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The Globe and Mail

NDP weakness sets up two-way race between Harper and Ignatieff

NDP Leader Jack Layton speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Feb. 3, 2011.


While national voting intentions remain stubborn, Stephen Harper's Conservatives have made some small gains throughout the country and look set to win a minority government virtually identical to the one currently sitting in Parliament. But the political race outside of Quebec is increasingly becoming one between only the Tories and the Liberals.

According to's updated vote and seat projections, the Tories have increased their national support to 35.9 per cent, good enough to net them 138 seats were an election held today, three more than the last set of projections three weeks ago.

The Liberals continue to hold the support of 29.1 per cent of Canadians, but have dropped two seats in the projection to 96. That is still 19 seats more than the party currently occupies in the House of Commons.

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The New Democrats have slipped to 15.5 per cent nationally, and are now projected to win only 21 seats, representing a loss of 15 for the party. The Bloc Québécois, with 10.1 per cent support nationally but 40 per cent in Quebec, would win 53 seats, while the Greens are up only slightly to 8.3 per cent.

Support for the two main parties has barely shifted over the last year, but the Conservatives have been nudging their lead over the Liberals forward inch by inch. They now have a margin of almost seven points over Michael Ignatieff's party - but that is far from the 11 point margin that separated Stephen Harper from Stéphane Dion in 2008.

The New Democrats have been making more room for the two front runners, losing support in every part of the country except Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Nowhere does the NDP stand at more than 22 per cent.

This sets the stage for a two-headed campaign outside of Quebec, with Canadians being asked to choose between re-electing the government and electing the alternative. Within Quebec, where the NDP is set to make some noise against the uninspiring traditional federalist parties and a dominant Bloc, the campaign could have a very different flavour.

Liberal gains in Ontario and British Columbia

The situation in British Columbia remains very fluid, with the Liberals making a solid two point gain at the expense of the NDP, who have fallen away to only 21.7 per cent. The Conservatives still lead with 39.5 per cent and are projected to win 23 of the province's 36 seats. The Liberals, at 24.7 per cent, are projected to win nine.

The battle for Ontario has taken on the character of trench warfare, as parties make only incremental gains at each other's expense. The Conservatives are unchanged at 38.3 per cent and 50 seats, while the Liberals are up about one point to 36.7 per cent. They are still projected to win 45 seats, while the New Democrats would take 15.1 per cent of the vote and 11 seats.

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The Bloc Québécois has things well in hand in Quebec, where the Liberals have slipped to 21.4 per cent and have lost a seat to the sovereigntist party. The Conservatives remain steady at 17.9 per cent and seven seats. The New Democrats have gained almost a point and are currently at 13.1 per cent in the province.

There has been little change in Alberta, though the Liberals have picked up almost two points and currently stand at 19.7 per cent. That's an increase of more than eight points since the 2008 election.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Conservatives made the largest gain and stand at 46 per cent and 21 seats, well ahead of the Liberals at 24.3 per cent and the NDP at 20.7 per cent.

The Conservatives have taken a little more than two points from the Liberals in Atlantic Canada, but still trail at 33.9 per cent to the Grits' 39.2 per cent. With a tiny jump up to 18.8 per cent, the New Democrats are now projected to win three seats in the region, one more than three weeks ago.'s vote and seat projection model uses a rolling, weighted average of polling results and includes the latest data from polls taken since Jan. 17 by EKOS Research, Ipsos-Reid, Abacus Data, CROP, Léger Marketing, and Harris-Decima, 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

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