There is only a week left in this unexpectedly surprising election campaign and the final outcome is still unpredictable. But when the votes are counted May 2, where the surging New Democrats make their gains and whether the Liberals can hold on to their own seats could mean the difference between minority and majority government for the Conservatives.
According to ThreeHundredEight.com's updated seat and vote projections for The Globe and Mail, the Tories are still on track to fall short of a majority, with 150 seats and 38.6 per cent of the national vote. The Liberals are likely to place second with 27.4 per cent and 76 seats (a loss of one since last week), while the New Democrats follow with 19 per cent and 36 seats (a gain of two). And the Bloc Québécois has dropped two seats to 45 in Quebec.
But the final week of the election campaign will almost certainly see these vote and seat numbers change significantly.
In Ontario, the New Democrats are currently on an upswing, having gained over a point in the last week. They are projected to win 16 seats, one more than last week, while the Conservatives are expected to take 55 and the Liberals 35. Both the Tories and Liberals are stagnating in the province, and if the current trends continue the NDP could pick up one seat each from the two parties. But if the New Democrats keep eating into Grit support, as many as nine Liberal seats could fall into the hands of the Conservatives.
On the West Coast both the Tories and the NDP are gaining, with increases in support of about one and two points, respectively. Contrary to last week, the New Democrats are now second in the province and are projected to win eight seats. At least two more seats could fall to the NDP, both of them Conservative. But because of the slumping Liberals, the Conservatives are also capable of capturing three more seats themselves.
It's a similar situation on the East Coast, where the Liberals have dropped more than a point in the last seven days. The New Democrats are, here again, looking good with a gain of more than two points. If things continue to turn in their favour they could go to eight seats from four, the gains coming equally from the Liberals and the Tories. But while the Conservatives are looking stagnant in Atlantic Canada, if Michael Ignatieff's party continues to drop the Tories could net three more Liberal seats.
And in Quebec, the New Democrats are surging. The projection model reacts slowly to new trends until they are proven by holding steady over more than a few days, but even so the NDP is up more than three points in the province and is now first among the three federalist parties. Though they are currently projected to win only two seats, as many as six more could switch orange soon, most of them coming from the Bloc Québécois.
But here again there are some consequences. As Jack Layton's team takes support from the Bloc, the Conservatives could come up the middle in three Bloc seats. Even the Liberals could take a couple seats from the Bloc if Gilles Duceppe's numbers continue to drop.
Based on current trends, the New Democrats could capture as many as 14 new seats between now and May 2. A crop of 50 seats would mark a historic best for the NDP, and with things as unpredictable as they are the NDP could even top 60 seats and have a good shot at forming the Official Opposition.
But it might be a toothless opposition. While NDP growth does put about half-a-dozen Conservative seats in danger, the corresponding weakness of the Liberals and Bloc puts as many as a dozen non-NDP seats in Tory sights. With the Conservatives currently about five seats short of their first majority, if the vote splits in Stephen Harper's favour, he could at last reach his electoral goal.
ThreeHundredEight.com's projection model aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date, and record of polling firm accuracy. The tested seat projection model makes individual projections for all 308 ridings in the country, based on the provincial and regional shifts in support from the 2008 election and including the application of factors unique to each riding, such as the presence of well-known candidates and the effects of incumbency.
These projections are a reflection of the likely result of an election if an election were held today. They are subject to the margins of error of the opinion polls included in the model, as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level.