Low poll numbers have a price.
The Liberals are trailing in the polls, and have been for quite some time.
A quick look at the 338Canada.com polling tracker (aggregated), shows the Conservatives holding a lead in nearly every national poll since mid 2022. Since then, aside from a few weeks here and there, the Conservatives have held the lead.
Since the start of 2023, the Conservatives haven’t trailed once in the polling average.
This is obviously of deep concern to the Liberals, because it shows their attacks on Poilievre – many of which have been quite unhinged – aren’t working.
Despite their efforts to tag Poilievre has ‘far-right’ and ‘extreme,’ his polling numbers have remained quite stable, as has the overall national trend. Poilievre has also led Trudeau by a few points when Canadians are asked who would be the best choice for Prime Minister, and that’s bad news for the Liberals since the incumbent is usually expected to lead on that question.
All of this has to have many Liberals wondering if they are facing the same situation the Conservatives faced in 2015: An electorate that is simply sick and tired of the incumbents.
In 2015, a critical mass of Canadians made up their minds to vote for a new government, and there wasn’t much the Conservatives could do about it. The NDP started off in a strong position, before collapsing and watching tons of their votes switch to the Liberals. The Conservatives launched attacks on both, but those attacks couldn’t do much to change the minds of Canadians.
Now, the Liberals appear caught in a similar situation.
In fact, their situation is – in some ways – worse than that faced by the Conservatives.
Consider that in 2015 the Harper Conservatives won 31.91% of the popular vote. This of course represented a significant decline from the 39.62% they had won four years prior.
Yet, it’s notable that in their 2021 minority government win, the Liberals received 32.62% of the popular vote. While they did better in the seat count, it’s still quite surprising that the support level received by Harper in his big defeat and Trudeau’s 2021 win were almost identical:
Harper 2015: 31.91% – 99 seats
Trudeau 2021: 32.62% – 160 seats
The Liberal vote has been very efficient, but this doesn’t change the fact that they are deeply unpopular in much of the country.
An efficient vote – while nice to have – also means you have almost no margin for error. A slight drop in Liberal popular support – which the polls indicate has happened – can mean a significant loss in seats.
With that in mind, the many Liberal cabinet ministers bowing out ahead of the impending cabinet shuffle becomes more understandable
Heading for the exits
So far, it appears 7 Liberal cabinet ministers are out ahead of the cabinet shuffle:
NEW: @globeandmail confirms what was first reported by CBC abt tomorrow's cab shuffle. 7 ministers out: Mendicino, Lametti, Fortier, Alghabra, Murray, Jaczek & Bennett. New roles for many incl Pablo Rodriguez (Heritage to Transport) & Pascale St-Onge (Sport to Heritage) #cdnpoli
— Laura Stone (@l_stone) July 25, 2023
Some, like Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, have publicly announced their intention not to run again:
“I have news to share: after a lot of reflection, I decided to not run in the next election. As a result I will be stepping aside from cabinet. I was first elected in 2006 and have had the journey of a lifetime. I’m grateful for every minute of it”
I have news to share: after a lot of reflection, I decided to not run in the next election. As a result I will be stepping aside from cabinet. I was first elected in 2006 and have had the journey of a lifetime. I’m grateful for every minute of it pic.twitter.com/1dNM28YRnN
— Omar Alghabra (@OmarAlghabra) July 25, 2023
While each individual situation is different, it stands to reason that some of the departing MPs are looking at the poll numbers and recognizing that it’s time to head for the exits before they are pushed out by the voters. They may be thinking it’s better to leave on your own terms than leave after a defeat at the polls.
We saw this ahead of the 2015 election, as a growing number of top Conservatives announced they wouldn’t be running again.
Many of these MPs and cabinet ministers have a good sense of their own ridings, and can tell when the winds of change are blowing.
And while the result of the next election cannot be taken for granted, there are signs that a critical mass of Canadians are simply done with the Liberal government, and a growing number of Liberal MPs can see the writing on the wall.