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The Globe and Mail

Prorogation hammers Conservative support in polls

Voter anger over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to have Parliament prorogued is costing the government heavily in public support.

The Conservatives, who were flirting with majority-government popularity in the fall, are suddenly tied with the Liberals, or headed in that direction, according to two polls released Wednesday.

Although there had been some softening in support before Christmas, it appears that Mr. Harper's decision on Christmas week to suspend Parliament until March struck a nerve. A word that many had not heard of and few could spell has suddenly become the latest tactically clever move by the Conservatives that turned out to be too clever by half.

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A poll released Wednesday by The Strategic Counsel shows the Conservatives with 31-per-cent support, a full 10 points down from October, when the firm last polled voters.

The Liberal Party is at 30 per cent, which essentially has them tied with the Tories, given the poll's margin of error of 2.3 per cent. They were at 28 per cent in October. The NDP is at 18 per cent, up a healthy four points, and the Greens are holding steady at 10 per cent.

"People are unhappy with the government's decision to prorogue Parliament," said Tim Woolstencroft, managing director of the polling firm.

This reaction from voters confounds the predictions of political analysts who thought most people wouldn't care whether Parliament was sitting or not.

"The elites didn't think it would have legs," said Mr. Woolstencroft, "but clearly voters believe that governments need to be held to account."

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Another poll released Wednesday, this one by Angus Reid, has 48 per cent of Canadians saying they are following the prorogation story "very closely" or "moderately closely," up 14 points since the first week of January.

The Angus Reid poll has the Conservatives at 34 per cent in support, down two points since December, and the Liberals at 28 per cent, down one point. The NDP is the beneficiary. It's support is up three points to 19 per cent.

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Fully 63 per cent of Canadians disagree with the decision to prorogue Parliament. Forty-four per cent of those polled "strongly disagree." Voters in Ontario and Atlantic Canada were particularly unhappy with the decision.

(Chart: The Strategic Counsel)

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