, the Conservatives remain in the driver’s seat going into the final week of campaigning with 38.4 per cent of the vote. Support for the Bloc, meanwhile, has dipped to 6.4 per cent nationally and 27.7 per cent in Quebec, while the Greens sit at 5.3 per cent.

Indeed, the NDP’s rush toward the spotlight from its usual place at the margins of Canadian politics has been the story of the campaign so far. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Quebec, where the party has supplanted the Bloc Québécois as the first choice among province’s prickly voters. The NDP now has 36 per cent support in Quebec, nearly nine points more than the Bloc. Perhaps most significantly, Layton’s party is far ahead of its federalist opponents in the province, with nearly double the support of the Conservatives (18.3 per cent) and an even heftier lead over the Liberals, who are now solidly fourth in voter intentions with a paltry 13.6 per cent support.

“It looks like Layton has created a ‘third option’ in Quebec,” says pollster Greg Lyle, the managing director of Innovative Research. “While hard federalists and especially hard sovereigntists have resisted his appeal, soft federalists and sovereigntists have really gravitated to the NDP.” Among those who describe themselves as “somewhat favourable” to Quebec’s independence, the NDP was the first choice of 53 per cent. Meanwhile, 49 per cent of those who say they’re “somewhat opposed” to Quebec sovereignty say they too will cast their lot with Layton. That push toward the mushy middle of the constitutional divide has left the Conservatives (39.8 per cent) and the Liberals (19.5 per cent) fighting over the hard federalist vote, while the Bloc Québécois takes home the overwhelming majority of (77.1 per cent) of militant sovereigntist votes.

Though less dramatic than in Quebec, the NDP’s popularity in B.C. has seen a similar upward swing. At 29.4 per cent support, the NDP still trails the Conservatives (41.7 per cent) by a significant margin, but it may have seized enough ground to disrupt the Conservatives’ designs on a handful of ridings out west. “The Conservatives may end up breaking even, depending on how hard the NDP surge goes,” Lyle says. “But that’s a big difference—from between four and six pickups to zero. You’ve gone from half the gains you needed for a majority to none. If this is going to be a game of inches on election night—which it might be—then this surge cost them a lot of inches.”

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s in his home province of Ontario that Layton’s popularity has been most stubbornly stagnant. At 17 per cent, his party trails far behind both the Liberals (36.1 per cent) and the Conservatives (41.4 per cent). Their breakthroughs elsewhere simply haven’t carried over into the one province anointed the key battleground at the start of this election, a situation Lyle attributes partly to a wariness among centre-left voters outside Quebec that voting NDP might clear the path for a Harper majority. “English Canadians are a lot more likely to say this election is a two horse race than Quebecers,” Lyle says. “This may be the reason behind the NDP failure to break through in Ontario.”

Regardless, though Layton’s popularity may end up hitting a wall in Canada’s most populous province come election night, he’ll have at least succeeded in positioning himself at the centre of a post-election coalition scenario—a role even the Conservatives had never imagined could be filled by anyone but Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. That scenario, says Lyle, is now dependent on Layton’s success at wooing those Quebecers who for years have cast their lot with the Bloc Québécois, but are now legitimately intrigued by the NDP. “How far can Layton take this? He could say to Quebecers, ‘Look we may not be able to get into government in one shot, but you can make us number two and set the stage for a progressive coalition that will end the Conservative government’,” Lyle says. “There’s real excitement in Quebec at the idea of a Jack Layton-led minority.”

The online survey was conducted among current members of INNOVATIVE’s Canada 20/20 panel from April 21st to April 25th, 2011. The Canada 20/20 Panel is recruited from a wide variety of sources to be representative of the known distribution of Canadians by age, gender, region and language. The weighted total sample included 1543 responses eligible for inclusion in our analysis including 363 in Quebec. An unweighted probability sample of 1543 would have an estimated margin of error of ±2.49 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Will Jack Layton usurp Michael Ignatieff?

  1. "The only way to pay for better social programs are by the way of higher taxes" — if you truly believe that, then you're arguing that there is no room to cut money out of government spending, and if that's the case, you've just said the CPC is going to take us down the deficit hole, because they're relying on cutting $11,000,000,000.00 from government spending to balance their budget.

    As a comparison.. that's over 40 x the worst of what Adscam could have cost us.

    • Cut all you want it won't make a bit of difference – to understand this; you need to understand economics in a way few are taught today- you could lose weight by cutting of your leg – I would not recommend it but hey it's a free country or maybe not – fuzzy logic –black hole economics -people just don't understand tax, money, debt, trade and the intricate domino effect. Canada does not exist in a financial vacuum – our financial health for better or worse are tied with several nations – We won't be able to cut enough, fast enough. And yes taxes are the only way to pay -why do you think you pay tax, why do you think it never goes down – logic would dictate that if we could cut are way out of our financial problems –then we should see a cut in taxes in alignment with a reduction in spending at some point– let me guess no cut in tax collection (never has happened) – just a cut in spending (happens all the time) make sense – not in my mind – watch taxes will still rise –it is the nature of the beast.

  2. GO JACK GO – what a wonderful day to be a conservative and huge harper fan and watch this play out – never thought I would see the day – thinking about voting NDP as the candiadte has a better chance than the Tory one – who knows maybe I am part of the ABL movement that vote swapping websites seem to be setting up right now – what am hoot!

    • Any vote that isn't for an incumbent is a good one, IMO.

  3. This is great!! We need more social programs!! Everyone knows that if you are having trouble paying for the social programs that you already have the best thing to do is to create new ones. Don't worry about the money, there's some hypothetical wealthy people and corporations who will pay for it all, even though it has never ever worked out that the middle class doesn't pay more for increased social spending. Don't worry about high taxes driving away employers and thus killing job prospects for Canadians. That only happens in other countries with Socialist gov'ts. It won't happen here. Jack said so and I'm with Jack! Are you with Jack???

  4. Wake up folks.Socialism doesn't work!However;reality does.Bob Rae got elected in Ontario and gave us and himself a quick lession in economic reality.

  5. go jack go!!! I want to give him a chance this time!!! JACK ALL THE WAY!!

  6. I think Jack will take over from the Libs.The liberal brand as we knew is long gone.It left with Dion, the nail in the coffin was Iggy.

  7. For years now, we've been fed the line that socialism doesn't work and that the solution to all the world's problems is to make life as easy as possible for corporations. As long as we cut their taxes, given them subsidies, keep minimum wages low and blah-de-blah blah, everything will be great. Well, I think some of us realize now that pure capitalism is just as great a failure as pure socialism. We've given billions to corporations but they are not hiring us, and when they do, they expect us to work for insultingly low wages. Meanwhile, the government no longer takes in enough revenue to support our social programs so even as we make less we are nickle-and-dimed with fees for this and that, and the service is lousy. Canada has thrived when it employed a balance of socialist and capitalist principals, and in the absence of the party that did that best – The Liberals – we are looking at electing a harder left party to balance the effects of 5 years of the hard right. This all seems entirely reasonable to me.

  8. Details please – or do you not care to get into facts – safer to live in a bubble? Do you dispute that taxes pay for social programs? Are you thinking of the liberals before Harper when we had a pseudo surplus? Do you understand how money moves? Do you understand debt? Please explain your position – like I said Canadians have NO financial sense. Perhaps you believe that taxes go down? I look forward to schooling you –but then again if you can't add 1+ 1, what's the point in talking trigonometry -I guess you could vote NDP, have a few beers, watch some hockey and pretend – The NDP has good social program Ideals –but the fundamentals aren't there to support them – THAT'S FACT – I bet you believed Chrétien when he said he would abolish the GST?

  9. Maybe I'm totally paranoid but I'm going to throw this out there anyway.

    Is it possible this is a dirty trick whereby CPC supporters are telling pollsters they intend to vote NDP to concoct a pseudo surge? Terrify the non-NDP voters with a Jack-led coalition (driving up CPC vote) at the same time encouraging discouraged Liberals and actual lefties to vote for the NDP when it actually has no surge / no better chance of defeating Harper than they ever did?

    • no

    • Probably not. But since it seems to frighten you, I shall now tell any pollster who phones me that I am voting NDP. The fact that you find this disturbing means there must be some good in it. See? We really are scary.

      • I loled.

  10. I am afraid of a Jack-led coalition government. The policies of the NDP would not only would result in much higher taxes on hard working Canada, it would also bring the country to the brink of bankruptcy. I hope Canadians would look at Greece, Britain and Spain where cuts on all areas because of the over spent by their previous government. The hope the people in Ontario would remember on what the NDP, when they were government of Ontario on one time…a destruction for the province. ..huge unemployment.

  11. I will vote for NDP because I believe everything the msm tells me and I can’t read or think for myself. As a Canadian I have no knowledge of how to read party platforms or even mathematically figure out costs. My views come from Ctv, the globe and mail and CBC. I believe facts are only relevant when the media tells me they are and above all I think Rick mercer is funny therefore I believe his ranting.

    I am Canadian
    I am hopeless

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