Though Michael Ignatieff's Liberal Party would make substantial gains at the expense of the Conservatives and faltering New Democrats, Stephen Harper would nevertheless win a third consecutive minority government if an election were held today, according to projections based on the most recent polling data.
With 33.8 per cent national support, the Tories are projected to win 129 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons. The Liberals, supported by 28.8 per cent of Canadians, would win 101 seats, 25 more than the party currently holds.
These projections are based on a weighted average of three recent polls conducted by Angus-Reid, EKOS Research and Ipsos-Reid between Sept. 21 and Sept. 28, and including the responses of 4,277 Canadians, far more than are usually interviewed in any individual poll. Taken before and after the controversial vote on the long-gun registry, the combination of these three surveys provides a clear picture of the divided political situation in Canada today.
Neither Tories nor Liberals have seen their support change significantly since the last parliamentary session ended in June, when the two parties averaged 32.7 per cent and 27.2 per cent support respectively. Summer controversies over the census, proposed arena funding, and the costs of the G8 and G20 summits do not seem to have hurt the Conservative Party's standing, though Mr. Harper's level of support is well below that which he received in the 2008 election.
New Democrats, however, have lost considerable ground since June, when the party was at 17.4 per cent support. The NDP is now at 14.2 per cent and is projected to win only 24 seats, with losses in almost every region of the country but particularly in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. The NDP's stand on the long-gun registry may have been a contributing factor to its drop of about two points since the beginning of September.
With the support of 40.8 per cent of Quebeckers, the Bloc Québécois would win 54 seats, matching their best results in 1993 and 2004. Their two main rivals in the province, the Liberals and Conservatives, are both struggling with 23.3 per cent and 15.2 per cent support respectively. The Tories stand to lose six of their 11 seats in the province, while the Liberals would gain one and win 15 overall. The NDP, at 10.3 per cent, is projected to retain its seat in the riding of Outremont.
And despite having the support of 11.2 per cent of Canadians, the Green Party is not projected to win any seats in the Commons based on the latest polls.
In Ontario, which stands to be the main battleground of the next federal election, the Conservatives hold a narrow lead over the Liberals with 36.8 per cent to 35.8 per cent support, and are projected to win 48 seats. That would be a loss of two for the party, while the Liberals are projected to gain nine seats and win 46 in Ontario. Most of these are at the expense of the NDP, which would be reduced to 12 seats. At 14.4 per cent support in the province, Jack Layton's party has dropped almost four points since the 2008 election and three points since June.
The Liberals are projected to make substantial gains in British Columbia, likely another hotly contested province in the next election. The Conservatives have dropped nine points on the West Coast, and are projected to win 19 seats with 35.7 per cent of the vote. The Liberals should gain five seats and win 10 in British Columbia, as their level of support has increased to 24.9 per cent from 19.3 per cent in the 2008 election. The NDP, which has dropped to 23.8 per cent support from 26.1 per cent two years ago, is projected to retain only seven of their nine seats in the province.
The Tories hold comfortable leads in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and are projected to win 48 of the 56 seats in these three provinces. In fact, with 53.1 per cent support, Saskatchewan and Manitoba represent the only provinces in the country in which the Conservatives are polling higher than their 2008 election result. The Liberals should win five, up from two in 2008, while the NDP would be reduced to three seats from the four it currently holds in the region. The Liberals, with 42 per cent support, are projected to win 23 seats in Atlantic Canada, taking three seats from both the Conservatives and the New Democrats.
The Conservative Party currently holds 143 seats in the House of Commons, compared to 76 for the Liberals, 48 for the Bloc Québécois, and 36 for the NDP. Two seats are held by independents and another three are vacant, with by-elections slated to take place before the end of the year.
Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com