OTTAWA (Reuters) - The third straight opinion poll to be released this week shows Canada's ruling Conservatives maintaining a slim lead over the main opposition Liberals as the chances of an early election appear increasingly likely.
The Decima poll, published on Wednesday by the Canadian Press, put the Conservatives at 34 percent and the Liberals at 31 percent. Two other polls had the Conservatives ahead by 4 and 5 points. For much of the summer, the two leading parties have been running neck and neck.
The Liberals decided last week to try to bring down the minority Conservative government at the first opportunity, arguing they could manage the economy better.
For them to succeed, they have to be joined by the leftist New Democrats and the separatist Bloc Quebecois. Both of these smaller parties have suggested they are willing to talk with the Conservatives, but nobody seems to be reaching out.
"Chances of an election are extremely high," Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe told reporters on Tuesday after a meeting of the party's caucus in Quebec City.
Though no campaign is officially under way, the Bloc released ads on Tuesday and the Liberals issued their first set on Sunday, while Conservative ads have targeted Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
If the government were brought down, an election would most likely be held on November 9 or 16. The Conservatives, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, won last October's general election with a strengthened minority, but still must rely on the support of at least one opposition party to remain in power.
Wednesday's Decima poll put the New Democrats at 15 percent support, the Green Party, which has no seats in Parliament, at 10 percent, and the Bloc Quebecois, which field candidates only in the province of Quebec, at 8 percent.
The poll of just over 2,000 Canadians was held August 27 to September 6, a sample size considered accurate to within 2.2 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson