OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s ruling Conservatives could both win a Parliamentary majority in the Oct 14 election and crush the main opposition Liberal Party, according to a poll released on Thursday by a leading research firm.
The Nanos Research daily tracking survey put the Conservatives at 40 percent support, with the Liberals trailing far behind at 25 percent. The figure for the previous day had been the Conservatives ahead by 37 percent to 26.
It was the first time the research firm had put the Conservatives at 40 percent support, the target generally seen as needed to win a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.
Nanos was the only polling firm to correctly predict the result of the January 2006 election, which brought the Conservatives to power with a minority government.
Pollster Nik Nanos said the main reason for the Liberals’ poor performance was doubt about party leader Stephane Dion and his proposal to bring in a carbon tax at a time when the economy is slowing.
“It seems as if Stephane Dion wants to talk about the issues that he thinks are important and not the issues that voters think are important,” Nanos told Reuters.
“The environment is an important issue ... but at this point in time it’s really about the economy. You can’t go through a campaign and move the numbers if you don’t speak to the issues that voters are concerned about,” he said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the carbon tax would be a disaster at a time when Canada is suffering from the effects of the U.S. economic slowdown and financial crisis.
“I think we will be fine -- not great, but we will be fine -- as long as we don’t do stupid things,” Harper told a news conference in Victoria, British Columbia.
“If we start throwing our budget into deficit, if we start hiking taxes on consumers at a critical period of consumer uncertainty ... then I could think we could be in real serious problems very quickly,” he said.
The Liberals say the carbon tax, aimed at reducing production of greenhouse gases, would be offset by cuts to personal and business income taxes.
Dion, speaking earlier in the day, said Canadian growth in the first half of 2008 had been the poorest for almost 18 years and accused Harper of gross economic mismanagement.
“Stephen Harper is desperate to get through this election without Canadians knowing how incompetent his government has been,” Dion told a news conference in Quebec City.
Nanos said it was possible the Liberals could claw back some ground in the last week by trying to scare voters with the prospect of a majority Harper government -- the same tactic the Liberals used in the 2004 and 2006 elections.
“I would be cautiously optimistic if I were the Conservatives, but there’s a tendency for momentum to eventually get corrected by the collective wisdom of Canadians and they might not want a big Conservative win,” Nanos said.
The Nanos Research poll of 1,021 people was conducted between September 22 and 24 and is considered accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson