Canada

Minority government possible for Liberals, poll suggests

News of the federal deficit topping $50 billion appears to have put the Liberals slightly ahead of the Conservatives in an EKOS poll asking Canadians how they would vote if an election were held tomorrow.

Survey indicates Ignatieff's party would top Tories in election tomorrow

News of the federal deficit topping $50 billion appears to have put the Liberals slightly ahead of the Conservatives in an EKOS poll asking Canadians how they would vote if an election were held tomorrow.

Survey results show the Liberals slightly ahead of the Conservatives. ((CBC))

The poll, released Monday exclusively for the CBC, suggests the Liberals would likely squeak into a minority government.

The poll found 33.5 per cent of respondents would vote Liberal. Another 32.3 per cent said they would vote Conservative, and 15.1 per cent said they would vote NDP.

The survey of 10,896 randomly selected Canadians was conducted between May 7 and May 28.

Big sample size

In total, a random sample of 10,896 Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the telephone survey and the data  was statistically weighted to ensure the composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to census data.

Respondents also included some of the nearly one in four Canadian households that only have cellphones and as such are often excluded from most opinion polls.

Up until the deficit news of May 26, the Conservatives appeared to have been benefiting from the fact some more prosperous Canadians, perhaps with an eye more to the stock market than the job market, were becoming more optimistic about the economic future.

However, their advantage appeared to vanish after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty revealed Ottawa expected a budgetary shortfall of $50 billion for the 2009-10 fiscal year that will end in March 2010.

"The overall picture these numbers paint is slightly more positive for the Liberals," EKOS president Frank Graves said. "But the situation is clearly quite volatile, and [none of the parties] could force an election right now confident that they would win, much less form a majority."

Rounding out the poll, the Green party was the party of choice for 10.4 per cent of respondents, followed by 8.7 per cent who favoured the Bloc Québécois.

Harper preferred as PM choice

The news is not all encouraging for the Liberals, whose leader, Michael Ignatieff, trailed Conservative Leader Stephen Harper when respondents were asked who would make the best prime minister.

Thirty per cent chose Harper, 26 per cent opted for Ignatieff, and 44 per cent said neither would be the best prime minister.

The poll also suggests that Canada's regions are in line with historical voting patterns, with Alberta strongly supporting the Tories, and Ontario "still a battleground," but looking better for the Liberals.

"One place where things are changing dramatically is in Quebec, where the Tory charge of recent years has come to a disastrous end," said Graves.

"The Liberals are once again becoming an important force in Quebec, growing notably in popularity among French speakers."

This is the largest-ever survey of Canadians' voting intentions and the first of a series of polls to be released on CBCNews.ca in the coming months. The margin of error for a sample this size is plus or minus one percentage point, 19 times out of 20.

The polls will be released every Thursday, starting on June 11.

Liberals dipped after allegations that their MP Ruby Dhalla mistreated nannies working in her home, but rose as the Conservatives announced a projected $50-billion deficit. ((CBC))