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Tories hold 9-point national lead, but support softens in B.C.

Conservative support in British Columbia appears to be sagging even as the party maintains a healthy nine-point national lead.

A rolling three-day tracking poll by Nanos Research, conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV, on Thursday had the leading parties statistically unchanged in the national race.

The national numbers have the Tories down 0.1 percentage points to 39.1 per cent from the previous poll and the Liberals up 0.5 points to 30.4 per cent. The NDP are down 0.2 points, to 17.2 per cent These numbers have been bouncing in a narrow range, well within the poll's margin of error, since the Liberals released their platform. The stability suggests this week's campaign-access controversy has not had an effect on the front-running Tories. It could also indicate that the lift the Grits received from their platform is now entrenched.

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Results in the regions paint a more variable picture. Although a larger margin of error due to smaller sample sizes makes evidence of change less reliable, trends have emerged.

In British Columbia, indications Wednesday of a sudden plunge in Tory support - which pollster Nik Nanos cautioned then had to treated as a "potential drop" - have continued. In two days, the polling indicates, the party's support in the province has dropped from 48.4 per cent to 39.3 per cent.

"It shows that things are going to be a little more dynamic in British Columbia," Mr. Nanos said. "As support for the Conservatives goes down, support for the Liberals and NDP has gone up. That could speak to some interesting vote splits."

The Tory decline, which still leaves the party 10 points ahead of the Grits and 15 points ahead of the NDP in the province, exceeds the poll's 8.1 per cent margin of error in that region.

The Conservatives remain rock-solid on the Prairies. They lead in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, though the latter gap is within the poll's margin of error. The three federalist parties are essentially tied in Quebec, polling in the 19-22 per cent range and trailing far behind the Bloc, which has 35.8 per cent support.

"In the last six days, since the Churchill announcement, Conservative support has softened," Mr. Nanos noted.

The three-day tracking poll uses a rolling sample of 400 people a day, for a combined survey of 1,200 Canadians. This sample was conducted April 4 to April 6. Each day, samples from four days ago are dropped from the results, and the latest day's are added, to get a rolling result.

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The result is that events on the campaign trail can take a few days to be reflected in the polls.

Nanos Research says the national sample is accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Regional results have higher margins of error.

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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