This is the second of a three-party series appraising the support of the three major political parties at national and provincial levels. Today we look at the Liberals.
If it had not been for the near-death experience of the Liberal Party in 2011, the rebound that Liberals have experienced at both the federal and provincial levels in 2013 would not be nearly as remarkable. But it was a banner year for Liberals almost everywhere in Canada, coinciding with the leadership victory of Justin Trudeau.
The disastrous federal election campaign for the Liberals occurred more than two years ago, but as recently as the spring of 2012 Liberal parties throughout the country were in a bad state. The federal party was third in the polls nationwide and held no leads in any region of the country. No provincial Liberal party was leading in the polls anywhere, with the exception of Prince Edward Island. Not since the early 1980s were Liberals at both levels of government as irrelevant as they were a little over a year ago.
(For more analysis and numbers, check out our political polls page.)
Contrast that to the end of 2013. The Liberals hold a wide and consistent lead in the polls nationally and in every region of the country except Alberta and the Prairies. Provincial Liberal parties are leading outright or vying for the lead in seven provinces. If an election were held today everywhere in Canada, Liberal premiers would potentially sit in more provincial capitals than at any time since the Second World War.
(Note that, unlike the New Democrats, the federal Liberals do not have official relationships with all of their provincial counterparts. The B.C. Liberals, for example, are perhaps more closely affiliated with the federal Conservatives.)
Where Liberals are doing well
Under Mr. Trudeau, the Liberals have experienced an increase in support everywhere in Canada. Federally, the party has support in the mid-30s, according to an average of polls, and a comfortable lead over the Conservatives. The Liberals are well in front in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and hold a narrow lead in British Columbia. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the Liberals are in a neck-and-neck race with the Tories, and almost stole a safe rural Manitoba riding from the party in last month's by-elections.
Provincial parties are doing similarly well, in part due to the emergence of new leaders of their own: Liberal parties in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador are led by different men and women than they were just over a year ago.
In British Columbia, Christy Clark defied the odds and was re-elected in May. Stephen McNeil in Nova Scotia trounced the New Democrats to form government in October's election. Philippe Couillard has surged the Quebec Liberals ahead of the Parti Québécois in most polls, and Brian Gallant in New Brunswick and Dwight Ball in Newfoundland and Labrador are polling well ahead of the PC governments in those two provinces. Robert Ghiz in Prince Edward Island remains safely ensconced in his second term as premier and is easily on track to win a third.
In short, Liberals are doing well almost everywhere in Canada and are certainly doing better than they were just a short time ago from coast to coast. Mr. Trudeau's leadership of the federal party has boosted the fortunes of the 'brand,' but new blood in half of Canada's provinces have also contributed.
Where the results are more mixed
But not every new leader is surfing on a tide of goodwill. Kathleen Wynne's approval ratings are higher than PC leader Tim Hudak's, but her disapproval rating is creeping upwards. If an election were held today in Ontario, there is no guarantee that Ms. Wynne would prevail. However, the party is doing much better under her leadership than it was at the time Dalton McGuinty announced his intentions to resign.
Mr. Couillard's numbers have also soured somewhat. On approval and suitability to be the next premier, he is polling about even with the PQ's Pauline Marois. He, too, cannot be assured of victory in a snap election.
And the Liberals remain a minor player in Alberta. Though the party has experienced an uptick in support in the province, the federal Liberals are still at around 20 per cent support and could still fail to win a seat. The provincial Liberals in Alberta have also been reduced considerably from their historical standing, polling in the mid-teens. That is, however, better than the 10 per cent the party managed in the 2012 election.
And where things have gone, or could go, bad
In neighbouring Saskatchewan, the Liberals are a faint memory. The party failed to nominate more than a handful of candidates in the 2011 provincial election there and did not break even 1 per cent support. There is little sign that the provincial party is on track to return to relevance any time soon. Polls also suggest that the federal Liberals are not being boosted in Saskatchewan to the same extent they are in Manitoba.
And the elections likely to take place in Ontario and Quebec in the spring could go very badly for the Liberals. Problems for Ms. Wynne's government continue to mount, and if the campaign does not go smoothly she could easily be reduced to third-party status in the province. Mr. Couillard is not in the same danger in Quebec, but a second consecutive defeat for the Liberals at the hands of the PQ is not an impossibility – and with the reduction in support for François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec, Ms. Marois could potentially end up with a majority government if things take a turn for the worst for Mr. Couillard.
But with the luck the Liberals have had in 2013, fortune seems to be smiling on the party and its provincial counterparts. A surge in support for Mr. Trudeau has no doubt been buoyed by the emergence of several effective and popular new leaders at the provincial level as well. The near-death experience of 2011 was apparently just the shock the party needed to renew itself.
Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com.