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This article was published 24/3/2011 (2257 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives begin an election campaign this weekend far ahead of their political rivals in public favour and would be poised to win a "comfortable" majority if Canadians cast their votes now, a new poll has found.
The national survey, conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global National, reveals voter support is declining for the opposition Liberals who have put forward a non-confidence motion that will lead to the defeat of the Conservative government in the House of Commons this afternoon.
The March 22-23 poll by Ipsos Reid found public support remains solid for the Tories despite recent opposition attempts to draw attention to such controversies as the government's treatment of Parliament and revelations that an ex-senior aide to Harper lobbied a department to get funds for his fiancée, a former escort.
The Conservatives are now supported by 43 per cent of decided voters -- up by three points from two weeks ago.
Just as important, the Tories now have a widening 19-point lead over the Liberals led by Michael Ignatieff.
The Grits, who have been trying to incite public fury over the government's ethical record and improve the public's negative impression of Ignatieff, now have the support of just 24 per cent of voters, down by three points.
Jack Layton's NDP, which put the country on the path to a spring election by announcing earlier this week it would not support the Conservative budget, are backed by 16 per cent of voters -- no change from the previous poll.
The Green party, led by Elizabeth May would receive six per cent of the vote, up by one point. Gilles Duceppe's Bloc Québécois has 10 per cent of the vote nationally and still has a commanding lead in Quebec.
"The Tories are starting this election campaign in a better place than they have started the last three campaigns," Ipsos Reid president Darrell Bricker said in an interview Thursday. "With 43 per cent, they're probably quite comfortably in majority territory."
At dissolution of Parliament, the Tories will have 143 seats. They need to win just 12 more -- to reach the 155-seat mark -- to get a majority government.
Bricker said the problem for the Liberals is that their efforts to discredit the Tories on ethics are going nowhere.
"I call them 'scandellettes.' It's a lot of light and fury and outrage in Ottawa that's not really being noticed in the rest of the country," he added.
"It's a very high-risk strategy that they've got going right now -- to try and get themselves into a campaign so they can get noticed and change people's opinion."
Bricker said the Liberals now find themselves in a "dangerous" position.
"The difficulty for the Liberals right now is that they seem to be losing the 'Paul Martin Liberals' to the Tories and the question is whether or not they'll start losing the progressive vote over to the NDP. They're really caught in a squeeze play here."
The poll found that Canadians are largely indifferent to the budget which is being touted by the Tories as a solid economic plan and which is being derided by the opposition parties as a shallow fiscal blueprint.
While 48 per cent believe the budget is "neither good or bad," 19 per cent believe it is good and 16 per cent believe it is bad.
The poll was a telephone survey of 1,001 adult Canadians taken March 22-23 and its national results have a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
-- Postmedia News