The Conservatives and Liberals are tied in the national vote for the first time in months, as Canadians appear unmoved by the controversy whirling around the government's elections bill, a new poll has found.
The Ipsos Reid poll, conducted this month for CTV News, says the Tories and the Liberals each boast 33 per cent of the national vote, with the Conservatives enjoying a four-point bump since February and their best showing since an Ipsos poll in late 2012. Thomas Mulcair's NDP would glean 24 per cent of the vote.
When Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took the helm of his party in May, the Liberals leaped ahead of the Conservatives. The Liberals held the lead throughout the fall, though the gap with the governing Conservatives dwindled to as little as two points.
"A lot of it has to do with the fact that Mr. Trudeau has spent more face-time on issues of his own behaviour than he has on trying to look like a government-in-waiting," said John Wright, an Ipsos Reid senior vice-president. "A little bit of the shine has gone off the apple."
Mr. Wright pointed to several incidents that catapulted Mr. Trudeau into the headlines, including using an obscenity at a charity boxing match, taking a "selfie" photograph at former finance minister Jim Flaherty's state funeral, and publicly musing that Russia might vent its Olympic hockey frustrations at crisis-hit Ukraine.
Chief among the reasons for the Conservatives' uptick and the NDP's flat line, Mr. Wright said, is the Fair Elections Act, a controversial elections bill that has launched Mr. Mulcair into attack mode in the House of Commons. While that might be good "inside-the-beltway" Ottawa politics, it doesn't play well with the average citizen, Mr. Wright said.
The poll found just 23 per cent of Canadians say they're following the debate "closely." And when it comes to the bill's controversial provision to eliminate vouching, in which a properly identified voter vouches for someone lacking complete identification, 70 per cent believe it is "acceptable" to get rid of vouching and instead require voters to personally prove their own identity and address. The poll also found that six in 10 Canadians don't believe eliminating vouching is really a Conservative ploy to disenfranchise those who disproportionately vote for other parties
Mr. Wright also said time spent in the House of Commons on the elections bill means less airtime on the Senate expenses scandal and the Duffy-Wright affair, which plagued the government for months. Just days before the five-day poll period began on April 17, the RCMP dropped its criminal investigation into former Harper chief of staff Nigel Wright, who secretly dipped into his own pocket to reimburse taxpayers for questionable expenses claimed by Senator Mike Duffy.
The weighted survey was based on a sample of 1,014 Canadians interviewed online. The results are considered accurate within 3.5 percentage points.