Tories, Liberals neck and neck: poll

The federal Conservatives' support has dipped slightly amid a fresh scandal while the Liberals' backing has edged up, closing the gap between the two among decided voters, a new poll suggests.

Support for the federal Conservatives has dipped slightly amid a fresh scandal in Ottawa while backing for the Liberals has edged up, closing the gap between the two parties among decided voters, a new poll suggests.

The Tories are the preferred party of 31.4 per cent of decided voters who responded to the survey, with the Liberals close behind at 29 per cent. The New Democratic Party took 16.4 per cent, the Green Party 11.1 per cent and the Bloc Québécois 8.8 per cent.

The EKOS poll, released exclusively to the CBC, was conducted from April 7 until Tuesday, a period that straddles last Friday’s stunning announcement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he had called in the RCMP to investigate MP Helena Guergis and that he was booting her from her cabinet post as junior minister for the status of women.

Tory support was down 2.2 percentage points from last week, when the party drew 33.6 per cent support, while the Liberals were up 1.7 points from 27.3. The NDP’s numbers rose slightly from last week’s 15.9 per cent, while the Greens and Bloc each fell about half a point.

May be closing gap

The Liberals, who had the lead in polls as recently as early February, fell to a consistent five-point-plus deficit behind the Tories in past weeks, but they may be closing the gap as more details emerge about the Guergis case. Guergis has been suspended from the Conservative caucus, but speculation continues to run wild about whether her husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer, had access to her parliamentary office and use of her chauffeured ministerial vehicle.

Consistent with prior weeks, support for the Conservatives was strongest in the Prairies and among men and people aged 45 and older, according to the poll. The latest figures suggest, however, that the government is losing ground among voters aged 65-plus and those with post-secondary education.

Backing for the Liberals tends to be stronger in Atlantic Canada and Ontario, and among university-educated voters. The NDP saw its greatest strength in British Columbia and among people aged 25 to 44.

Disfavour strongest in Quebec

Respondents were also asked whether they thought the federal government was "moving in the right direction." Slightly fewer than last week, 43.1 per cent, said they thought so, while 47.6 per cent said they disapproved of the government’s course, up from 46.5 per cent last week.

The most ardent disfavour came from Quebec, where nearly 70 per cent of respondents sided against the government’s direction.

EKOS surveyed 1,555 people by phone between April 7 and Tuesday. The voting-intention results are accurate to within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.