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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The chances of an early federal election appeared to fade further on Monday when a huge opinion poll showed no party had a clear chance of winning and a key opposition party leader expressed little enthusiasm for going to the polls soon.
The Liberal Party has mused in recent weeks about bringing down the minority Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Parliament on the grounds that it is not doing enough to help the unemployed.
But an Ekos survey of almost 11,000 Canadians -- more than 10 times the usual polling size -- put the Liberals at 33.5 percent in public support and the Conservatives at 32.3 percent.
Under the first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs to win around 36 percent of the vote to win a minority government and about 40 percent to stand a chance of capturing a majority.
"The overall picture these numbers paint is slightly more positive for the Liberals, who are ahead more days than they lag," said Ekos President Frank Graves.
"But the situation is clearly quite volatile, and neither party could force an election right now confident they would win, much less form a majority," he said in a statement.
The Liberals need the support of both the other opposition parties to bring down the government and that looks unlikely.
"I'm not going to waste too much time considering such options," said Jack Layton, leader of the left-leaning New Democrats.
Layton, whose party is on 15.1 percent public support in the Ekos poll, said on Sunday he had no plans to move a non-confidence motion in the government before Parliament breaks for its summer recess on June 23.
If by some chance an election were triggered before then, it would be the fourth in just over five years. Harper won an increased minority in an election last October.
"The country needs an election like a hole in the head," Harper told Toronto radio station CFRB on Monday. "Nobody wants an election. It is not good. It is not in the interests of the country at a time where our economy is so challenged."
Ekos said the Liberals had been tied with the Conservatives at the start of last week and then moved slightly ahead later in the week when the government revealed this year's budget deficit would be much larger than first estimated.
Asked who would make the best prime minister, 30 percent of those polled said Harper, while 26 percent chose Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. A full 44 percent said neither.
The Ekos poll of 10,896 adults was carried out between May 7 and 28 for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, and is considered accurate to within 1.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
With additional reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Peter Galloway