Trudeau, Liberals still popular among Canadians despite ethics controversy, poll suggests

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seen here at the UN headquarters in New York City on Sept. 21, 2017, remains the most popular federal leader despite his conflict of interest with the Aga Khan, a Nanos survey suggests. Photo from Getty Images.

The prime minister appears to have dodged a bullet following the news of his ethics controversy.

A recent Nanos Research survey published on Jan. 3 suggests Justin Trudeau is still the preferred choice of Canadians for prime minister (46.9 per cent), followed by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (21.5 per cent), NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (9.1 per cent) and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May (3.9 per cent). Eighteen per cent of respondents said they weren’t sure who to support, the poll suggests.

The support for the Liberal leader may be surprising considering the ethics watchdog’s ruling that came to light on Dec. 20, 2017. Commissioner Mary Dawson found Trudeau was in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act when he accepted a gift from the Aga Khan while vacationing with his family in the Bahamas in 2016.

The prime minister insisted the Aga Khan was a family friend, a claim not supported by the ethics commissioner.

The Aga Khan Foundation Canada was registered to lobby the federal government, Dawson concluded. “Therefore, the vacations accepted by Mr. Trudeau or his family could reasonably be seen to have been given to influence Mr. Trudeau in his capacity as prime minister,” she wrote in a statement published on Dec. 20, 2017.

In response to the findings, Trudeau apologized, accepted full responsibility and said he would take all precautions when planning family vacations moving forward.

Perhaps the reason for Trudeau’s relatively strong poll numbers is that two out of three Canadians (65.2 per cent) say he has the qualities of a good political leader, according to Nanos Research. That’s significantly more support than Scheer (38.2 per cent), Singh (40.1 per cent) and May (37.8 per cent), the findings suggest.

“So far, nothing seems to stick to this government,” the Toronto Star’s national affairs writer Tim Harper said in an opinion piece on the day the ethics ruling was made public. “But this episode should burst well beyond the bubble,” he determined.

But if these poll results are any indication, the ethics breach hasn’t hurt the Trudeau brand.

In fact, the Liberals are trending higher on the federal ballot (41.6 per cent) than they were four weeks earlier (40.1 per cent) or at the end of September (38.5 per cent), Nanos Research suggests.

In comparison, the Conservatives are trending at 30.1 per cent, followed by the NDP at 20.1 per cent, the Greens at 4.2 per cent and the Bloc Québécois at 3.5 per cent.

The Nanos Research federal tracking numbers were released Wednesday and consists of data for the week ending Dec. 29, 2017. The results are based on a four-week rolling sample of 1,000 interviews. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.