With the fall of his government potentially days away, Stephen Harper will enter the election campaign with a clear advantage over his adversaries should Canadians be sent to the polls this spring. However, his long coveted majority government appears just out of reach.
According to ThreeHundredEight.com's latest vote and seat projections, the Conservatives are projected to win 149 seats and 38.3 per cent of the vote were an election held today. That is six seats short of a majority, but would be a gain over the 143 seats the party currently occupies in the 308-seat House of Commons. It is also a gain of more than two points since the last projection for The Globe and Mail in early February.
The Liberals are projected to have the support of 27.4 per cent of Canadians, a drop of almost two points over the last six weeks, and would likely win 75 seats, a loss of two overall. The New Democrats have increased their national support slightly to 15.8 per cent and are projected to win 32 seats, a loss of four. In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois is projected to gain five seats and win 52. And while the Green Party stands at 7.6 per cent support, it is not projected to win any seats.
With the exception of a few Conservative and Bloc gains at the expense of the Liberals and NDP, this is a virtual carbon-copy of the present situation on Parliament Hill. It would likely result in the departure of at least two of the three opposition leaders, giving the Conservatives a de facto majority government until the new leaders take their places.
But campaigns can change things, and the questions remains whether a potential 2011 campaign will resemble that of 2008, when the Conservatives maintained the lead from start to finish, or 2006, when the governing Liberals lost what had been, when the writ was dropped, prime minister Paul Martin's election to lose.
Tory gains in the West, Ontario, and Newfoundland
Over the last six weeks, and despite a spate of bad press clippings, the Conservatives have made gains in every part of the country.
In Ontario, the Conservatives have increased their support by more than three points to 41.4 per cent, while the Liberals have dropped three points to 33.7 per cent. However, the shift in support from 2008 has not been significant enough to push the Tories over the top in the province, and the few gains that the Conservatives are projected to make in Ontario are at the expense of the NDP in the north and on the Niagara Peninsula. As it stands, the Conservatives are projected to win 54 seats in Ontario, while the Liberals win 37 and the New Democrats 15.
A loss of two seats in Quebec makes it all the more difficult for the Conservatives to get their majority, though at 18.8 per cent the party is doing better than they were in February. The Bloc Québécois is still well in front with 39.5 per cent support, and is poised to make gains south of Montreal at the expense of the Liberals and around Quebec City and Lac-Saint-Jean, where the Conservatives are at risk. At 13.5 per cent support, the New Democrats are well-positioned to retain Outremont and challenge for Gatineau, while the Liberals should win 13 seats with 21.4 per cent of the vote.
On the West Coast, the Conservatives have increased their support to 41.5 per cent, while the Liberals and NDP trail at 24 and 21.8 per cent, respectively. The Conservatives should steal a seat from the NDP in the Greater Vancouver Region, but the Liberals will also take a seat from the Tories and the NDP in and around the city.
As the effects of Danny Williams's Anything But Conservative campaign have worn off, Newfoundland and Labrador has suddenly become a province to watch. From being shut out in 2008, the Conservatives are now projected to win two seats, with the Liberals likely to win three and the New Democrats one. Regionally, the Conservatives and Liberals are running a close race in Atlantic Canada, with the Tories holding the edge at 36.9 per cent to 35.4 per cent.
The Conservatives are projected to sweep Alberta with 62.4 per cent of the vote, while in Saskatchewan and Manitoba the Conservatives should win 22 of the 28 seats, with four others going to the NDP and two to the Liberals.
ThreeHundredEight.com's projection model aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date, and record of polling firm accuracy. The tested seat projection model makes individual projections for all 308 ridings in the country, based on the provincial and regional shifts in support from the 2008 election and including the application of factors unique to each riding, such as the presence of well-known candidates and the effects of incumbency.
These projections are a reflection of the likely result if an election were held today. They are subject to the margins of error of the opinion polls included in the model, as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level.
Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com