September 24, 2019 / 1:43 PM / a month ago

Canada Conservatives' Scheer pulls ahead of Trudeau in polls after blackface scandal

BURNABY, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada’s Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer has overtaken Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of next month’s national election, polls showed on Tuesday, after past images of Trudeau in blackface emerged last week.

Leader of Canada's Conservatives Andrew Scheer campaigns for the upcoming election in London, Ontario, Canada on September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

The two had been running neck-and-neck until Time magazine published a picture of Trudeau here in dark makeup at a 2001 "Arabian Nights" party, when he was a 29-year-old teacher. Two other images and a video of him in blackface later emerged.

Now, Scheer is the clear front-runner with as much as a 5-percentage-point lead, according to three different polls conducted after the images were published and released between late Monday and early Tuesday.

“Right now, the election has become a referendum on Justin Trudeau,” Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker said in an interview. “Is he trustworthy? Is he competent?”

The old blackface pictures of the prime minister have taken over the campaign narrative ahead of the Oct. 21 vote and are “blotting out the sun,” Bricker said.

Conservatives would win 36% of the vote compared with 32% for the Liberals, the Ipsos poll for Global News showed, while the Angus Reid Institute puts Scheer’s party at 35% versus 30% for Trudeau’s Liberals. Ekos Politics has the Conservatives at 35.3% and Liberals at 32%.

On the flip side, the Nanos Research poll for CTV and the Globe and Mail, which is conducted daily, has the Liberals taking back the lead with 35.1% against 33.5% for the Conservatives after a series of policy announcements in recent days.

The announcements kept coming on Tuesday, when the Liberals committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 if re-elected, and they also said they would beat the current 2030 emissions goal. [L2N26F0JO]

Trudeau is expected to speak about climate change on the west coast on Tuesday, where his party is battling against the Green Party for several seats.

The prime minister will speak in Barnaby, British Columbia, at 12:30 p.m. ET, and will likely be pressed about how his climate action promises contrast with his government’s purchase and planned expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which runs through the province.

Ekos pollster Frank Graves said the initial dramatic shift in public opinion caused by the scandal had receded, but there were increasing questions about Trudeau’s leadership and the race was wide open.

“The backlash may very well be a product of issues around Mr. Trudeau, rather than the blackface episode itself,” Graves said. “The race now appears much tighter and less predictable than it did before.”

Reporting by David Ljunggren in Burnaby and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Bernadette Baum, William Maclean

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