Canada's Justin Trudeau loses ground in first polls since blackface scandal

Trudeau and his rival have been statistically tied in most polls over the past few months

Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, speaks during a campaign stop in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Trudeau said he would implement a full ban on military-style assault weapons if he's re-elected next month, a popular move in major metropolitan districts the governing Liberals will need to hold in order to retain power. Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg
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Canada's Liberal Party lost a little ground to rival Conservatives after bombshell images of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in blackface emerged this week, two polls published on Saturday showed.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer had a 4.8 percentage-point lead against Mr Trudeau, according to a Nanos Research poll published on Saturday for CTV and the Globe and Mail newspaper. Mr Scheer had a 3.2 percentage-point lead in the previous survey published on Friday.

Conservatives would win 36.8 per cent of the vote and the Liberals 32 per cent, the poll said. The October 21 election day is less than five weeks away.

The Nanos poll was conducted over three nights until September 20. The first image of Trudeau in blackface at a 2001 "Arabian Nights" party when he was a 29-year-old teacher emerged on Wednesday.

The Liberals were leading in a Mainstreet poll published by iPolitics on Saturday, but had lost 0.4 percentage point from the previous survey compared with a 0.2 percentage-point slide by the Conservatives.

The Mainstreet poll, conducted between September 17 and 19, had the Liberals at 36.8 per cent compared with 34.2 per cent for the Conservatives.

Mr Scheer and Mr Trudeau have been statistically tied in most polls over the past few months, with little movement one way or the other. A separate survey by consumer research firm Potloc indicated that disillusioned Liberal voters were most likely to go to either the left-leaning New Democrats (NDP) or the Greens.

"Almost none of the soft Liberal support is interested in tipping to the Conservatives. Any Liberal scandal doesn't significantly increase Conservative support, but would go to the NDP or Greens," said Marc Di Gaspero, head of research for North America at Potloc.

The Nanos poll showed the New Democrats gained to 13.7 per cent compared with 12.8 per cent the day before.

The Canadian Broadcast Corp's poll tracker, which aggregates public polls, had the Conservatives at 34.8 per cent and Liberals at 33.8 per cent on Saturday, with the Liberal advantage among the 338 House of Commons constituencies slipping slightly.

Pollster David Coletto of Abacus Data said the blackface scandal may not shift votes away from Liberals and that the real risk might be Liberal supporters stay home on election day.

"I don't see a big flight away from the Liberals or a collapse in their support," Mr Coletto said. "But there is certainly the chance that this further demotivates those Liberals and makes them less likely to want to actually cast a ballot."