With all parties courting the large middle class in advance of a fall election, a new poll suggests the New Democrats are more trusted than their political rivals to be the champion of the Canadian family.
The survey, conducted by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail, took a look at some of the big-ticket economic issues Canadian families may be considering when they decide who will get their vote on Oct. 19.
Even though a spate of recent polls has put the NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives in a tight three-way race, the new survey suggests Thomas Mulcair and his New Democrats have a sizable advantage when it comes to winning the support of those Canadians who are juggling the costs of housing, child care, taxes and basic living expenses.
When asked which federal party was most trusted to help Canadian families, 34 per cent of the poll's respondents picked the NDP. That compared with the 27 per cent who chose the Liberals and the 26 per cent who chose the Conservatives.
Although the election is still several months away, the survey's findings could be strategically significant for the New Democrats, said Nik Nanos, the president of the research firm.
"If one party is seen as being better in tune with having policies that appeal more to Canadian families, that actually makes them very well positioned going into the election," he said. "And that's why, if I were the Conservatives or the Liberals, I would be looking at these numbers and saying 'Oh, we can't lose Canadian families because that's just too much of an obstacle to try to overcome.'"
The hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,000 Canadians, which was conducted between May 26 and 28, is expected to accurately reflect the opinions of the broader Canadian public within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The positive numbers for the New Democrats on the family front were bolstered by the results in Quebec and British Columbia.
Some of the Quebec approval may be related to the NDP's child-care policy, which aligns with that of the province, Mr. Nanos said. Two-thirds of the poll respondents said they support or somewhat support a national daycare program and Mr. Mulcair is promising a national plan that would guarantee a space for every child at a cost of no more than $15 a day.
"They've basically grafted provincial policy onto the federal scene knowing that's a vote-winner in the province," said the pollster. "Strategically, it's a pretty smart move because if the NDP do well or hold onto their seats in Quebec, they've got a pretty high likelihood to come in second at the very least" on election day.
Over all, nearly half of those surveyed said the general cost of living was the top issue facing Canadian families, while 21.8 per cent said it was the cost of housing, and 19 per cent said it was taxes. Just 9 per cent said it was the cost of child care – but child-care costs are paid by a relatively narrow segment of the population when compared with something like housing.
What is clear is that most of those polled were not overwhelmingly concerned about their tax burden, and that could be a problem for the Conservatives, who are relying on the promise of low taxes to win votes. "The problem with taxes is it's a complicated political issue and it doesn't always deliver what people would like it to deliver," Mr. Nanos said.
On the other hand, the poll respondents were in favour of raising income taxes on the top 1 per cent of income earners, with more than 80 per cent saying they would support or somewhat support that measure.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is proposing to create a new tax bracket that would push the combined tax rate for the highest earners in most provinces to nearly 50 per cent or more. Despite the apparent alignment between the Liberals and the desires of Canadians on that issue, the respondents still put the NDP ahead for families.
"What this shows," Mr. Nanos said, "is that Trudeau and the Liberals have advanced a policy idea that has support but it hasn't converted itself into specific support for Justin Trudeau and the Liberals."