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A stop sign is seen near the Peace Tower in Ottawa on Dec. 30, 2009. (BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS)
A stop sign is seen near the Peace Tower in Ottawa on Dec. 30, 2009. (BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS)

Crunching Numbers

Much ventured for only slight Conservative polling gain in 2010 Add to ...

As MPs head back to their ridings for a long winter's nap, the Conservatives end the year on an upswing, extending their lead over the Liberals to almost six points as the party makes gains throughout the country at the expense of Michael Ignatieff, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democrats.

According to ThreeHundredEight.com's updated seat and vote projections for The Globe and Mail, Stephen Harper's team heads into the holidays with the support of 34.8 per cent of Canadians, up from the last set of projections two weeks ago. The Liberals have dropped slightly to 29.2 per cent support and the New Democrats have slid to 15.6 per cent. The Bloc Québécois and the Greens have the support of 10.2 and 8.7 per cent of Canadians, respectively.

The relatively small Conservative bump translates into significant seat gains, as the party is now projected to win in 136 ridings, six more than the Tories were projected to win two weeks ago. The Liberals have held firm at 96 seats, while the Bloc Québécois has decreased by one to 52 seats. The New Democrats, with a drop of five seats to 24, suffer most at the hands of the Conservatives.

The government currently holds 143 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, compared to 77 Liberals, 36 New Democrats, and 47 Bloc Québécois MPs. There are also two independents and three vacant seats in the House.

Conservative gains in Central Canada

Three of the seats the Conservatives have taken in the new projection come from central Canada. In Ontario, the Conservatives now lead with 38 per cent support compared to 35.7 per cent for the Liberals, representing an increase in the Tory lead by almost two points. The Conservatives are projected to win 50 seats in the province, while the Liberals would take 44 and the New Democrats, who have dropped to 15.7 per cent, would win 12 seats.

In Quebec, the Bloc leads with 39.3 per cent support, but has dropped one seat and is now projected to win 52 in the province. The Conservatives, who are up to 17.2 per cent in Quebec, are the beneficiaries. They are projected to win seven seats, one more than two weeks ago but still four fewer than they currently have in the province. The Liberals and New Democrats are at 22.7 and 13.2 per cent, respectively.

Other Conservative seat gains come in British Columbia, where the party leads with 37 per cent support, and in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Tories are up almost three points in the Prairies, leading the Liberals by 47 per cent to 23.2 per cent support. They are projected to win 21 of the 28 seats in the region.

But all is not good news for the Conservatives. The Liberals have gained more than two points in Alberta and now stand at 21.2 per cent in the province. The Tories are down almost four points here, and have also lost ground in Atlantic Canada, where the Liberals have stormed ahead four points and two seats. They lead in the region with 40.9 per cent support and a projected 21 seats. The New Democrats, who have slid to 18.6 per cent support, now stand to elect only two MPs on the East Coast.

The year in polling

A look at the average polling results on a month-to-month basis shows there has been little change in national support for all parties throughout the year. But the Conservatives have improved their position slightly: Whereas they only led the Liberals by a 33-to-31-per-cent margin in February, they averaged 35 per cent to the Liberals' 28 per cent in December.

Regionally, the Conservatives have seen a sharp increase in support in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada this month. They averaged 40 per cent support in B.C., representing a 16-point lead over the New Democrats. In October, that margin was only three points. And in Atlantic Canada, the Tories averaged 35 per cent in December, far better than the 27 per cent they scored in August.

The Liberals, meanwhile, have seen their support levels decrease in Quebec and Ontario. The party was at 27 per cent support in Quebec back in February, but averaged only 21 per cent in December. In Ontario, the Liberals were ahead from January to March and were neck-and-neck with the Tories until September. But they've since dropped to an average of 33 per cent support, while the Conservatives now stand at 38 per cent. The Liberals have improved their numbers, however, in Atlantic Canada and Alberta.

ThreeHundredEight.com's vote and seat projection model uses a rolling, weighted average of polling results and includes the latest data from polls taken since Dec. 6 by EKOS Research, Harris-Decima, Nanos Research, Ipsos-Reid, Abacus Data, Angus-Reid, and Léger Marketing, as well as polls taken prior to that date. Polls are weighted by sample size, age, and records of pollster accuracy, with larger and newer polls given greater weight.

Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com

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