The Conservatives have suffered a drop in popular support across the country and are locked in a virtual dead heat with a newly resurgent Liberal party, a new poll suggests.
The latest Strategic Counsel poll, conducted between Feb. 5 and Feb. 9 for CTV and the Globe and Mail, shows that the two main parties have seen a shift in support since last October's federal election (difference in brackets):
- Conservatives: 32 per cent (-6)
- Liberals: 33 per cent (+7)
- NDP: 17 per cent (-1)
- Bloc Quebecois: 5 per cent (-5)
- Green Party: 13 per cent (+6)
The poll reflects a shifting political landscape marked by the Tory budget, a slumping economy and the impact of new Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, according to the Strategic Counsel's Peter Donolo.
"It shows how the change in leadership for the Liberals and the economic downtown have all come together to create a much more competitive political environment right now," Donolo told CTV.ca on Tuesday.
"So we've seen a decline in the Conservatives' fortunes and a net gain for the Liberals," he added.
"It's not surprising, given the Liberals have a new leader who seems to have avoided some of the mishaps and traps that were laid for him and that his predecessor stepped in."
Donolo said that Ignatieff has benefited from dismantling the Liberal-NDP coalition, which was to be supported by the Bloc Quebecois and was deeply unpopular with many Canadians.
The poll asked 1,000 Canadians what party they would vote for if a federal election were "held tomorrow."
Across the country
In Ontario, the poll found that the two major parties have seen big swings in popular support since the last federal election (difference in brackets):
- Conservatives: 28 per cent (-11)
- Liberals: 43 per cent (+9)
- NDP: 20 per cent (+2)
- Green Party: 9 per cent (+1)
Quebec voters, meanwhile, appear to be abandoning the Bloc since the last election while the Greens have seen a huge surge in the province (difference in brackets):
- Bloc Quebecois: 22 per cent (-16)
- Liberals: 24 per cent (0)
- Conservatives: 17 per cent (-5)
- NDP: 12 per cent (0)
- Green Party: 26 per cent (22 per cent)
In Western Canada, meanwhile, the Grits have seen a reversal of fortunes since the last election that could give them a foothold in the Tory heartland (difference in brackets):
- Conservatives: 50 per cent (-3)
- Liberals: 24 per cent (+
- NDP: 16 per cent (-6)
- Greens: 10 per cent (+1)
In explaining some of the findings, Donolo said the Tory budget, which was passed with Liberal support in Parliament last week, has been a boon for Ignatieff.
The Liberals attached an amendment to the budget which states that the Conservatives must give Parliament regular updates on key spending measures contained within the document's $35-billion economic stimulus package.
"He managed to position Liberal support for the budget without looking like they had been co-opted by the government," said Donolo.
At the time, Ignatieff warned the Tories that they were on "probation."
Donolo noted that the Grit's political maneuver has created the impression that Ignatieff "is calling the shots, as opposed to Mr. Harper pushing him around."
By contrast, former Liberal leader Stephane Dion was branded by the Tories as being a weak leader, and he was regularly criticized by the NDP for supporting Conservative legislation in Parliament.
Meanwhile, the Tories haven't appeared "surefooted" in handling the global recession, said Donolo.
As recently as December, the Tories predicted that Canada would post a budget surplus and was in good shape to weather the brewing economic storm.
Since then, thousands of Canadians have lost their jobs, bankruptcy rates have risen and consumer confidence has plunged.
Responding to the recession, both Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty have changed their tone and offered sobering economic speeches in recent weeks.
"They've gone from one extreme to the other, they've kind of ricocheted around," said Donolo.
Additional findings from the poll suggest that support for the NDP has remained relatively constant nationally, but Donolo said that number could also shift in the coming months.
"The more the Liberals gain momentum, if this continues, the more of a problem that will be for the NDP."
Regional and Demographic Breakdowns
Sample size and margin of error:
- The Strategic Counsel is pleased to present findings of a national telephone omni survey of 1,000 Canadians
- Results are based on a proportionate national sample of Canadians 18 years of age or older
- Interviews were conducted between Feb. 5 and Feb. 8, 2009
- Canada: 1000 - 3.1 per cent
- Quebec: 244 - 6.3 per cent
- Rest of Canada: 758 - 3.6 per cent
- Ontario: 384 - 5 per cent
- West: 300 - 5.7 per cent