Conservatives maintain pre-budget poll lead
OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives have maintained a small lead in public support ahead of bringing in what the government warns will be tough budget on Thursday.
The weekly Ekos survey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday put the Conservatives at 32.4 percent support, down from 33.4 percent last week. The official opposition Liberal Party was at 29.4 percent, down from 30.3 percent.
The left-leaning New Democrats had 15.2 percent support in the poll.
The data shows neither of the two major parties stands a clear chance of winning even a minority government if an election were held now.
This increases the odds that the budget, due to be unveiled at 4 p.m. (2100 GMT), will be approved.
"Although a lead of this size is small ... the fact that it has now held for two weeks suggests it is real," Ekos pollster Frank Graves said in a statement.
The Conservatives held a large advantage late last year -- some pollsters had them 15 points ahead -- but that lead vanished after Prime Minister Stephen Harper moved to have Parliament suspended. He said he wanted to revise his agenda while opponents said he was anti-democratic.
The minority Conservative government says the budget will explain how Ottawa plans to reduce a 2009-10 deficit that is predicted to hit a record C$55.9 billion ($54.3 billion).
The Ekos poll of 2,466 adult Canadians was conducted between February 24 and March 2 and is considered accurate to within 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)
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