September 24, 2009 / 1:10 PM / 8 years ago

Conservatives jump ahead in poll

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at the Tim Hortons Innovation Centre in Oakville September 23, 2009.Mike Cassese</p>

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Conservatives have widened lead over their nearest rivals and if an election were held now, they could be within reach of gaining a majority government, according to a poll published on Thursday.

The Ekos poll, conducted for the CBC, put the Conservatives at 37 percent, up from 35.1 percent a week ago.

Support for the Liberal Party, which says it wants to bring down the minority Conservative government, is at 29.9 percent, unchanged from a week earlier.

The two parties were in a dead heat in a poll by Ekos three weeks ago.

Under Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, it takes about 40 percent of the vote to win a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

In the 2008 election, the Conservatives took 37.6 percent of the vote and Liberals 26.2 percent.

The poll also looked the number of committed voters, and Conservatives supporters outnumbered the other parties in the "fully committed" segment by more than three to one.

The "significant advantage that (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper's Conservatives now have in public opinion may actually understate their potential strength in an election," Ekos President Frank Graves said in a release.

"If we restrict our analysis to the most committed portion of the electorate ... it suggests that it will be quite difficult to dislodge the Tories. Moreover, their aspiration for a majority may be tantalizingly close," he said.

The left-leaning New Democratic Party, which normally votes against the government, recently said it may help prop it up in the event of a Liberal nonconference motion next month.

The Conservatives would need the backing of at least one other party to survive the vote, or Canada would head into its fourth election in little over five years.

The New Democrats, which along with the separatist Bloc Quebecois recently helped the government survive a budget vote, fell in the poll to 13.8 percent from 16.5 percent.

The Bloc slipped to 9.1 percent from 9.6 percent, with the Green Party edging up to 10.2 percent from 9 percent.

The automated telephone survey of 2,706 adults was conducted from September 16 to 22, and is considered accurate 19 times out of 20 with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points.

Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Janet Guttsman

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