New polls put Canada's ruling Conservatives ahead

Thu Feb 21, 2008 10:41am EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Conservatives lead the opposition Liberals but do not have enough support to guarantee a majority government if an election were held now, according to two new polls.

A Strategic Counsel survey for the Globe and Mail and CTV on Thursday put the Conservatives at 39 percent, up three percentage points from a poll done by the same firm a month ago. The Liberals were down three points to 27 percent.

The Conservatives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper won a minority government in January 2006 with 36 percent of the vote. Under Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, parties need around 40 percent to stand a good chance of winning a majority of the 308 seats in Parliament.

The Conservative lead was much larger than the results posted by other polling firms, which show the ruling party slightly ahead or even behind the Liberals.

The government could in theory be brought down by confidence votes over the budget later this month and early March, although the Liberals are making it increasingly clear they will keep the Conservatives in power.

There is also a confidence vote set for some time in March over the future of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan. Both parties have made major steps to seek a compromise over the matter.

The Strategic Counsel poll of 1,000 adults was conducted from February 14 to 17 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

A Harris-Decima poll released to the Canadian Press late on Wednesday put the Conservatives at 35 percent, six points higher than a survey done by the same firm at the end of January. The Liberals were up one point to 33 percent.

The survey of just over 1,000 adults was conducted between February 14 and 17 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Renato Andrade)