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Abacus Data chairman Bruce Anderson said the Conservatives have a strong base in rural B.C. but Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau appears to have given his party a renewed opportunity to connect with voters.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

British Columbia is shaping up as a competitive battleground as the October federal election looms with a close race between the Liberals and Conservatives for the top spot in Canada's most westerly province, a new poll suggests.

The Conservatives head into the campaign with 21 of the province's 36 seats, but the Abacus Data survey of 1,000 respondents last month suggests the Liberals are neck-and-neck with the Conservatives, with the NDP coming in third.

"It's unusual to see a situation that's as competitive and dynamic as this election is likely to be in B.C.," Abacus Data chairman Bruce Anderson said in an interview on Thursday.

"The polling data shows that the Liberal brand is more competitive than it has been."

Mr. Anderson said the Conservatives have a strong base in rural B.C. but Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau appears to have given his party a renewed opportunity to connect with voters after former leader Michael Ignatieff failed to do so in the 2011 election that ended with the party's worst-ever defeat.

"The big story here, in part, is the Conservatives need to fight to win this election," Mr. Anderson said.

"They're not going to win it by default because the Liberal brand is not competitive or the Liberal Leader is not compelling," he said.

"And the Liberals will have to fight hard to win it, but there are more open minds than they have seen in a long time and more interest in their leader than they have seen in a long time."

While the NDP has a base in the province, Mr. Anderson said Thomas Mulcair has not connected with voters as effectively as Mr. Trudeau has, so the NDP Leader's fate hinges on his Liberal counterpart. "For him to win, Trudeau needs to fail," Mr. Anderson said.

That poll, obtained by The Globe and Mail and to be released Friday, has the Liberals with 33 per cent, the Conservatives at 32 per cent and the NDP at 25 per cent when respondents were asked whom they would vote for if an election were an held today. The Green Party is at 9 per cent, according to the online survey conducted between March 5 and 9. There is a 26-per-cent undecided factor.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The numbers suggest the three-way national race predicted in national polls would be evident on the ground in British Columbia.

The survey suggests the top three issues among respondents are health care, the cost of living and job creation.