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Guergis-Jaffer scandal weighs on Tories in poll

The Harper Conservatives have sunk to their lowest level of support in a year, dipping below 30 per cent amid the furor over the Guergis-Jaffer scandal.

A new Harris-Decima poll conducted for The Canadian Press puts the Tories at 29 per cent, down three points from early April - and into a statistical tie with the Liberals who are down two points at 27.

The survey suggests Canadians are looking more favourably at the NDP as they become increasingly disenchanted with the two main political parties. The New Democrats rose three points to 20 per cent, a level of support the party hasn't enjoyed since shortly after the last election in October, 2008.

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The NDP, which typically runs a distant third, now appears to be "benefiting from not being the other guys," Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg said.

He said it's unprecedented to have both the Conservatives and Liberals languishing simultaneously below 30 per cent.

"In my memory, I can never recall both major political parties being under 30 per cent of the popular vote - ever. To me, that's the stunning part. ... It's a reflection of the general disgust of the major options that are available to most voters."

Mr. Gregg said the Tories have no doubt been hurt by allegations of unethical - and possibly illegal - conduct swirling around former cabinet minister Helena Guergis and her husband, former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer. But he believes the poll results are symptomatic of a deeper malaise among Canadian voters.

He pointed to another Harris-Decima survey this month, in which Canadians expressed little confidence in either the Tories or Liberals to manage the economy, balance the books or reflect their values. In that poll, more Canadians picked "None of the Above" or "Don't Know" than chose any federal party on those key issues.

"That's a reflection, as I say, of general, if not disgust, certainly massive dissatisfaction with traditional choices," Mr. Gregg said.

Liberals have gone gangbusters on the Guergis-Jaffer affair, pummelling the government over every twist and turn in the controversy. By comparison, the NDP has been more restrained and Mr. Gregg said that may be helping the party differentiate itself from the other two mainline parties.

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The pollster noted a remarkable similarity between the apparent rise of the NDP and the sudden surge in support for the Liberal Democrats, the traditional third party in Britain which has become a contender in the current election campaign across the Atlantic.

"The parallels are massive."

The latest results suggest the NDP:

» Pulled into the lead in British Columbia.

» Gained on the Tories in the Prairies.

» Pulled ahead of the Tories in Quebec.

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» Are virtually tied the Liberals and Tories among female voters.

The Bloc Quebecois, meanwhile, tightened its grip on Quebec, scoring 45 per cent to the Liberals' 21 per cent and the NDP's 12. The Tories trailed with the Greens at 10 per cent.

In Ontario, the Liberals were ahead with 36 per cent. The Conservatives were at 31, the NDP at 19, and the Greens at 12.

The Liberals also led in Atlantic Canada, with 39 per cent, with the Tories at 31, the NDP at 24 and the Greens at five.

In British Columbia, the NDP pulled into a slight lead, with 31 per cent compared to 30 for the Tories, 21 for the Liberals and 18 for the Greens.

In Manitoba-Saskatchewan, the Conservatives were down eight points to 39 per cent, followed by the NDP at 31 per cent, the Liberals at 16, and the Greens at 12.

The Tories remained unchallenged in Alberta, with 56 per cent to the Liberals' 16, the NDP's 12, and the Greens' 14.

Among women voters, the Liberals, Tories and New Democrats were in a virtual three-way tie, with 28, 26 and 24 per cent respectively.

The telephone survey of 2,014 Canadians was conducted April 15-25. A sample that size is considered accurate within a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

The margin of error is larger for regional results.

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