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Faring well from B.C. to Ontario, Harper faces 'fault line' in Quebec

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen wave upon arrival in Val D'Or, Que., on April 19, 2011.


A new scenario is emerging that could see Stephen Harper's Conservatives lead a government in which the Ottawa River is the political dividing line. They're ahead in every region west of there but are tied in Atlantic Canada and faring poorly in Quebec, according to the latest Nanos Research poll.

Nationally, the Conservatives are 11 points up on Michael Ignatieff's Liberals - 39.1 per cent support compared to 28.4 per cent. The NDP is at 19.8 per cent, the Bloc Québécois is at 7.7 per cent and the Green Party is at a mere 3.9 per cent.

Pollster Nik Nanos, however, stressed the real action is in the regions. "We could see a new political fault line running down the Ottawa River," he said, noting that as of Tuesday night the Conservatives "were leading outside of the margin of error" in British Columbia, the Prairies and Ontario. But they lag in Quebec and are statistically tied with the Liberals in Atlantic Canada.

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He pointed first to Quebec where Mr. Harper's support continues to sag. Over the past two days, the Conservatives have had between 15.4 and 16.6 per cent support compared to the Liberals at 20.9 per cent. And Mr. Nanos said with that low Tory score, it's now conceivable that a few of the 11 seats they now represent in the province will be "in play."

The big story in Quebec, though, is Jack Layton and his New Democrats - he has seen party support grow from 23 per cent to 25.4 per cent over the past two days. Mr. Layton's challenge, Mr. Nanos said, is to convert that "goodwill" into votes. (The margin of error in the Quebec sample is plus or minus 6.4 percentage points 19 times out of 20.)

In Atlantic Canada the parties are all competitive. The Conservatives are polling at 38.2 per cent for the Conservatives, the Liberals are at 34 per cent and the NDP is at 25.5 per cent. (The margin of error is plus or minus 9.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

But the story west of the Ottawa River is one of Tory strength. In Ontario, the Conservatives continue to lead with 44.9 per cent support compared to 36.9 per cent for the Liberals and only 12.7 per cent for the NDP. (The margin of error is plus or minus 5.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

In the Prairies, the Tories are dominant - 55.3 per cent compared to 24 for the Liberals and 16.8 per cent for the NDP. (The margin of error is plus or minus 6.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

And even in British Columbia, the Tories are back on top after having been on a slide. Their support increased to 41.8 per cent Tuesday from 36.4 per cent on Monday. Compare this to the Liberals, who have now dropped over that same period to 25.9 per cent from 34.1 per cent support. (The margin of error is plus or minus 7.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

The poll of 1,018 Canadians was conducted between April 17 and April 19. The national numbers have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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