Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds his first news conference as leader on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Aug. 25, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canadians don’t know much about Erin O’Toole but poll finds openness to him

Respondents were not asked about O’Toole’s vow to allow socially conservative MPs to express their views

Most Canadians know very little about new Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole but a new poll suggests his personal qualities and policy positions could eventually give his party a boost.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents said they didn’t know enough about O’Toole to say whether they have a positive or negative impression of the new leader, who took the helm of the Official Opposition one week ago.

But 21 per cent had a favourable impression while 18 per cent had an unfavourable impression.

Moreover, the poll, conducted Aug. 28 to 30 by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, found there was no bump in support for the Conservatives following O’Toole’s leadership victory.

Support among decided voters for the Conservatives actually dropped one point to 29 per cent versus the previous week. Liberal support also dropped, by three points, to 35 per cent, with the NDP moving up three points to 21 per cent and the Greens down one point to five per cent.

The online survey of 1,521 Canadians cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples, but all those changes are small.

In Quebec, the poll found the Bloc Quebecois ahead with 34 per cent support to the Liberals’ 30 per cent, the NDP’s 18, the Conservatives’ 14 and the Greens’ two per cent.

“There’s no O’Toole effect on Conservative voting for now because, for the most part, we’re still at the Erin Who? stage,” said Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.

Still, the poll asked respondents if they’d be more or less likely to consider voting Conservative based on various O’Toole attributes and policy positions. And those results suggest he could eventually become more of an asset to his party as he becomes better known, although he could face some regional challenges particularly with regard to his energy policies.

Forty-four per cent said they’d be more likely to consider voting Conservative once informed that O’Toole is personally in favour of a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and supports same-sex marriage. Twelve per cent said they’d be less likely.

Respondents were not asked about O’Toole’s vow to allow socially conservative MPs to express their views, put forward private members’ bills and vote freely on matters of conscience.

A plurality (29 per cent nationally and 44 per cent in Quebec) were more likely to consider supporting the Conservatives when told that O’Toole was born in Montreal and is bilingual, although the fluency of his French has been questioned.

A plurality also were more likely to consider voting Conservative when told that O’Toole is a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, advocates a harder line against China, supports building new pipelines and is opposed to a carbon tax.

However, a regional divide was apparent over his energy policies. His stance sat particularly well with respondents in Alberta and Manitoba/Saskatchewan but a strong plurality of respondents in Quebec said his support for pipelines made them less likely to consider voting Conservative while Quebecers were almost evenly split over his opposition to a tax on carbon (23 per cent more likely to vote Conservative versus 21 per cent less likely).

The fact that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney endorsed O’Toole in the leadership contest was the only overall negative, with 20 per cent nationally saying it made them less likely to vote Conservative and 15 per cent saying they’d be more likely. Even in Alberta, 34 per cent said Kenney’s support made them less likely to consider O’Toole’s party federally, to 26 per cent who said they’d be more likely.

Bourque said the results suggest an openness towards O’Toole but he said the new leader’s ultimate success will depend on his ability to distance himself personally from the socially conservative wing of the Conservative party (whose support was a decisive factor in his leadership victory), and on his ability to sell his energy policies in vote-rich central Canada.

All told, Bourque said the poll suggests O’Toole needs time to make himself known to Canadians and would be wise not to try to defeat Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government this fall.

“He’s clearly not ready yet.”

Should there be an election this fall in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 78 per cent of respondents said all Canadians should have the option of voting by mail.

READ MORE: How would an O’Toole-led Conservative government handle the COVID-19 recovery?

READ MORE: Elections Canada says two-day voting possible amid COVID-19

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Lake Babine Nation to receive $200 million in benefits through landmark agreement

“It is a grand day today for Lake Babine Nation,” said Chief on signing agreement with Canada, B.C.

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

Cullen announces bid for provincial NDP nomination for Stikine riding

Current MLA Donaldson not seeking re-election

Anne Marie Sam seeks NDP nomination for Nechako Lakes riding

She also ran in 2017 but was defeated by BC Liberal John Rustad

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Most Read