Tories widen gap over flagging Liberals: poll
Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday May 26, 2010. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives are opening a sizable gap over the flagging Liberals under Michael Ignatieff, a new poll suggests.
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey gives the Conservatives a nine-point lead nationally, with the support of 36 per cent of decided respondents, compared with 27 per cent for the Liberals.
The NDP was at 16 per cent, followed by the Green party at 11 and the Bloc Quebecois at eight per cent.
The spread between the two biggest federalist parties is actually less than it was on election day in October 2008, when Harper's Conservatives took 37.6 per cent of the popular vote against the Liberals' 26.2.
But the two-week telephone survey of just over 2,000 respondents suggests the minority government has broken out of a long-standing statistical stalemate with the official Opposition that dates back to Harper's controversial, two-month shut-down of Parliament in December.
"There is some evidence that the electorate is only modestly engaged pre-writ," said Harris-Decima pollster Allan Gregg.
"But that said, I don't think there's any question the Conservatives are bouncing back off their post-prorogation lows, especially among men, and in some measure in Ontario -- 905 specifically -- and B.C."
Male respondents in the poll were 12 percentage points more likely than women to support the Tories, 42-30.
The survey found the Conservatives held a five-point lead in Ontario, with 39 per cent support compared to 34 for the Liberals and 14 for New Democrats.
In British Columbia, where voter volatility is high, the Conservatives are "pulling away" with 39 per cent, compared to 27 for the NDP, 17 for the Liberals and 15 for the Green party.
The federal Liberal vote in B.C., Gregg suggests, is being "suppressed artificially by some of (Liberal Premier) Gordon Campbell's difficulties he's having around the HST."
If true, the B.C. results are doubly paradoxical in that it is the Harper Conservatives who strongly pushed the Harmonized Sales Tax on B.C. and Ontario with rich cash incentives.
In fact, the survey found Conservative support outstripped opposition support in every region of the country except Quebec, where the Tories are a distant third at 15 per cent --behind the Bloc Quebecois at 35 and the Liberals at 26 per cent.
Green party support ranged from a low of six per cent in Atlantic Canada to a high of 15 in B.C.
Green party supporters, says Gregg, fragment around the political spectrum on election day. In the meantime, the Greens "benefit from being none of the above."
The national survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 per cent, 19 times in 20, with larger error margins for regional breakdowns.