With speculation mounting that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will call an election this summer, he may have to assure voters the federal Liberal Party is the best choice for steering Canada's economy out of its COVID-induced hole, according to a new poll.

Just over one-quarter (28 per cent) of Canadians surveyed in a Nanos Research poll conducted for CTV News said the economy is their most important policy issue. Concerns about the federal deficit resonated with 16 per cent of people polled, ahead of even the pandemic itself, which ranked as the most pressing policy issue for just 10 per cent of respondents.

The survey polled 1,051 Canadians over the age of 18 between June 30 and July 5. The poll is accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

While Trudeau declined to answer reporters in Calgary on Wednesday as to whether or not he will trigger an election, CTV News Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier said it’s almost a certainty.

“Ministers have been advised to take their vacation in July. It’s likely an election will be called in August for a mid-September election,” she told BNN Bloomberg Thursday. In Calgary on Wednesday, Trudeau announced approval of a light rail transit project for the city. Earlier in the week the prime minister made similar funding announcements in Saskatchewan and Ontario.

Napier said these announcements are old political tactics: “Spend money, then call an election”, she said.

The Canadian economy has made leaps and bounds since the onset of the pandemic, but growth has been harder to come by in 2021 amid a rash of business restrictions in Canada’s most populous provinces.

In April, Canada's gross domestic product fell 0.3 per cent, the first decline since the start of the pandemic, according to Statistics Canada. Canada's economy also shed more than 200,000 jobs in April, StatsCan said. The federal statistics agency will release the latest labour force assessment on Friday.

The timing makes sense for a snap election, said Napier, because polls favour the Liberals to continue governing the country as Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole has largely been unable to gain any traction. Napier said it’s in Trudeau’s best interest for a short political campaign - about five weeks long - to prevent NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh from gaining too much momentum.

If an early election is called, the Liberals will be scrutinized for the budget tabled by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in April that showed $101.4 billion in new spending, said Napier.

To any critics grilling the Liberals on the size of the deficit, their defence will likely to say the debt will be easy to pay down due to low interest rates, according to Napier.

“Low rates and easy money. That’s what the government is banking on,” she said.

BNN Bloomberg and CTV News are owned by Bell Media, which is a division of BCE Inc.