Canada's ruling Conservatives take big poll lead

Mon Oct 5, 2009 6:03pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Conservatives have opened up a big lead over their closest rivals and would most likely win a majority government if an election were held now, according to a poll released on Monday.

The Strategic Counsel survey for CTV Television put the Conservatives at 41 percent popular support, up six points from a poll done by the same company a month ago. The main opposition Liberal Party was down two points at 28 percent while the left-leaning New Democrats stayed at 14 percent.

The poll was the latest in a string of surveys showing the Conservatives had jumped into the lead after the Liberals said early last month they would try to bring down the government and force Canada's second election in just over a year.

Historically, Strategic Counsel polls tend to favor the Conservatives, and the ruling party's 13-point lead was larger than the rise in Conservative support recorded by other pollsters.

Under Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs around 40 percent of the votes to win a majority of the 308 seats in Parliament. The Conservatives won minorities in January 2006 and October 2008.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper insists he does not want an election now and would rather focus on the economy.

The Liberals -- who say the government has mishandled the economic crisis -- presented a non-confidence motion in Parliament last Thursday but it was defeated after the New Democrats abstained.

The Liberals are also having trouble in the influential province of Quebec, where their chief organizer quit last week and angrily criticized advisors to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

The Strategic Counsel survey of 1,000 adults was conducted between Oct 2 and 4 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)