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Hub Exclusive: Many Canadian Conservatives want Trump to win despite believing it would be bad for Canada


In the lead-up to the November 2024 U.S. presidential election, The Hub and Pollara are teaming up to provide insights into what Canadians make of the race as it unfolds. Pollara senior advisor Andre Turcotte will provide exclusive polling and analysis to Hub readers, helping them understand how fellow Canadians are making sense of the election and its implications for Canada.

The theory of cognitive dissonance was first introduced by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1957. It refers to the discomfort a person feels when their behaviour does not align with their values or beliefs. Accordingly, cognitive dissonance is recognized as a psychological phenomenon occurring when a person holds two contradictory beliefs at the same time. Our latest findings suggest that many Canadian Conservative voters may well be suffering from this affliction. It will be something for them to ponder over as many of them gather in Ottawa for this week’s Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference.

In a study conducted between March 15th and 22 with 1,500 adult Canadians, we at Pollara found that 41 percent of Conservative voters would like to see Donald Trump win the next presidential election, compared to 37 percent supporting Joe Biden, and 23 percent unsure. This stands in sharp contrast with our national results where 61 percent of all Canadians preferred Biden compared to 18 percent for Trump. What’s perplexing is that while Trump is the preferred candidate for Canadian Conservatives, 42 percent of those same voters think a second Trump presidency would be bad for Canada. Only 27 percent of Conservative voters think it would be a good thing for our country.

Graphic credit: Janice Nelson.

A majority of Conservative voters also expect Trump to implement a series of policies that would directly affect Canada. These include: 

  • Increase oil and gas production (64 percent of Conservative voters believe Trump will implement this policy);
  • Insist that Canada increase its military spending to meet its NATO commitment (59 percent); 
  • Cut aid to Ukraine (54 percent);
  • Impose new tariffs on various Canadian exports (52 percent);
  • Restrict immigration to the U.S. from Canada’s border (51 percent).

Some 45 percent think a new Trump administration would renegotiate the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA) trade deal and another 49 percent expect a decrease in financial support for building electric vehicles. This is not to suggest that all of those potential policy developments would be frowned upon by Conservatives. In fact, many would welcome a reduction in aid for Ukraine and less emphasis on electric vehicles. But even the most protectionists among Conservatives should be worried about the potential Canadian economic consequences of a second Trump victory.   

Many Conservative voters also think that a Trump return to the White House would have a negative impact on several policy areas. While they take a more nuanced stance than Canadians in general, a plurality think Trump would have a negative impact on the future of the United Nations (39 percent), the flow of goods between Canada and the U.S. (38 percent), the Canadian dollar (38 percent), the future of NATO (37 percent), and the protection of the LGBTQ community (36 percent). Given all those findings, why do Conservative voters prefer Trump over Biden?

What explains Trump’s popularity?

Trump’s appeal among Conservatives appears to be largely rooted in emotion rather than rationality. But measuring emotional appeals is a challenge for public opinion research. One way this question is addressed is to ask which candidate appears to be the “most authentic.” While hard to define, authenticity is considered important in influencing vote choice. 

Our data show that 79 percent of Canadians feel that authenticity in a leader is very (32 percent) or somewhat important (47 percent). We therefore asked Canadians: “Between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, who do you feel is most authentic”?

Among Canadian Conservative voters, 40 percent think Trump is “most authentic” compared to 32 percent for Biden. The remainder (29 percent) are unsure.

In sharp contrast, 74 percent of Liberal voters think Biden is “most authentic,” as well as 66 percent of NDP voters and 75 percent of Bloc voters. In short, Conservative voters connect with Trump on an emotional level. Interestingly this connection is strong enough for them to overlook possible adverse outcomes.

Graphic credit: Janice Nelson.

There is no denying the importance of authenticity in politics. In the year 2023, Merriam-Webster declared “authentic” as their coveted word of the year, defining it as “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.” This acknowledgment highlights the term’s significance today, reflecting its prevalence in our thoughts, writings, aspirations, and judgments more than ever before. It is hard to articulate what makes a leader “authentic.” But understanding authenticity is important even if it is “in the eye of the beholder.” And it appears to be influencing vote choice. Experts and pundits like to discuss the importance of policies in shaping vote choice but the existence of the truly rationally-operating voter may be a myth. It remains that regular people spend very little time thinking about politics. They are more likely to be influenced by how they feel about a candidate than by policy platforms. This explains why a factor like “authenticity” overrides policy concerns. 

Justin Trudeau’s authenticity problem

If this is the case, our data is worrisome for Prime Minister Trudeau. While Canadians will not be voting in the U.S. election in November 2024, there will be a Canadian election at some point in 2025. When our polls asked “Who is the most authentic Canadian federal party leader,” 31 percent of Canadians chose Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, ahead of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh at 25 percent.

Graphic credit: Janice Nelson.

Only 14 percent of Canadians selected Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. There are several factors suggesting that Prime Minister Trudeau is facing a major uphill battle for re-election. A lack of authenticity may well be the most ominous.

‘I don’t remember’: Five Tweets on the foreign interference inquiry testimony


This week saw the continuation of the much anticipated foreign interference inquiry, with testimony ranging from MPs allegedly targeted by foreign actors, to federal party campaign officials, to a politician accused of acting on behalf of a hostile foreign country.

Canada’s Foreign Interference Commission is being held in two phases. The first phase primarily focuses on China, Russia, and other state actors’ foreign interference activities in the lead-up to and during the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, as well as the government’s response. The second phase will examine the ability of federal departments and agencies to detect, deter, and counter foreign interference. Commissioner Justice Marie-Josée Hogue has been overseeing the inquiry, which will see up to 40 witnesses from various groups testify.

Witnesses range from politicians, heads of CSIS and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the RCMP, Global Affairs Canada, human-rights groups, and diaspora community leaders. 

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Trudeau announced he will be testifying in the inquiry next week. 

Here are five tweets from Canadians reacting to the inquiry so far. 

Former Liberal MP Han Dong’s testimony caused a stir on X, formerly known as Twitter. Last year, the Toronto MP left the federal Liberal caucus after facing allegations he was working with representatives of the Chinese government. He now sits as an Independent but wants to return to caucus. During this week’s proceedings, he claimed he personally hadn’t seen “any evidence” that the People’s Republic of China is trying to interfere in Canadian democracy.

Dong stated that, contrary to reporting, he did not recall the conversation he was alleged to have had with a top Chinese diplomat recommending China hold off releasing imprisoned Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. The former diplomat and consultant were detained in China nine days after Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei was arrested in Canada. They ultimately spent 1020 days in jail.

Dong has filed a $15 million defamation lawsuit against Global News and its parent company Corus Entertainment, which initially reported his alleged involvement with Chinese state representatives.

Before resigning from his post, special rapporteur on foreign interference David Johnston cited “irregularities” in Dong’s nomination process, along with “well-grounded suspicion” that the activities were tied to China’s Toronto consulate. During this new inquiry, Dong was asked about intelligence reports that stated buses were used to transport supportive international students (likely of Chinese descent) to his 2019 nomination vote. Following confusion over which buses and voters were being referred to, Dong’s campaign director insisted voting students would have had to prove they were permanent residents before ticking a box.

However, the inquiry also raised the fact the Liberal Party of Canada does not require card-carrying voting members to be citizens or permanent residents of Canada, as pointed out by Globe and Mail reporter Steven Chase.

While the Conservatives require members to be citizens or permanent residents, the NDP provides membership to “residents of Canada”.

Meanwhile, former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole told the inquiry this week he felt that five to nine ridings located in the Lower B.C. mainland and the Greater Toronto Area were targeted by Chinese foreign interference during the last election.

In documents provided to the Commission, he also alleged that Chinese foreign interference may have actually played a part in him getting ousted as Conservative party leader in 2022. 

Suspicion arose when Conservative Party member Bert Chen, who served in the party’s national council, launched a petition to recall O’Toole as party leader. O’Toole has accused Chen of having ties to the Chinese government, after trusted sources from what he described as “a diaspora group and a journalist…advised [him] in confidence.” Despite the information not being corroborated, O’Toole says he trusts his sources. 

Chen immediately denied allegations, claiming he started the petition to elect a new party leader because “…O’Toole was not fit to lead our country or our party.” Conservative Party spokesperson Sarah Fischer said that O’Toole’s allegations were “ridiculous.” 

Some groups have said the foreign interference inquiry is not a safe place to voice their concerns. Back in late January, when preliminary hearings were being held, the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project (URAP) withdrew from testifying, stating that members of the diaspora were at risk and the process would not protect them. A month later, Canadian Friends of Hong Kong said they would not participate.

Both groups cited concerns about the inquiry granting intervener status to Senator Yuen Pau Woo and full standing to former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister now Deputy Mayor of Markham Michael Chan and former Liberal MP Han Dong. All three have been accused of having deep ties to the People’s Republic of China, which they deny.

However, not all diaspora and human-rights groups have withdrawn from testifying. When the World Sikh Organization (WSO) applied for standing, it was on the basis of describing itself as “Canada’s only Sikh advocacy organization” and being able to speak to Indian interference in Canada. WSO Director Jaskaran Sandhu has since testified, concerning the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar and India’s alleged involvement.

Singh Nijjar’s death became the subject of major diplomatic tensions between Canada and India after Prime Minister Trudeau claimed there was evidence the Indian government was behind the fatal shooting. Sandhu described the killing as being “the cost of foreign interference.” India has not responded to this testimony and has vigorously denied allegations of their involvement in his murder.

Inquiry proceedings have shown concerning threats to Canada’s sovereignty and national security. Security expert Thomas Juneau highlighted the need for major reform, including more thoroughness in intelligent briefings. He was responding to testimony from the three main federal parties, who revealed they were basically left in the dark about warnings that the Chinese government would likely make attempts to influence the 2021 campaign.

The Commission’s initial report is due to be released on May 3rd. A final report is expected by the end of this year.