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Editorial cartoon by Brian GableBrian Gable/The Globe and Mail

New federal seat projections suggest it's becoming increasingly difficult for Michael Ignatieff's Liberals and Jack Layton's NDP to resist a vote of no-confidence and a trip to the polls.

The projections, based on a new EKOS Research poll released Thursday, show the two opposition parties are "tantalizingly close" to being able to combine forces and form a majority in the House of Commons were an election held today.

To pollster Frank Graves, this raises the spectre of a coalition government supported by the separatist Bloc Québécois - something Stephen Harper's Conservatives speak of darkly and love to point out to Canadians when sparring with the opposition.

According to Mr. Graves's projection, the Liberals would win 93 seats, up from the 76 they have now. The NDP would likely take 49 seats, a huge increase of 13 from its current standing. Together the two parties would have 142 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons - exactly what the Tories have now, falling just short of a majority.

The Conservatives would win 113 seats, the EKOS projection suggests, down 29 from their current contingent. And the Bloc Quebecois would likely take 52 seats, up from the 47 it now holds in the 75-seat province.

Of particular interest in the latest poll is the NDP surge, which Mr. Graves calls "surprising." He is not sure whether it is "ephemeral or real."

"We know that short-term economic pessimism is quite high. This may be boosting NDP fortunes. It's also notable how strong the women's shift was and this may ... reflect growing fatigue with the harder edges of CPC policies," Mr. Graves said, referring to the Tory plan to purchase next-generation stealth fighter jets and keep nearly 1,000 troops in Afghanistan after the 2011 withdrawal deadline.

But what does this mean for election timing?

" We have a political landscape which is failing to anoint anyone to lead during these somewhat gloomy and confused times," Mr. Graves said. "The motivations not to go to an election would appear to be much stronger within the governing party. All of the opposition [parties]now stand to at least maintain and probably gain seats."

The pollster noted, however, that with the absence of "collegial bonhomie in this Parliament, and increasing upside for the opposition, does an election loom more imminent?"