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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Ontario Premier Doug Ford are shown in this composite photo.

TORONTO -- The threat of a strike by thousands of Ontario education workers could mean bad news for federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s popularity in the province, according to pollster Nik Nanos.

Citing nightly tracking data from Nanos Research, whenever Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford is associated with Scheer, the federal Conservative leader’s popularity suffers.

“It just distracts from his [Scheer’s] image and his message,” Nanos said during an interview with CTV’s Trend Line podcast on Friday. “For some voters in Ontario who might not be happy with Premier Doug Ford, the Scheer Conservatives have to watch out about people connecting those two politicians.”

You can subscribe to Trend Line with Nik Nanos and Michael Stittle on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeart Radio and Spotify.

While Ford has kept a relatively low profile during the past three weeks of the campaign, Monday’s possible strike is dragging the leader back into the spotlight.

On Wednesday, the union representing thousands of education workers, including custodians, clerical staff, and education assistants across 63 Ontario school boards announced they would walk off the job on Monday after holding a work-to-rule campaign.

The Canadian Union of Public Workers (CUPE) has been negotiating with the provincial government on behalf of its 55,000 members whose contracts expired at the end of August.

The union agreed to return to the bargaining table for more talks on Friday in an effort to stave off the strike. If an agreement can’t be reached and the employees walk off the job Monday, a number of the province’s school boards, including some of its largest, have announced they will close their schools out of concern for student safety.

The closures have the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of students and their families who will be forced to find alternative accommodations for them.

Nanos said Ontarians’ frustration with the provincial labour dispute may sour their perception of the Conservatives on the federal level weeks before the election.

“There's nothing worse than grumpy parents who have to deal with a school strike,” Nanos said. “It just makes for personal difficulties for many Ontarians.”

Nanos said linking Scheer with Ford is a strategy Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have been employing throughout the campaign in the hopes it will propel them into the lead in Ontario’s vote-heavy battleground.

“[It’s] kind of like politics by association,” he explained. “You can bet your bottom dollar that if there is a strike, the Liberals will try to take advantage of this and then try to get Andrew Scheer to publicly say how close or not close he might be to the premier of Ontario.”

Nanos said the fight for Ontario will be an important one as the Liberals and Conservatives remain neck-and-neck in the polls. As of Thursday evening, the Liberals were up with 36.3 per cent of support with the Conservatives nipping at their heels with 34.3 per cent. The NDP are still in third place with 13.8 per cent while the Greens trail at 8.2 per cent. The Bloc Quebecois are on the rise with 5.9 per cent and the PPC continue to sit in last with 1.2 per cent.

Listen to the Trend Line podcast with Nik Nanos for more insight on how the leaders’ personal bickering, strategic voting, and the upcoming official debates may play a role in shaping this election. New episodes are released every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Methodology

The Nightly Nanos Election Tracking is produced by Nanos Research, CTV News and the Globe and Mail. The data is based on dual frame (land + cell-lines) random telephone interviews using live agents of 1,200 Canadians using a three night rolling average of 400 respondents each evening, 18 years of age and over.

The random sample of 1,200 respondents may be weighted by age and gender using the latest census information for Canada. The interviews are compiled into a three night rolling average of 1,200 interviews, where each evening the oldest group of 400 interviews is dropped and a new group of 400 interviews is added.

A random telephone survey of 1,200 Canadians is accurate ±2.8 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.