Liberals have stopped bleeding potential votes and are within five points of the Conservatives, according to the latest poll, which suggests the federal parties are at a stalemate.

The Strategic Counsel poll has found the parties now have virtually the same amount of voter support they had in the January 2006 election when the Conservatives won a minority government, despite weeks of election-style campaigning.

But poll, conducted for CTV News and The Globe and Mail between March 10 and 13, also reveals that Stephen Harper has made strong gains in Quebec.

When respondents were asked who they would vote for today, the results showed little difference from about a month ago (percentage-point change from a Feb. 15-18 poll in brackets):

  • Conservatives: 36 per cent (+ 2)
  • Liberals: 31 per cent (+ 2)
  • NDP: 15 per cent (+ 1)
  • Green Party: 10 (- 2)
  • Bloc Quebecois: 9 (- 2)/>

By contrast, the Liberals found themselves down eight percentage points between the Feb. 15-18 poll and another conducted on Dec. 3, just after Stephane Dion won the Liberal leadership race.

At the time, the Conservatives had also launched a series of political attack ads aimed squarely at Dion.

But while Conservative momentum seems to have stalled in much of the country, the latest poll shows a different story unfolding in Quebec.

When respondents in that province were asked which party they would vote for, an increase of voters said the Conservatives (percentage-point change from a Feb. 15-18 poll in brackets):

  • Bloc Quebecois: 36 per cent (- 7)
  • Conservatives: 26 per cent (+ 8 per cent)
  • Liberals: 22 per cent (none)
  • NDP: 9 per cent (+ 1)
  • Green Party: 7 per cent (- 2)

"It's the lowest we've had the BQ since we've been polling," Strategic Counsel Chairman Allan Gregg told "It's clear that as the sovereigntist vote shrinks, the available federalist vote grows, and the Conservatives have been far more successful at consolidating that vote."

However, the margin of error for the Quebec sample size is plus or minus 6.3 percentage points (for full details of the poll, please see "Technical notes" below).

While analysts say Harper needs between 38 to 40 per cent support in order to win a majority government, Gregg said the latest results are promising enough that voters could still see a spring election.

"If I was Stephen Harper looking at this, I'd say, 'I still have some work to do, but you know what? I can't do worse than 2006,'" said Gregg.

"He's recovered the ground he's lost post-Afghanistan, same-sex-marriage, I-won't-do-Kyoto, in the province of Quebec. All those seats we'd anticipated he might lose are now back in the win column."

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have stalled in Ontario at 35 per cent support.

"It appears almost impenetrable. He cannot get above 35 per cent -- I mean, we had that little blip in the summer. But by and large, there's a consistent pattern of the Liberals leading," said Gregg.

When Ontario respondents were asked who they would vote for, results remained much the same as last month (percentage-point change from a Feb. 15-18 poll in brackets):

  • Liberals: 41 per cent (+ 2)
  • Conservatives: 34 per cent (none)
  • NDP: 15 per cent (+ 1)
  • Green Party: 10 per cent (- 3)
  • Bloc Quebecois: N/A
  • Gregg said that Harper has "pretty much given up on Toronto proper," a notoriously difficult area for federal Conservatives to crack into.

    "They've got to start doing something about visible minority groups in the 905 area," he said, referring to Toronto's outlying suburban areas.

    Technical notes

    • Results are based on tracking among a proportionate national sample of Canadians 18 years of age or older.
    • Interviews were conducted between March 10 and March 13, 2007.
    • The national sample size is 1,000. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
    • The Quebec sample is 247. The margin of error is plus or minus 6.3 percentage points.
    • The Ontario sample is 379. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.