Quebec's Liberals take commanding poll lead

Thu Jun 19, 2008 11:17am EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Quebec's ruling Liberals have opened up a commanding lead over a party that wants independence for the French-speaking Canadian province, according to a poll released on Thursday.

The Leger Marketing survey for the Le Devoir put the Liberals on 42 percent public support, well ahead of the separatist Parti Quebecois on 32 percent.

The poll caps a remarkable comeback for Premier Jean Charest, who barely hung onto power in a March 2007 election that gave him a fragile minority government. The results indicate he would win a majority if an election were held now.

One reason for Charest's recovery is the steady collapse of the fiscally and socially conservative Action democratique du Quebec party, which won 31 percent of the vote in last year's election, compared to 33 percent for the Liberals.

The ADQ has stumbled repeatedly since then and support is now down to just 14 percent. The party supported the Liberals' March budget and looks likely to keep backing Charest for the time being, if only to avoid obliteration at the polls.

The survey said some 42 percent of Quebecers favored splitting away from the rest of Canada. Quebec voted against separation by a margin of less than a percentage point in a 1995 referendum, and by 20 points in 1980.

The Leger poll was carried out between June 11 and 15 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Janet Guttsman)