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NDP Leader Jack Layton waves after delivering a speech to his caucus in Ottawa on May 24, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)
NDP Leader Jack Layton waves after delivering a speech to his caucus in Ottawa on May 24, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

Crunching Numbers

Six months in, Tories peak and NDP shows staying power in polls Add to ...

Despite changes in leadership for three of the four opposition parties, the federal voting intentions of Canadians have shifted very little since they cast their ballots six months ago. But contrary to some of the expectations immediately after the results of the federal election became known, the New Democrats are proving to be no flash in the pan.

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And the Conservatives may have peaked at the right time.

An aggregation of every public opinion poll released since the May 2 election, heavily weighted toward the most recent data, indicates Stephen Harper’s Conservatives still lead six months into their four-year mandate. The Tories have the support of an estimated 38.2 per cent of Canadians, down merely 1.4 points since the election.

The New Democrats are virtually unchanged with 30.4 per cent support. The Liberals have picked up more than three points and now stand at 22.4 per cent support under Interim Leader Bob Rae, up from their historic worst of 18.9 per cent six months ago. And the Bloc Québécois is at an estimated 4.1 per cent support nationally, tied with the Greens.

If these voting intentions are translated into seats in Canada’s current 308-seat House of Commons, the Conservatives would win 150 seats, down 16 from their current standing and in minority territory. The New Democrats would win 107 and the Liberals 49, the latter picking up 15 seats. The Bloc Québécois would be reduced to only one seat, while Elizabeth May could expect to be re-elected in British Columbia.

But with the Conservatives introducing legislation to increase the size of the House of Commons to 338 MPs, Mr. Harper would likely see his party win 168 seats in the expanded legislature, one seat shy of a majority. This re-distribution improves the Tory situation as most of the new seats will be created in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario, particularly in the suburban regions that the Tories dominated in the 2011 election.

Those extra seats will come in handy, as the Conservatives have taken a step back in most parts of the country.

The most important drop is in Ontario, where the Conservatives now stand at 40.5 per cent support, down almost four points since the election. Only the Liberals, up three points to 28.3 per cent, have taken advantage of the Conservative slip. The NDP’s support has changed very little, and stands at 25.3 per cent.

British Columbia is another sore spot for the Tories, as they have dropped 5.9 points to 39.6 per cent. This still gives them an 11-point lead over the New Democrats, who are down almost four points, but is nevertheless a worrying sign for the Conservatives in what is a battleground province. The provincial B.C. Liberals, whose supporters are generally drawn from the federal Conservative Party, have slipped in the polls and trailed the provincial NDP in the most recent survey to come out of the province.

The federal Liberals have benefited, as they are up 10 points in British Columbia. However, that still puts them well behind the others, with 23.5 per cent.

The Tories have also dropped in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, but are still the choice of the majority of the residents in these three provinces. However, a net gain of almost seven points on the Tories by the NDP in Saskatchewan and Manitoba would open up several seats to the New Democrats on the Prairies in an election.

The one province in which the Conservatives have improved their standing is Quebec. But despite the loss of their popular leader, the New Democrats under Interim Leader Nycole Turmel are still poised to virtually sweep the province. They stand at 44.1 per cent support, slightly higher than their election result.

Their chief rival in Quebec now appears to be the Tories. They are up more than two points since the election and stand at 18.7 per cent, putting them ahead of the Bloc Québécois for second in the province. The leaderless Bloc is down almost six points to 17.9 per cent. If they took those numbers into an election, all but one of their four MPs would likely be defeated.

The Liberals are still very low in Quebec with 14.9 per cent support, but are competitive enough in Montreal to have their seven MPs from the island re-elected.

That is if they can hold the Tories off. The latest poll out of Quebec showed the Conservatives running slightly ahead of the New Democrats in the voting intentions of non-francophone Quebecers, a demographic the Liberals once owned. It is not impossible that two or even three Conservative MPs could be elected in the West Island if this occurred in the 2015 election.

With the Bloc choosing its leader later this year, the NDP next March, and the Liberals in 2013, Canadians may wait until these leadership races are completed before changing their minds. Waiting to see how the Conservatives will govern with a majority, after they finish checking-off their campaign promises, could also be a factor in explaining the relative status quo. But half of a year after the last federal election, most Canadians do not yet seem to be regretting the choices they made on May 2 very much.

ThreeHundredEight.com ’s projection model aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date, and the polling firm’s accuracy record. The seat projection model makes individual projections for all 308 ridings in the country, based on the provincial and regional shifts in support from the 2011 election and including the application of factors unique to each riding, such as the effects of incumbency. With the actual vote results of the 2011 federal election, the model had a margin of error of +/- 2.4 seats per party.

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