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Prime Minister Stephen Harper attends a G8 and G20 business meeting in Gatineau, Que., on April 29, 2010. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper attends a G8 and G20 business meeting in Gatineau, Que., on April 29, 2010. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)

Canadians unfazed by political shenanigans Add to ...

Neither a scandal alleging sex, drugs and influence peddling nor a parliamentary furor over detainee documents has shaken most Canadians' attitudes toward the federal parties.

A new poll from Nanos Research shows Stephen Harper's Conservative government four points ahead of Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, despite a spate of media reports on the activities of former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer and his wife, Helena Guergis, who lost her cabinet post over the affair.

The poll, conducted between April 30 and May 3, followed immediately in the wake of House Speaker Peter Milliken's ruling that the Conservative government appeared to be in contempt of Parliament for refusing to produce uncensored documents detailing the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan.

"The last month has been more politics as entertainment than politics as vision and moving the numbers," said Nik Nanos, president of Nanos Research.

The Conservatives, at 37.2 per cent, improved slightly from their March number (34.7 per cent), though the gains mostly registered in the Prairies, where the party is already overwhelmingly favoured. The Liberals are at 33.2 per cent, down slightly from the March figure (34.6 per cent).

Although regional breakdowns have a higher margin of error than the 3.1 per cent that applies to the national sample, Mr. Nanos observed that the Liberals and Conservatives are essentially tied in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and British Columbia.

The Bloc Québécois has gained ground in Quebec (from 32 to 38 per cent over the month, though the margin of error is 7 per cent), where one in four voters is undecided, speaking to the political volatility in that province. Nationally, the undecided make up 22 per cent of respondents, a higher number than usual.

The NDP has about 16 per cent of the vote nationwide, and the Greens have about four, a slight decline for both parties, according to the poll.

There has been speculation that if the government and the opposition parties can't reach a compromise over whether and how to release the detainee documents, the impasse could force an election.

The Nanos numbers suggest that it would be a brave or foolish party leader who tempted fate, since Canadian voters are offering such tepid support for almost everyone on Parliament Hill.

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