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Support for Conservatives dips on response to migrant crisis, poll shows

Stephen Harper delivers a speech during a campaign stop in Toronto on Sept. 7. Labour Day marked the start of heightened campaigning by political parties in the runup to the Oct. 19 federal election.


Support for the Conservative Party declined on the long weekend after a week that saw Leader Stephen Harper on the defensive over the economy and the government's response to the international migrant crisis, a new poll shows.

The Nanos survey conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV News suggests many Canadians switched their voting intentions in recent days. The three-day sample puts support for the NDP at 32.7 per cent nationally (up 2.3 percentage points from a week ago), followed by the Liberals at 30.8 per cent (up 0.6 percentage points). Support for the Conservatives has slipped to 26.2 per cent (a 2.3-percentage-point drop).

With six weeks remaining until the Oct. 19 vote, Labour Day marked the start of heightened campaigning by political parties. Long weekends are considered to be key moments during election campaigns because friends and family come together to discuss politics, which can influence voting intentions.

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The shift away from the Conservatives is such that pollster Nik Nanos says the campaign is looking as if it could be a two-way race for power between the NDP and the Liberals.

"What's gone well for the Conservative campaign so far? Not much," said Mr. Nanos, who believes the issue of Syrian refugees was the trigger for the party's recent decrease in popularity.

"The one thing [that is] different about the Syrian refugee crisis is there's an emotional, personal angle to this," he said.

The NDP is leading in Quebec and British Columbia, while the Liberals are ahead in Atlantic Canada and Ontario.

The Conservatives are the first choice among Prairie voters.

Mr. Nanos said the Conservative numbers are likely due to the combined impact of three weeks spent responding to the Mike Duffy trial, followed by last week's news that Canada experienced a technical recession in the first half of 2015 and then the unfolding refugee crisis.

There is more troubling news for the Conservatives in the Nanos poll in terms of opportunity for growth.

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The proportion of Canadians who would consider voting Conservative has decreased to 36.1 per cent. In contrast, 52.5 per cent of those surveyed would consider voting for the NDP and 49.2 per cent would consider voting for the Liberals.

The survey marks the first of what will be a daily release of polling data conducted by Nanos through to voting day. The first release is based on a three-day rolling average of 1,200 voters, with 400 voters surveyed each day from Sept. 4-6. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Nanos was not in the field Monday. The daily polling will resume Tuesday.

The Conservatives made the decision to launch an unusually lengthy 78-day campaign by starting on Aug. 2. However, until now, only the Tories have been running a full, traditional campaign with a chartered plane.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau displayed his party's campaign plane Monday and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair will unveil the NDP plane Tuesday. Canadians can expect to see a higher volume of campaign ads after Labour Day as parties ramp up their advertising spending.

The next major scheduled event in the campaign will be the Sept. 17 English language leaders' debate on the economy in Calgary, which will be hosted by The Globe and Mail.

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Labour Day did not provide much of a fresh start for Mr. Harper. The Conservatives dropped two Toronto-area candidates on Monday – one, Scarborough-Rouge Park candidate Jerry Bance, because he was caught in a 2012 video urinating into a coffee cup and then emptying it into the sink of a client while working as a repairman. The other, Toronto-Danforth candidate Tim Dutaud, was dismissed over online videos in which he made prank calls, including one in which he pretended to have a mental disability and another in which he faked an orgasm.

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