O'Toole a 'political freight train' as Conservatives take clear lead: Nanos

The Conservatives have opened a five-point lead and leader Erin O’Toole has surpassed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in popularity among voters, giving the Conservatives clear momentum going into the holiday weekend, according to nightly tracking conducted by Nanos Research for CTV News and the Globe and Mail.

According to the latest nightly tracking ending Thursday and released Friday morning, ballot support for the Conservatives is 35.7 per cent, compared with 30.7 per cent for the Liberals. The poll has a margin of error ± 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

“Looking at the trend, Erin O'Toole is shaping up to be a political freight train,” pollster Nik Nanos said on Friday's edition of CTVNews.ca's Trend Line podcast. “It's been a game changer of an election and Erin O'Toole definitely has momentum.”

The latest tracking result shows the Liberals and Conservatives have essentially swapped places since the election kicked off on Aug. 15, as an Aug. 12 poll showed Liberal support at 33.4 per cent and the Conservatives at 28.4 per cent.


But the story of the campaign has been Canadians’ increasing acceptance of the idea of O’Toole as prime minister. After lagging Trudeau in preferred prime minister polls for most of the campaign, the latest tracking data shows O’Toole with 31.1 per cent support, compared to Trudeau at 27.3 per cent, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holding in at 19.6 per cent in third.

“When you look at the trend line the Conservatives are incrementally picking up basically every day,” said Nanos. “I think we have to say, factoring the ballot numbers, that O'Toole has been the top performer in this campaign, and O'Toole's performance on a day-to-day basis had been driving that incremental increase.”

While the Liberals may have hoped that the release of their election platform on Wednesday would interrupt the Conservative momentum, that does not appear to have happened.

“Tick tock for the Liberals because time is running out in this election. I know it's only Sept. 3 but before we know it we’ll be pushing into the last week of the campaign,” said Nanos.

The first French-language leaders debate took place on Thursday, and there is the potential for a shift in momentum from the second French-language debate set for Sept. 8, and the English debate on Sept. 9.

But it appears one issue weighing on the Liberals and their leader is Trudeau’s decision to call the election in the first place. A separate Nanos poll conducted Aug. 28-30 showed that 76 per cent of Canadians found the election to be either not necessary or somewhat not necessary, while only 23 per cent said it was necessary or somewhat necessary.


The tracking data show the Conservatives with significant strength outside of the western provinces that have been its core of support in recent elections.

According to Nanos, the Conservatives are poised to gain ground in Atlantic Canada, where the Liberals won 26 of 32 seats in 2019, and the Conservatives won four.

“Atlantic Canada was a red fortress and has been and traditionally is very strong for the Liberals,” said Nanos. “Right now Atlantic Canada is in play. The Conservatives will pick up seats in Atlantic Canada, the question is how many.”

They should also factor in the Quebec vote along with the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois, with the potential for vote splitting. They’re also looking to make gains in the seat-rich battleground of Ontario, which is key for any party hoping to form a government.

In Western Canada, the NDP are showing the potential to gains ground in British Columbia, where they won 11 seats in 2019, said Nanos.

According to the tracking data, the NDP are at 18.3 per cent, while the Bloc are at 5.5 per cent. The People’s Party at 4.8 per cent have also now pulled ahead of the Green Party at 4.5 per cent, although the gap is well within the poll’s margin of error.

“For the Green Party this has to be a disappointing election,” said Nanos. “They don't have a national campaign, their leader hasn't been able to get the same type of exposure that past leaders of the Green Party have.”

With little more than two weeks before the Sept. 20 vote, Nanos said it could take a significant gaffe by O’Toole or the Conservatives to shift the current momentum, particularly as Canadians head into the Labour Day weekend where conversations around barbecues can firm up voter intentions.

“We've got the holiday weekend where everyone is going to be talking,” said Nanos. You know what they’re going to be talking about, that perhaps that Erin O’Toole can be the next Prime Minister of Canada.”


A national random telephone survey (land- and cellular-line sample using live agents) of 1,200 Canadians is conducted by Nanos Research throughout the campaign over a three-day period. Each evening a new group of 400 eligible voters are interviewed. The daily tracking figures are based on a three-day rolling sample comprising 1,200 interviews. To update the tracking a new day of interviewing Is added and the oldest day dropped. The margin of error for a survey of 1,200 respondents is ± 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The respondent sample is stratified geographically and by gender. The data may be weighted by age according to data from the 2016 Canadian Census administered by Statistics Canada. Percentages reported may not add up to 100 due to rounding.