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TORONTO (Reuters) - Parliamentary hearings into payments to a former prime minister more than a decade ago have sapped support for the ruling Conservatives, according to an opinion poll released on Saturday.
The Ipsos Reid poll, published in the National Post newspaper, showed support for the Conservatives at 35 percent, down from 39 percent in a November 23 poll from the same company.
Support for the Liberals, the biggest opposition party, held steady at 29 percent, while the left-wing New Democrats and the separatist Bloc Quebecois both gained support.
The figures mean the Conservatives are a long way from the magic figure of 40 percent public support that would give them a chance of winning a majority in a new election.
The party has only a minority of seats in Parliament and need the support of at least one other party to stay in power.
Pollster Darrell Bricker said the well-publicized hearings into 1993 payments made to former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney by a German-Canadian arms dealer appeared to be the main factor behind the slump in Conservative support.
"If you have a steady diet for an entire week of all these revelations coming out ... it can't help but get people to think there is a problem," he told the National Post.
Arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber says he paid Mulroney C$300,000 (now worth $300,000) in cash in three meetings after Mulroney stepped down as prime minister in 1993, and said Mulroney had promised to help promote a project to build German light-armored vehicles in Canada.
Schreiber said on Thursday that he had been ready to pay C$500,000, but Mulroney, who denies he did anything wrong, had not performed.
Ipsos Reid polled 1,000 Canadian voters between December 4 and December 6. It considers its results accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 95 percent of the time.
Reporting by Janet Guttsman; Editing by Eric Beech