The federal Liberals have picked up support from both parties and are now in a dead heat with the NDP, a new poll shows, as concern over the economy returns to the fore for Canadians.
The Nanos Research Poll, conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV, shows the Liberals with 28.1 per cent, up from 23.4 per cent last month.
The Liberals were bolstered by added support in vote-rich Ontario, where the party is now in a statistical tie with the Conservatives, the poll shows.
The Tories, meanwhile, edged down to 35.6 per cent from 37.7 per cent in last month's poll, and the NDP dropped to 27.3 per cent from 30 per cent.
Pollster Nik Nanos attributed much of the gain in Liberal fortunes to relative weaknesses for the NDP and the Conservatives.
"In many respects, the Liberals can pick up support by default when people are disaffected with either of the other parties," he said.
Many of the NDP's more high-profile MPs have turned their attention to the party's leadership race, leaving its front bench increasingly thin, he said.
At the same time, the Conservatives are focusing on what Mr. Nanos called housekeeping chores: moving a raft of legislation through Parliament, including the omnibus crime bill, legislation to eliminate the long-gun registry, and another to end the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board.
There is fierce and vocal opposition to the bills, both in Parliament and among interest groups. But passing the legislation will allow the Conservatives to make good on the party's pledges, Mr. Nanos said.
"[They're]ensuring that they can at least repeat to their core supporters: 'promises made, promises kept,' " he said.
Jobs and the economy were identified as the most important issues by 29.3 per cent of those surveyed in the poll, up nearly 3 per cent from last month and well ahead of health care, which now holds second place at 22.8 per cent.
"A lot of this has to do with what we've seen in the news and the turmoil in Europe," Mr. Nanos said. "There's that, and also what I'll say are messages directly from the government to Canadians in terms of adjusting the expected deficit."
Earlier this month, the Conservative government backed out of a plan to balance the federal budget by 2014-2015, saying a sluggish economic recovery means it will take at least another year to eliminate the deficit. The government also said it would scale back plans to hike Employment Insurance premiums and extend a temporary work-share program.
The poll was conducted by telephone between November 16 and 21, about one week after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced in his fall economic update that it would take his government longer to eliminate the deficit than previously expected.
"Under normal circumstances, the Conservatives would probably benefit by a greater focus on the economy," Mr. Nanos said.
"But because they are delivering on a number of promises that they've made in the past, many of them controversial and ideological, it's dampened any potential benefit … at least in the short term."
The poll of 1,202 adult Canadians has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.