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Stephen Harper will be playing offence against Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff and Elizabeth May when the Pacific part of the federal election campaign officially gets under way.David Parkins for The Globe and Mail

Now that the date of the budget is out of the bag - or some folks think it is - there has been lots of speculation about possible election dates.

It's really just a matter of the math. If the budget is held on March 22, and it takes a couple of days for the first confidence vote to come before the House, and if a campaign lasts six weeks, and if the election were to be held on a Monday as is usually the case, the election date would be May 2.

It's a calculation that was made today by our friends at Postmedia News.

Assuming that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff does not do an about-face between now and next month, the Grits will vote against the budget. And it would be very odd for the Conservatives to try to wrangle support from the Bloc.

So that pretty much leaves it up to the NDP and Leader Jack Layton to decide if the Conservative government stands or falls. And that depends on whether he can, with a straight face, say that he has obtained something from the government in the budget that he and his caucus just could not vote against.

Which really means its up to the Conservatives and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to decide whether they want to give the NDP that incentive. And that will depend on whether Mr. Harper thinks he can squeeze majority out of a spring vote.

The Conservatives had little reason to want to go to the polls two months ago. But public opinion seems to be moving in their favour and a new seat-projection analysis could tip the balance toward an election.

According to, which provides The Globe and Mail with regular analyses of poll results, the Conservatives have gained 1.1 points nationally in the past two weeks, which would given them six more seats if an election were held today.

That now puts them at a projected 144 seats in total, a gain of one over their current standing in the House of Commons, not counting the seats recently vacated by Jim Prentice and Jay Hill.

The Liberals, on the other hand, are sinking. They've dropped a full point and are down four seats to 92. That still represents a gain of 15 seats compared to now.

The New Democrats are down 0.4 points to 15.1 per cent, and have dropped one seat in the projection to 20. That's a loss of 16 seats.

The Bloc Québécois is up 0.1 points to 10.0 per cent, while the Greens are up 0.2 points to 8.5 per cent.

Will that be enough to convince Mr. Harper that it's time to pull the plug? The answer will be in the budget.