Tories have lead of 6 to 9 points in polls

Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:46am EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - One poll this week showed Canada's governing Conservatives with a six-point lead over the main opposition Liberal Party, the smallest lead in two months, while another has them maintaining a nine-point margin.

Either way, the Conservatives would most likely win another minority government if an election were held today but their lead is well down from a peak of 15 points they enjoyed in October when the Liberals tried to force an early election.

The Liberal move to topple the government, one year after the Conservatives were reelected under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, proved unpopular, particularly as Canada was just emerging from recession. The Liberals have now backed down.

Parallel with the Liberal retreat from threatening an election has been a relentless attack on the Conservatives over allegations that Afghan prisoners the Canadian military handed over to Afghan authorities in 2006 and 2007 were subsequently tortured.

An Ekos poll on Thursday had the Conservatives at 35.9 percent popular support and the Liberals at 26.7 percent, almost exactly where they were a week ago.

The left-leaning New Democrats, occasionally nipping at the Liberals' heels, were well behind at 17.0 percent. The Greens, which do not have a seat in Parliament, were at 11.2 percent and the separatist Bloc Quebecois at 9.2 percent.

A Harris-Decima survey, released by the Canadian Press late on Wednesday, showed the Conservatives at 34 percent, the Liberals at 28 percent, the New Democrats at 14 percent and the Greens just behind at 13 percent.

In Quebec, Harris-Decima had the Bloc Quebecois -- which runs only in the French-speaking province -- keeping its commanding lead with 38 percent support, followed by the Liberals at 24 percent and the Conservatives at 17 percent.

Ekos's automated telephone survey covered 3,386 Canadians from December 9 to December 15, with a margin of error of 1.7 points 19 times out of 20.

The Harris-Decima phone poll of 2,012 Canadians was conducted December 3-13, with a 2.2 point error margin.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Peter Galloway)