While there's been talk of a possible election this spring, a new poll doesn't show any particular party enjoying momentum.

Given these numbers, "everybody has to be thinking twice about an early election," Tim Woolstencroft of The Strategic Counsel told CTV.ca on Tuesday.

His firm conducted the poll for CTV News and The Globe and Mail.

Robert Fife, CTV News' Ottawa bureau chief, concurred. "Barring a bout of parliamentary madness, I think we can safely say there probably won't be a spring election,  and probably not one until the spring of 2008."

The Liberal Party has a four-point lead over the Conservative Party in the new poll, down slightly from early December.

"There's nothing that's happened in the last six weeks that's really shifted public opinion since the Liberal convention," Woolstencroft said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper did announce a cabinet shuffle and welcomed a Liberal defector to his Conservative caucus.

"The shuffle did nothing in terms of public opinion," he said.

He predicted no substantial changes in voter preferences will happen until the Conservative minority government tables its budget, expected for March 20. When the budget is delivered, Fife predicted selective tax cuts, more spending on the environment and a sweetening of the equalization pot.

Here are the parties' support levels (percentage-point change from Dec. 3 in brackets):

  • Liberals: 35 per cent (-2)
  • Conservatives: 31 per cent (unchanged)
  • NDP: 15 per cent (+1)
  • Bloc Quebecois: 11 per cent (unchanged)
  • Green Party: 8 per cent (+1)

"This can't be good news for (Liberal Leader) Stephane Dion," Fife said. "Despite the enormous positive coverage out of the Liberal leadership convention, he hasn't been able to capitalize on that and put the party in majority territory."

The NDP would lose seats if they captured 15 per cent of the vote, he said.

Woolstencroft noted that in mid-July, the Conservatives held an 11-point lead over the Liberals.

"Then the Conservatives had a pretty strong hold on public opinion. Now they are clearly starting to shift down to the low 30s. That is not a minority government," he said.

In the 2006 election, the Conservatives captured 36 per cent of the vote and the Liberals 30 per cent.

Fife said: "Even though Canadians like Mr. Harper's decisiveness, the party itself remains mired in the low 30s. So he doesn't want an election right away either."

Part of the reason for the Tories' troubles is the party's weakness in Quebec, Woolstencroft said.

The poll "confirms the Tories have really slipped in Quebec, and that's where their single biggest shift has occurred," he said.

Here are the Quebec numbers (percentage-point change from Dec. 3 in brackets):

  • Liberals: 25 per cent (-3)
  • Conservatives: 15 per cent (-1)
  • NDP: 9 per cent (+3)
  • Bloc Quebecois: 46 per cent (+2)
  • Green Party: 5 per cent (-1)

However, in July, the Conservatives had 30 per cent support in Quebec and a 14-point lead over the Liberals, Woolstencroft said.

Polling in Quebec tends to underestimate Liberal support, he added.

Harper spent some time in Quebec in December. He announced the sale of some of the Mirabel airport land back to local farmers and federal approval for a river diversion project to support a major new hydro-electric project.

Fife said the Bloc doesn't necessarily want an election right now because a provincial vote is expected this spring.

In Ontario, the Liberals have 45 per cent  -- a three-point drop since December. The Tories are stuck at 32 per cent. The NDP has 14 per cent support, down a point, while the Greens are up four points to nine per cent support.

Back in late July, however, the Tories led the Liberals 41 per cent to 39 per cent in Ontario.

While the Liberals have tended to do well in Ontario, especially in Toronto, Western Canada has been a Conservative bastion.

They lead the Liberals in the region 42 per cent to 26 per cent, or by 16 points. The NDP sits at 23 per cent, up five points from December. Woolstencroft said the NDP gains probably came in B.C..

The Greens are treading water there at nine per cent.

Even in the West, the Conservatives are less dominant. In mid-July, they held a 30-point lead over the Liberals.

Technical notes

  • Results are based on tracking among a proportionate national sample of Canadians 18 years of age or older.
  • Interviews were conducted between Jan. 11 and Jan. 14, 2007.
  • The national sample size is 1,000. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
  • The Quebec sample is 247. The margin of error is 6.3 percentage points.
  • The Ontario sample is 379. the margin of error is 5.0 percentage points.
  • The Western sample is 297. The margin of error is 5.7 per cent.