Liberals slightly ahead: poll

Thu Feb 4, 2010 10:34am EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's opposition Liberals have maintained their slight lead in popular support over the governing Conservatives but do not have a big enough advantage to guarantee an election victory, according to a poll released on Thursday.

The regular Ekos survey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. put the Liberals at 31.9 percent popular support, up from 31.6 percent in a poll done by the same firm a week ago. The Conservatives slipped to 30.0 percent from 30.1 percent and the left-leaning New Democrats climbed to 15.4 percent from 14.6 percent.

The Conservatives were 15 points ahead of the Liberals in October but their backing slid away after Prime Minister Stephen Harper moved to have Parliament prorogued, or suspended, for five weeks at the end of December so he could "recalibrate" his agenda.

The Liberals and other opponents accused Harper of acting in an anti-democratic manner, while the national media was largely critical.

The two parties were tied in early September, when Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff vowed to bring down the government over what he said was its mishandling of the economy. The Liberals plunged in the polls as a result, and Ignatieff subsequently acknowledged he had made a mistake.

Under Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs around 36 percent of the vote to win a minority government. Harper won a strengthened minority in the October, 2008, election and says Canadians do not want an election now.

The Ekos survey of 2,930 adults was conducted between Jan 27 and Feb 2 and is considered accurate to within 1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)