What should be on the federal leaders' polling wish list?
The leaders are nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of seat gains dancing in their heads
The leaders of Canada's political parties have undoubtedly already written their Christmas wish lists — a pair of sandals, a beard trimmer, maybe even a fuzzy sweater.
But if they could receive a gift from the pollsters, what might they wish for?
Blue Christmas (in Ontario)
Topping Stephen Harper's polling wish list should be for his party to regain the lead in seat-rich Ontario. It was the province that gave the prime minister a majority government in 2011, and it is the only province that can give him another one in 2015. Moreover, for Harper, a majority government may be the only means of staying in office.
The Conservatives are still competitive in Ontario, having trimmed the margin that separated them from the Liberals earlier this year. But they have yet to consistently move ahead in the polls. The province is where every vote taken away from the Liberals gives the Conservatives the highest return in seats. A return to 40 per cent or higher would certainly bode well for the Conservative Party's re-election odds next year.
As a stocking-stuffer, Harper might also wish for some strong numbers in the Quebec City region. The New Democrats took the city in the last election, but have lost some of their support to the Liberals. If the Tories can bounce back in the provincial capital, they may be able to squeeze between the two and win some new seats.
Do they know it's Mulcair?
What Tom Mulcair would be glad to see from the polls would be a drop in the number of Canadians outside Quebec who say they have no opinion of the NDP leader. In some polls, this still represents as much as one in three Canadians, compared to half that number for Justin Trudeau and a third of it for Harper. Mulcair needs his numbers to improve outside of Quebec if the NDP is to have any hope of being in the running to form the government in 2015. And considering that those who do have an opinion of Mulcair tend to have a positive one, particularly in important provinces for the NDP like British Columbia, he stands to gain by becoming better known.
A smaller present Mulcair might like to get from the pollsters would be stronger numbers in the Prairies. With the boundary changes in Saskatchewan, an opportunity for new seat gains there has opened up for the New Democrats. But the party is struggling in the region in the polls. An uptick here could pay some serious seat dividends.
N'oublie pas mon petit Trudeau
Trudeau might want to write his wish list in French. His party would benefit greatly from an improvement in their polling numbers among francophones in Quebec. While the Liberals lead provincewide, they trail the NDP among francophones and that could have real implications in the number of seats each party could win in Quebec. By making some inroads among francophones, Trudeau would close the seat gap in the province with the NDP, as well as decrease some of the imbalance that exists between the Conservatives' strength in the West and the Liberals' strength in the East.
In his stocking, though, he could use some more growth in Alberta and the Prairies as well, in order to capitalize on the party's good byelection results in the region and turn those close contests into seat wins in 2015.
Green Christmas (for B.C.)
For Elizabeth May, she should wish for another breakthrough for her party in British Columbia. The Greens' polling numbers in the province are respectable, and make May's re-election a good bet. But she would like to be joined by a second elected Green MP, and it is B.C. that could deliver one. Moving from around eight to 11 per cent to closer to 15 per cent may go a long way towards securing that second B.C. seat.
Jingle Bell Bloc
It doesn't look like it will be a happy holiday season for the Bloc Québécois, which remains mired in the polls well below even its disastrous showing of 2011. Mario Beaulieu, who was named leader in the summer, needs his own personal numbers to improve. His approval ratings are dismal, with three times, even four times as many Quebecers saying their disapprove of Beaulieu than approve of him. At this stage, it doesn't look like the sovereignty issue will carry the Bloc to its old stature in the province. Having a likeable leader would help.
Read more of Éric Grenier's analyst at ThreeHundredEight.com.