Liberals resilient in close race with Tories for Toronto’s critical ‘burbs: poll

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OTTAWA — The Liberals are showing resilience in the crucial, tightly contested fight to win votes in Toronto’s so-called “905” suburbs, a new poll suggests.

But the Leger poll suggests any success the Liberals have holding off challengers might have less to do with newfound popularity for the Liberals than with concerns about a return of the Conservatives to power in Ottawa.

The poll, found that 43 per cent of respondents in Toronto’s suburbs stated they were more worried about the prospect of the Conservatives coming back to power than about four more years of Liberal government.

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In comparison, 33 per cent of those surveyed were most fearful of another Liberal victory.

Eighteen per cent said they didn’t know and five per cent refused to answer the question.

These numbers provide a peek below the surface of the overall findings that suggest a deadlock between the two parties in the 905, each with 37-per-cent support.

The poll found support for the New Democrats at 15 per cent in the Toronto suburbs, the Greens at 6 per cent and Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party at 4 per cent.

The poll of 1,003 people in the Greater Toronto Area was conducted for The Canadian Press between Oct. 10 and Oct. 14 and results were weighted in accordance with census data. No margin of error is calculated for a poll conducted by online panel because the sample is not considered random.

“That race is extremely tight — I mean, we’re talking about a statistical tie again between the two main parties,” Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said.

“A lot of seats, probably, will be decided Monday night on a couple of hundred votes.”

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Suburban Toronto is packed with ridings that have changed hands between the Liberals and Conservatives in recent elections. The contests have often been close.

Much of the region’s map was painted red in the 2015 election, with Liberals winning suburban seats from Conservatives and downtown seats from New Democrats.

It’s destined to once again play a big role in the overall outcome of the Oct. 21 election.

Party leaders have spent considerable time in the Greater Toronto Area. For example, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer toured the area last week for the seventh time since the start of the campaign with stops in Thornhill, Markham and Mississauga. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau returned to the region over Thanksgiving weekend.

Bourque said Trudeau may not be as convincing or as inspiring as he was in 2015, but he still doesn’t appear to be as much of a problem for this own party as Scheer is for his. Scheer was not well known before the campaign and has, perhaps, been unable to seize all the opportunities he’s had.

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“Maybe the Conservatives convinced us that Trudeau wasn’t great, but they’ve yet to convince us that Mr. Scheer would be better,” Bourque said in an interview.

“Even though the vote for the Conservatives is fairly firm, there’s no indication that there could be momentum growing for them in the (Greater Toronto Area) right now.”

Bourque said his data also suggest the Liberals have had success in their efforts to cast Scheer as a political leader similar to unpopular Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who heads the province’s Progressive Conservative government.

The poll said 41 per cent of respondents in suburban Toronto reported that they thought Scheer would have the same leadership style as Doug Ford, while 35 per cent felt he wouldn’t.

When asked who would make the best prime minister, 31 per cent of the suburban respondents chose Trudeau, 21 per cent named Scheer and 15 per cent selected NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

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Bourque said the poll suggests the NDP has climbed back into contention in some parts of central Toronto. The survey found the New Democrats had 23 per cent support within Toronto’s city limits, compared to 24 per cent for the Conservatives and 42 per cent for the Liberals.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2019.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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