That headline is one I thought I would never write. “Conservatives, the party of the poor”—you must be joking. But that, in fact, is what a recent survey by Angus Reid indicated. And it was clear, as shown in the graph to the right, the poorer the cohort, the greater the intention to vote Conservative.

The pollster relies on an Economic Stress Index. The index is based on a series of questions about the respondents’ financial situation. Their answers place them in one of four categories: Struggling, Uncomfortable, Comfortable and Thriving, essentially representing Canadians from poor to rich.

Fifty percent of the Struggling indicated their intention to vote Conservative. Among the Uncomfortable, that dropped to 42 percent, to 34 percent for the Comfortable, and down to 34 percent for the Thriving.

Liberal support doubled from a meagre 15 percent for the Struggling to 30 percent for the Thriving. Counterintuitively, perhaps, as the cohorts grew richer they were more likely to support the Liberals. NDP support was relatively constant across the groups at 21-25 percent, no higher for the poor than the rich, again counterintuitively. Overall, support for the Conservatives at 40 percent was double that for the Liberals, almost equal to the Liberal and NDP support combined.

A clue as to why the Conservatives are leading the pack was revealed by what respondents named as the top issue facing the country—cost of living/inflation. This was well ahead of the second place issue, health care, and was much more of a concern among the Struggling than among the Thriving. It appears the Liberals may either be blamed for it or blamed for not doing enough about it.

Or perhaps the effort the Conservatives have been making to rebuild rapport with working-class voters is paying off. They even supported a Liberal/NDP bill to ban replacement workers during lockouts and strikes in federally regulated workplaces. A union-friendly vote in the Commons isn’t conventional Conservative practice.

Their leader, Mr. Poilievre, has even been treading on NDP turf, showing up on shop floors and schmoozing workers. In fact, most of his rallies and other meet-and-greets this year have been held in NDP and Liberal ridings. According to Conservative strategist Allie Blades,”It’s a switch that the Conservatives, I think, have done very rightly and strategically.”

Poilievre’s populist approach, including exploiting public anxiety about the cost of living, has been particularly successful on the money front. The party is breaking all fundraising records.

He’s making the NDP nervous, at least. Melanie Richer, a former communications director for Jagmeet Singh, has expressed concern that the party is no longer connecting with working-class voters. In 2016 we saw the results in the U.S. when the Democratic Party stopped connecting with working-class voters, and it wasn’t pretty.

Finance Minister Freeland will bring in her budget on the 16th. The leading political question will be can it make a dent in that big Conservative lead in the polls. I’m crossing my fingers.

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