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Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae strolls back to his car after giving a year-end news conference in Toronto on Dec. 30, 2011. (Frank Gunn/Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae strolls back to his car after giving a year-end news conference in Toronto on Dec. 30, 2011. (Frank Gunn/Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Crunching Numbers

Tory and NDP slippage gives Liberals a polling boost in key provinces Add to ...

Entering the New Year, the Conservatives continue to hold a solid lead over their rivals on the opposition benches. But 2011’s two big winners have taken a step backwards as 2012 begins, permitting the Liberals to move forward with gains in Canada’s two largest provinces.

An aggregation of every public opinion poll released since the May 2 election, heavily weighted toward the most recent data, indicates the Conservatives have the support of 36 per cent of Canadians, down 3.6 points since the election and 2.2 points since Nov. 2, 2011.

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The New Democrats have also lost some of their lustre, dropping 1.5 points in the last two months to 28.9 per cent in the national polling aggregate. The Liberals have made only a modest gain and stand at 23 per cent support, though that represents a 4.1-point gain since the last election.

The Greens have the support of 5.9 per cent of Canadians, while the Bloc Québécois stands at 5.4 per cent nationwide.

Based on Canada’s current 308-seat electoral map, these levels of support would likely result in the Conservatives winning 140 seats had an election been held over the holidays. That is 26 seats fewer than they currently hold, and 10 seats fewer than they were projected to win at the beginning of November.

The New Democrats would drop three seats, taking 99, while the Liberals would make a great leap forward by winning 63 seats – almost double the 34 seats the party currently holds. The Bloc Québécois would win five seats while the Greens would win one based on these numbers.

In a 338-seat House of Commons, these levels of support would likely deliver 157 Conservatives, 107 New Democrats, and 68 Liberals, in addition to the six Bloc and Green MPs.

Though the Liberals have made only a small national gain over the last two months, their gains in Ontario and Quebec have been much more significant. The gap between the Tories and the Liberals in Canada’s largest province, for example, has shrunk by six points since early November.

The Conservatives still hold the support of 36.5 per cent of Ontarians, compared to 30.3 per cent for the Liberals, but that is a striking shift from the 19.1 points that separated the Tories from the third-place Liberals in Ontario on election night. Stephen Harper’s party has lost four points in the battleground province since November alone.

At 25.8 per cent support, the New Democrats are virtually unchanged from their election night result. These kinds of vote totals would allow the Liberals to bump their Ontario caucus from 11 to 31 MPs, dropping the Conservatives from 73 to only 52.

The Liberals have made a much more modest gain in Quebec, jumping 3.4 points since Nov. 2 to 18.3 per cent. But the party could win as many as five more seats in the province thanks to the decline of the New Democrats.

The NDP has been in free fall over the last two months. Led by Quebec-based Interim Leader Nycole Turmel, the New Democrats stood at 44.1 per cent in the poll aggregation on Nov. 2. Since then, the party has dropped 10.1 points to 34 per cent. They still hold a large lead over the Bloc Québécois, up 5.4 points to 23.3 per cent, and the Conservatives (19.3 per cent), but would likely lose at least nine of their 59 Quebec MPs. The Conservatives would increase their Quebec caucus to eight while the Bloc Québécois would pick up one more seat than they currently hold.

Though these are relatively small seat losses for the NDP in Quebec, at 34 per cent the party is nearing the tipping point where they would lose bunches of seats to the Liberals, Tories, and Bloc.

There has been little change in Alberta, the Prairies or Atlantic Canada since November. The Conservatives hold wide leads in the western provinces, while they also head a tight three-way race on the East Coast.

In British Columbia, however, the New Democrats have made their most significant gain over the last two months. They are up 5.3 points to 33.9 per cent in the province, only 4.1 points behind the Conservatives. The Liberals have dropped 6.1 points to 17.4 per cent in British Columbia, though that still puts them ahead of their election night result.

With the exception of Quebec, the Conservatives have lost support in every part of the country since the May 2011 election. Nevertheless, they still hold the kind of healthy lead they enjoyed over the Liberals at this time last year.

While the NDP is at or above the levels of support the party received under Jack Layton’s leadership in most parts of the country, the challenge is clear for the next leader of the New Democrats. Under Interim Leader Bob Rae, the Liberals have made important gains in the country’s three largest provinces. Ensuring that it is the NDP, and not Mr. Rae, who benefits from any future Conservative slip in support while also recovering the votes in Quebec that propelled the NDP to the Official Opposition is paramount if one of its eight leadership contenders can hope to become Canada’s next Prime Minister.

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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