The New Democratic Party’s political fortunes continue to rise, according to a new poll out Wednesday.

According to Nanos Research’s Power Party Index, the NDP registered 55 points out of a possible 100, while the Conservatives scored 52 points and the Liberals 50. The poll pointed out that the Liberals have hit a 12-month low on the index.

At the same time, the leadership race remains tight. Thirty per cent of Canadians want Stephen Harper as Prime Minister, compared to Tom Mulcair at 29 per cent and Justin Trudeau at 22 per cent. The latter number represents a two-year low for Trudeau on the index.

'Fatigued' with Conservative government

“There’s a significant proportion of Canadians who are fatigued with the current government and are probably looking for an agent of change,” Nanos Research chair, Nik Nanos, told the National Observer.

“Second of all, the numbers for the Liberals have not been doing well in the last month,” Nanos said. “A combination of those two factors has helped put wind in the sails of Tom Mulcair and the New Democrats.”

Nanos said it doesn’t seem to matter what the Conservatives do, they are unable to boost their numbers. He said if throwing baby bonus cheques at Canadians can’t move the numbers for the Tories, it speaks to the challenge they are facing in the upcoming election.

At the same time, the Conservatives’ attack ads have backfired. Rather than sending Liberal voters to the Tories, they are directing them to the NDP, Nanos opined. “The big question is, what will happen once Tom Mulcair becomes the target of attack ads?”

Nanos said the only good news for the Conservatives is that they are relatively competitive still with the NDP. “They have to hope somehow that Tom Mulcair and the New Democrats do not have a good election and make mistakes.”

Trudeau's star power waning?

Lydia Miljan, an associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor, said the election is turning into a two-way race between the Conservatives and the NDP.

She calls the support for the NDP an “artifact” of the spring Alberta government election, noting that if the most Conservative province in the country could vote in an NDP government, it sets other people thinking differently about the party.

“Perhaps they’re not as scary as they once were,” she said.

That said, Miljan believes Mulcair hasn’t necessarily resonated with voters outside of central Canada. She said his task is still to become better known in British Columbia and Alberta “and get people to like him.”

While the Liberals enjoyed a lot of support from the public over the last couple of years thanks to Trudeau’s star power, that is waning because of the lack of substance in his announcements, Miljan said.

Policies announced in the summer have fizzled because they were full of grandiose plans but not much detail. “Likewise, he’s made some pretty strategic errors,” Miljan noted.

She pointed to the failure of the Eve Adams, who crossed the floor from the Conservatives, to secure the nomination in her riding for the Liberals this week. That failure, Miljan said, “tarnishes Trudeau’s reputation and his judgment. That doesn’t help the more general decline of the Liberals and people thinking about Justin Trudeau.”

Beware the polls of summer

Cristine de Clercy, an associate professor of political science at Western University, cautioned about reading too much from summer polls. She noted it’s more difficult for pollsters to get good a good sample because people are on vacation and university students are living in different locations.

“Summer polls are subject to a little bit more sampling bias arguably than at any other time of the year,” de Clercy said. “So what you might be seeing are just variations in the bias, rather than variations of public opinion.”

That said, de Clercy noted that overall most polling houses have been reporting favourable results for the NDP over the last couple of months, that the Liberals have been sliding, and the Conservatives are steady, but not gaining a lot of support.

“Again, though, you’ve got to be careful of summer polls,” de Clercy repeated. “I’ll remind you in 1993, (Progressive Conservative prime minister) Kim Campbell through the summer was amazing, great durability, showed really good growth and then came the fall election and her party was eviscerated.

“The summer polls can be very helpful, but they have to be treated with caution.”

Nanos Research compiles the views of 1,000 respondents into a party power brand index with a score of zero to 100. Zero means the party has no brand power and 100 indicates they have maximum brand power.

The data is based on random phone interviews with 1,000 Canadians, using a four-week rolling average of 250 respondents each week, 18 years of age and old. The latest research was conducted over the four-week period ending on July 24, 2015.

The survey is accurate 3.1 per cent, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.

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