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Tories surge with Liberals 'mired in unimaginable depths'

Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals continue their downward slide, approaching dismal territory in which even Stéphane Dion rarely tread, according to a new poll.

With only 25.1 per cent support of Canadians in the latest EKOS Research survey, the Liberals are now nine points behind Stephen Harper's Conservatives, who have 34.4 per cent. That puts the Liberals close to the darkest days of the Dion leadership, which saw them languish at 24 per cent. Even more troubling is that the Grits are now polling at half the support they enjoyed a decade ago when they were routinely in the 50-per-cent range.

The latest poll gives the NDP 15.3 per cent compared to 12 per cent for the Green Party and 10.6 for the Bloc Quebecois. Last week's EKOS survey had the Conservatives at 33.6 per cent compared to 27.1 per cent for the Liberals.

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"Despite a number of wobbles and misadventures for the Conservatives, the Liberals now find themselves mired in unimaginable depths for Canada's erstwhile Natural Governing Party," EKOS president Frank Graves says. "Today they are a pale shadow of their former selves and find themselves exploring new lows."

The question now is: How low can they go? "And connected to that question is at what point does the patience of the hobbled Liberal Party with their new leader become strained?"

This poll just goes from bad to worse for the Liberals. At these levels, Mr. Graves, says Mr. Ignatieff would be "unlikely" to win as many seats as they have now - seats won under Mr. Dion's leadership before he was basically drummed out as leader. (The Liberals have 77 seats compared to 144 for the Tories, out of a total of 308 in the House of Commons.)

Indeed, the whispers in the Liberal corridors are that Mr. Ignatieff will have to win close to 100 seats in the next election if he wants to remain as leader - that is if he doesn't form a government as some Liberals are still hoping he can.

Mr. Graves also notes the Liberals can no longer claim the lead in any region of the country. For example, the Conservatives are polling at 38.5 per cent in Ontario compared to 31.4 per cent for the Liberals in a province they have traditionally owned.

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And over the past six weeks while the Tories have been slowly increasing in strength the Liberals have been declining. Remember in early April the two parties were in a statistical tie?

"Liberals must be wondering: is 25 per cent the new normal?" Mr. Graves asks. "How about 24? 23? At what point does it cross the Liberals' shifting line in the sand?"

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And Mr. Graves poses the question as to what will happen next. Will dissatisfaction in Liberal ranks lead to thoughts of a new leader? Or will Liberals start thinking seriously of new alliances - with the NDP or the Green Party?

"It's hard to say but as we approach the summer doldrums it appears the political landscape may well now be locked in until the end of summer," he says.

The poll of 2,794 Canadians was conducted between May 12 and May 18; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.85 per cent, 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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