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Federal Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau takes part in a debate in Vancouver, Jan. 20, 2013. (JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Federal Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau takes part in a debate in Vancouver, Jan. 20, 2013.

(JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Trudeau boosts Liberals into tie with Conservatives in polls Add to ...

With less than two weeks to go before the next leader of the party is named, Justin Trudeau’s seemingly inevitable victory has boosted the Liberals into a tie in national voting intentions with the Conservatives, as both the Tories and New Democrats have fallen back.

The Liberals are currently estimated to have the support of 30 per cent of Canadians, based on a weighted average of all national polls, a gain of seven points since the end of January. That puts them even with the governing Conservatives, who have slipped five points, while the New Democrats have dropped three points to 26 per cent nationwide.

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The Greens and Bloc Québécois follow with 6 per cent support each.

A significant shift in the polls has been apparent since the beginning of February, as the Conservatives have registered 32 per cent or less in the last seven national polls that have been released since then. While it may not be surprising that the government has taken a hit between elections, the Tories’ current level of support is lower than where the party stood at this point in their mandates after the 2006 and 2008 elections.

The Liberals, meanwhile, have been pegged at 29 per cent or more support in five of those seven national polls, while the New Democrats have been at 27 per cent or less in six. That makes it difficult to dismiss the recent trend as some sort of statistical anomaly.

These support levels would radically change the make-up of the House of Commons if a new election were held today. The Conservatives would be reduced to a minority government of only 122 seats, 42 fewer than they currently occupy and 22 fewer than they were projected to be in a position to win in January. The Liberals would be vaulted to be the Official Opposition with 95 seats while the New Democrats would drop to third place in the House with 78 seats. That is a drop of 11 seats for the NDP since January and a gain of 32 for the Liberals. The NDP currently holds 100 seats and the Liberals only 35.

The Bloc Québécois would regain official party status with 12 seats, while the Greens would be able to hold on to their one seat.

With a combined 173 seats, the Liberals and NDP would be capable of out-voting and replacing the Conservative government, making any sort of pre-election co-operation agreement unnecessary.

The changes to the electoral boundaries and the 30 new seats to be added before the next election do not significantly change the numbers. Though the Tories win almost half of the new ridings, it would still give them a minority of seats with 136 to 102 for the Liberals and 86 for the NDP. The two opposition parties would be able to combine for a majority of 188 seats.

The majority of the Conservatives’ seat losses would occur in Ontario, where the party has fallen three points since January and nine since the last election to 35 per cent, putting them only slightly ahead of the Liberals. They have jumped eight points since January to 34 per cent in the polls, while the New Democrats are down five points to 24 per cent support. That puts the Liberals nine points up on their last election result and would net them 37 seats in the province, more than they currently hold nationwide.

There has also been movement in Quebec, where the Liberals now hold a narrow lead with 31 per cent support, up seven points from January. The New Democrats have fallen four points but remain ahead of the Bloc with 27 to 23 per cent support, while the Conservatives have dropped to only 12 per cent in the province. There has been a lot of volatility in Quebec, primarily related to the New Democrats. In the last five polls they have either been between 24 and 27 per cent or 37 and 40 per cent support. The Liberals, too, have also been fluctuating wildly.

In British Columbia, the Conservatives have slipped six points since January to 32 per cent, putting them behind the New Democrats. The NDP is down two points to 33 per cent. Most of these parties’ losses have benefitted the Liberals, who are up six points to 23 per cent support. In fact, the Liberals have scored 21 per cent or more in five consecutive polls in the province, the first time that has happened since January 2012. The Greens are also polling well in B.C., averaging 12 per cent and putting together their best string of poll results since before the 2011 campaign.

The Conservatives remain comfortably ahead in the west, with 61 per cent support in Alberta and 39 per cent in the Prairies. But here again the Liberals have experienced a serious uptick, gaining five points in Alberta and seven in the Prairies since January. Though the NDP has held relatively steady in Alberta and the Prairies, they have been below 30 per cent in eight of the ten polls in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in 2013, while they had been over 30 per cent in 36 of 49 polls in 2012.

In Atlantic Canada, however, the Conservatives have bottomed out. They have registered below one-in-five support in the region in three consecutive polls, and are currently averaging only 20 per cent (a drop of 10 points since January and 18 points since the election). The Liberals lead with 42 per cent, while the New Democrats are solidly in second with 31 per cent. After leading in the province for part of 2012 and subsequently falling to third, the NDP seems to have settled at around 30 per cent support, having put up numbers within four points of that score in 11 of the last 12 surveys. But the Liberals have been over 40 per cent in the last four.

Undoubtedly, a large part of the gains the Liberals have made in every part of the country are due to the assumption that Mr. Trudeau will become the next leader of the party. But polls suggest that when he officially takes over the job the party’s numbers may still improve further. It puts the Liberals in a strong position to re-assert themselves as the main alternative to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. But both the Tories and the NDP will not sit idly by while Mr. Trudeau moves ahead in the polls. While things look good for the Liberals now, where will they stand in six months, one year, or in 2015?

ThreeHundredEight.com’s vote 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 ridings in the country, based on the provincial and regional shifts in support since the 2011 election. Projections 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.

Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com .

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