The recent EKOS opinion poll suggests that the federal Conservatives hold a margin of 10.5 per cent over Michael Ignatieff’s Liberal Party of Canada—34.4 per cent of respondents would support the Tories in an election, compared with 23.9 per cent for the Liberals. This is quite a turnabout in Liberal fortunes, for when Parliament closed they were almost within the margin of error of being in a dead heat with the Tories nationally (Liberals 26.2 per cent, Conservatives 30.6 per cent).
“The Liberals should be particularly alarmed about newfound Conservative strength in Ontario, where they now have a sizeable lead. Even in supposedly security-wary Toronto, the Conservatives enjoy an unprecedented lead.
– EKOS Politics
Further evidence that the Liberals are hemorrhaging support is that they have slipped into second place in their Ontario stronghold, 2.6 per cent behind the Tories.
This level of support places Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in a clear position to win a strong minority if an election were held. And given the weak campaign performances of the Liberals under Stéphane Dion and Paul Martin, Tories could stretch their lead during a campaign to majority territory. Nothing I’ve seen from Michael Ignatieff suggests he’ll be a strong campaigner. He’s too prone to speaking off the cuff and seems reluctant to, or incapable of taking a clear position and sticking to it. Such is Ignatieff’s stature in Canada, he could prove to be a negative factor in a Liberal campaign as Canadians shy away from making this “visitor” their next prime minister.
So what, if anything, does this suggest about the prospects of a fall election? I believe it strengthens the likelihood. Positive Canadian job numbers this week, PM Harper’s strong performance at the G8 and G20 meetings and the prospect of a belt-tightening budget to come in 2011 will encourage PM Harper to seek a renewed mandate, hopefully one that will provide him with a majority of the seats in the House.
And, if the opposition continue their brinkmanship in their threat to defeat/split up the Tory budget bill now before the Senate, the prime minister could very well get the excuse he needs to go to the people in the fall.