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O'Toole's polling numbers are stagnant - here's why

Unlike his predecessors, O'Toole has not received any increase in the polls in the nearly 200 days he has led the party.

When O'Toole became leader back in August, polling data had the Conservatives at 29.9 per cent — today, they stand with around 29.7%, well behind the incumbent Liberal government. This means the party has made no headway whatsoever.

Provincial polling data reflects this: in 200 days, O'Toole has faced a decline of -1.7 in B.C., -1 in Alberta, -0.5 in the Prairies, -0.5 in the Atlantic, no change at all in Ontario, and a slight increase of +1.3 in Quebec. By contrast, Scheer only lost support in Alberta (-4.9%) and the Prairies (-0.4) in his first two hundred days, making large inroads elsewhere (+6.5 in the Atlantic, +6.7 in B.C.). Furthermore, the Liberals now hold a larger lead over the Tories in both British Columbia and Ontario; two key battleground provinces.

Why did Scheer receive a pump in the polls between his election to the party leadership in May 2017 and polling day in December of that year? Why has O'Toole conversely flubbed his first impression to Canadians? Abacus polling data shows only 20% of Canadians have a positive impression of the head of the opposition; 32% do not think favorably of him.

Most criticism concerns the abrupt shift he took in pivoting from the “True Blue” persona he campaigned on to a more centrist leader—despite criticizing Peter MacKay for being a moderate. This move has not gone well with his own MPs, let alone Conservative voters who may not be so keen to vote Tory this time around.

“The rapidity with which he’s pivoted away from the people and regions that got him elected, my constituents don’t know what he stands for,” said one anonymous Conservative MP to the National Post. “I think Erin is jumping up and down on the fault lines in our party.” The removal of Sloan from the party and the demotion of Poilievre from finance critic have also been seen with suspicion.

Recently, a video has made the rounds of O’Toole promising to move Trudeau out of the Prime Minister’s Office and into a portable toilet; this has equally been criticized as juvenile. “That didn’t go over well with a lot of colleagues,” one MP noted.

Time will only tell what will happen to the Conservative leader. A make-or-break policy convention awaits him March 18th.

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