If the results of the latest EKOS poll are to be believed - a big if with any poll -Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff will be looking for ways to climb down from his bullishness for a spring election. And not just because the Conservatives, at 34.5 per cent, have opened up a seven-point lead over the Liberals.
More important, the poll shows that, by a margin of 40 to 39 per cent, Canadians prefer a Conservative government over an Liberal-NDP coalition government - a government that Mr. Ignatieff has said he'd be prepared to lead. And a prospect, as Mr. Harper indicated in an interview published Thursday, will be the focus of the Conservative campaign.
In other words, Mr. Ignatieff has put himself in the position of incurring all the electoral costs of a coalition government, with none of the benefits of vote consolidation. For, in an election, with the NDP and the Liberals splitting the vote of the 39 per cent of Canadians who support the idea of their forming a coalition government, 40 per cent is majority territory for the Conservatives. And Bloc support for the coalition - which was part of the equation in December 2008 - was not even asked in the EKOS poll. When that question was put to Canadians during the coalition near-crisis back then, support for the Conservatives rose to 45%, and there is no reason to believe it would be any different today.