— An analysis of several polls of the Canadian election reveals distinct advantages for the incumbent, Justin Trudeau. His Liberals draw important benefits in the way the vote is split between regions and parties.
— A new POLITICO/Abacus Data poll that tracks campaign issues offers warning signs for both parties. Liberals have reason to fear, for instance, that voters back Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer on what they call their No. 1 issue: the cost of living. That was before Scheer announced Sunday a new tax cut proposal.
— There’s new optimism about passing USMCA this year. Developments in the U.S. are reviving the new North American trade pact as a Canadian campaign issue.
C’EST LUNDI — Welcome to POLITICO Pro Canada’s morning newsletter. Send news tips and song requests for our Spotify playlist to [email protected],[email protected], and [email protected], or on Twitter @Alex_Panetta, @Gardner_LM and @ceboudreau.
DRIVING THE DAY
THE DATA WITHIN THE DEADLOCK — The two biggest parties are in a statistical dead heat five weeks from election day. An aggregate of polls that Abacus Data compiled puts Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives at 35 percent and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals at 34 percent — well within the margin of error. Two minority parties are also showing strong, with the New Democratic Party at 12 percent and the Green Party at 11 percent.
Liberal strongholds: We find two possible advantages for Trudeau within the topline numbers. First, the Liberals hold a 15-point lead in Quebec and a four-point lead in Ontario, where dozens of seat results will mostly decide the election.
Second, there’s a near-perfect split to Trudeau’s left: The Greens and NDP are virtually tied, which means progressive voters have no clear alternative to Trudeau if they want to beat the Conservatives. If Trudeau manages to keep progressive voters united behind him, and the big provinces in his column, he’ll be tough to beat.
Much can change over 40 days: David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, said it’s too soon to read much into the horse-race numbers, as late-campaign shifts in the third- and fourth-party vote share can flip results in dozens of ridings and render meaningless the early national and provincial numbers. In this election, Coletto plans to track opinion on the underlying issues that motivate voters. In addition, Abacus has begun tracking groups of swing voters, who could drive the election.
WHAT MATTERS TO VOTERS — Each week, POLITICO and Abacus Data will examine Canadian public opinion ahead of the election. The first POLITICO/Abacus Data poll indicates that cost of living is by far the No. 1 issue for Canadian voters, with 56 percent identifying it as one of their top five issues of concern. Here are other takeaways from the survey, and check out our interactive to drill down on the poll results:
— Advantage, Scheer. The Conservatives hold an edge on the issue of cost of living. About 27 percent of respondents credit the Conservatives with having the best approach on this important topic, 18 percent credit the Liberals and 16 percent identified the NDP.
But the gap narrows when respondents are forced to make a binary choice between the top two parties: 52 percent say the Conservatives have the best approach, 48 percent say it’s the Liberals. Scheer sought to press his advantage by announcing a new tax cut proposal on Sunday. Pros, read more from Catherine on this topic.
— Polarization works for Trudeau. This poll offers striking evidence of what happens when you turn the election into an either/or choice between Trudeau’s Liberals and Scheer’s Conservatives: If voters perceive the race as a two-way contest, Trudeau benefits hugely.
Take the question of climate change. If you list all the existing parties and ask voters who has the best climate policy, just 23 percent pick the Liberals, versus 40 percent for the Greens.
But ask voters to pick between the two leading parties and it’s a rout: 75 percent of respondents prefer the Liberal climate approach, giving them a whopping 50-point advantage over the Conservatives. Expect Trudeau to explicitly make this case to progressive voters as the campaign enters its final stretch.
— Immigration: warning sign for progressives. Respondents overwhelmingly sided with the Conservatives when asked which of the top two parties’ approaches they most preferred on immigration: 69 percent, versus 31 percent for Trudeau’s Liberals. That’s despite the two front-running parties holding substantively similar policies.
Yet the immigration rhetoric has gotten more heated for two reasons: a spike in irregular border-crossings from the U.S., coupled with the creation of a fringe newright-wing populist party that wants to reduce Canada’s immigrant intake.
— There’s no runaway winner on the issues. It’s not just the horse-race that’s close. The parties are running neck-and-neck on issues-based questions too. On a list of the top 10 issues identified by survey respondents, the respondents prefer the Liberal approach and the Conservative one five times each.
When presented with that Liberal-versus-Conservative binary choice, respondents favor Trudeau’s party on health care, climate change, poverty, housing and cost of medicines. They prefer Scheer’s party on cost of living, taxes, economic vision, fiscal balance and immigration.
— The broader calculus. With 338 seats up for grabs, a variety of issues can drive voters on the local level. For a primer on how the election works in Canada, check out this DataPoint graphic and story.
USMCA ON THE TRAIL — Relations with the United States rank low as an election issue right now but some developments are pulling the revised NAFTA pact back into the news.
— Action in Washington: The Trump administration has taken a big step in the direction of House Democratic demands in order to win approval of the pact, Pro Trade’s Doug Palmer, Megan Cassella and Adam Behsudi report. One private-sector official says the administration showed “significant flexibility” in addressing Democrats’ concerns about enforcement, labor, environment and pharmaceuticals. GOP House Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has said he wants an implementing bill to clear the House before Canada’s Oct. 21 election.
— Event No. 2: A new book by Trump adviser Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group. The Globe and Mail reports that in the book, “What It Takes,” Schwarzman takes credit for advising Trudeau to make concessions in order to save the new NAFTA.
We’re a bit surprised by this account. In the fall of 2018, while talks were in trouble, Canadian officials told us that they had previously made clear they were ready to grant more access to Canada’s dairy market — but only if they got what they wanted on other top priorities, like preserving the Chapter 19 anti-dumping dispute mechanism. And that’s what happened in the final days of bargaining.
Making political hay: Scheer jumped onto the Schwarzman story. He tweeted a thread over the weekend that said: “Canadians already know Justin Trudeau backed down to Donald Trump on NAFTA. Now we know that Trudeau sold them out at the express wishes of Donald Trump’s billionaire friends.” Despite those complaints, Scheer reiterated on Sunday that he would vote to ratify the new agreement.
— A former high-level RCMP intelligence official was charged with leaking state secrets. His arrest was reportedly based on a tip from the U.S. The official oversaw a Russian money-laundering investigation, according to Bill Browder, the force behind the global Magnitsky Act. Globe and Mail.
— President Donald Trump pledged to respond after a drone attack halved Saudi Arabia’s oil production and drove up oil prices. POLITICO.
— A book co-authored by Microsoft’s president features one big idea: that the United States should chart a middle-ground model for dealing with technology, between the order demanded by China and chaos favored by Russia, POLITICO’s John F. Harris writes. POLITICO Magazine.
— The chairman of the U.S. Senate banking committee wants to hold a vote on legislation that would enable banks to serve cannabis-related businesses. The move would be a potential game-changer within the fledgling industry. POLITICO.
— New York state will move toward a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement Sunday. POLITICO Pro.
ON THE CALENDAR
8:30 a.m. — Johns Hopkins University holds panel discussions on “Digital Economy Threats to Citizens and Democracy: Canada’s Innovative Governance Response in Action.” SAIS, Rome Building, 1619 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
Noon — Aspen Institute holds a book discussion on “Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor,” focusing on how American workers are confronting today’s challenges of automation, immigration and other issues. 2300 N St. NW, Suite 700, Washington, D.C.
Noon — The Atlantic Council holds a discussion on “Cyber Operations in Context: A Look at Joint Task Force Ares,” focusing on counter ISIL efforts. 1030 15th St. NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.
1 p.m. — The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a discussion on “A Different Face of Terror: Comparing and Contrasting Domestic Violent Extremism with International Terrorism.” CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
3 p.m. — The Atlantic Council holds a book discussion on “The New Battle for the Atlantic: Emerging Naval Competition with Russia in the Far North.” 1030 15th St. NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.
3:30 p.m. — The Brookings Institution holds a discussion on “How Will a National Data Privacy Law Affect Connected Devices, Applications and the Cloud?” 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, D.C.
Did we miss an event? Let us know at [email protected].
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