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The Liberals intend to argue in the election campaign that they need a new mandate to guide the economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19.Reuters

The Liberal Party appears to be losing its momentum and now faces the prospect of eking out another minority government as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to trigger an election on Sunday, according to a new poll.

The poll by Nanos Research, completed Friday, shows the Liberals with only 33.4-per-cent voter support, a drop of 5.9 percentage points from four weeks ago when the party appeared headed for a majority government.

“They are not in majority territory any more – and based on our internal seat projections – the hot election speculation has turned off enough voters for the Liberals to go from a majority to putting 40 Liberal [potential] wins at risk,” said Nik Nanos, the polling firm’s founder.

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The poll shows the Conservatives with 28.4-per-cent support of Canadians, up 4.8 percentage points from four weeks ago, and the NDP holding steady at 20.7 per cent. The Nanos survey of 1,000 Canadians is based on a four-week rolling average. The random poll, using land and cellphone lines, is considered accurate to within three percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.

Mr. Nanos attributed the decline in Liberal support to the calculation by the Prime Minister and his inner circle that the party can easily win a majority on the basis of the government’s success in vaccinating large numbers of Canadians and providing financial assistance to people and businesses during the pandemic.

The Liberals intend to argue in the campaign that they need a new mandate to guide the economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19, and accuse the opposition parties of using obstructionist tactics to paralyze Parliament.

“It’s like – Canadians were okay with the Liberals and the pandemic response, but the election is about the Liberals trying to win a majority as opposed to serving Canadians,” Mr. Nanos said.

“The past 30 days have been the first sigh of relief from many Canadians where the spectre of the pandemic has not been as menacing. Now the Liberals want to have an election that no one wants and looking at numbers like this may even hold a similar outcome, where the Liberals get back with a minority government.”

The election call comes less than two years after the previous general election and more than two years before one was required under fixed-election-date legislation.

The opposition parties say the election is unnecessary and blame the Liberals for the slow passage of legislation. They also point fingers at the Liberals for filibustering Commons committees trying to investigate sexual misconduct in the military and for the WE Charity scandal. In addition, they’ve been critical of the Liberals for taking Parliament to court to stop the release of documents that could explain why two scientists at Canada’s high-security infectious-disease lab were fired.

The Conservatives, under Leader Erin O’Toole, have been struggling to appeal to voters. The party traditionally sits at around 32-per-cent support and Mr. Nanos said the challenge for Mr. O’Toole is to recharge his base and connect to swing voters.

“The Conservative numbers going up is more a fact that they are not the Liberals than of any embrace of Erin O’Toole. That said, if Erin O’Toole and his campaign can start from not making any mistakes, by looking solid and putting forward a vision on the economy and environment, he could be competitive,” Mr. Nanos added.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is hoping to boost his party numbers enough to prevent the Liberals from winning a majority. The NDP will seek to make the case that another minority would allow the party to push progressive policies on a Liberal government trying to stay in power.

This election will be unlike any other in Canadian history, for it comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many provinces still restrict the size of gatherings, and the parties have to respect those limits, even as the leaders criss-cross the country. Many events will be held outdoors and/or with physical distancing in place.

With a report from John Ibbitson

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