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Tories climb but poll shows troubling 'tale of two cities'

Talk about two solitudes. A new national opinion poll shows Stephen Harper's Conservatives gaining steadily on Michael Ignatieff's Liberals - but it also reveals stark and potentially troubling divisions between Alberta and Quebec on the direction of the government.

The EKOS survey has the reigning Tories at 33.6 per cent in national support compared to 27.1 per cent for the Grits. The NDP garners 16.9 per cent support, the Bloc is at 9.3 per cent and the Green Party is polling at 10.6 per cent.

Pollster Frank Graves notes that in February the two main parties were in a virtual tie. Now, however, the weekly trend for the Conservatives has been up as they gradually pull away from the Liberals despite all the negativity around the Guergis/Jaffer scandal and the Afghan detainee feud.

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Still, it is not all rosy for the Tories. Nearly 50 per cent of Canadians think the government is moving in the wrong direction compared to 40 per cent who believe it is on the right track.

"Why would the Conservatives be widening their gap over the Liberals when [voters]are losing faith in the direction of government?" Mr. Graves wonders. "The explanation must be in the perceived weakness of the opposition parties, particularly the official opposition Liberals."

Breaking down the numbers by region is also interesting: 57.1 per cent of Albertans (the Tory base) believe the government is moving in the right direction compared to 25.3 per cent of Quebeckers. Conversely, 66.1 per cent of Quebeckers believe the government is headed the wrong compared to 30.5 per cent of Albertans.

"In a tale of two cities about 80 per cent of Montrealers are unhappy with the federal direction; the obverse is the 80 per cent of Calgarians who think federal direction is just swimming," Mr. Graves notes. "The weakness of all federalist options in Quebec may be a somewhat ominous indictor of future national unity issues."

The EKOS poll shows that in Quebec the Liberals have 20.4 per cent compared to 16 for the Tories, 13.6 per cent for the NDP and 37.7 per cent for the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

The poll of 2,573 Canadians was conducted between May 5 and May 11. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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