Conservatives maintain lead: poll
OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives are pulling ahead of their main rivals but do not have enough public support to guarantee victory if an election were held now, according to a poll released on Thursday.
The weekly Ekos survey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. put the Conservatives at 33.3 percent, up slightly from 33.1 percent last week. The main opposition Liberals slipped to 27.7 percent from 28.9 percent.
The left-leaning New Democrats were at 15.9 percent, up from 15.7 percent.
The poll confirmed that, after almost three months of virtual deadlock, the Conservatives have opened up a noticeable lead over the Liberals.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he wants to focus on the economic recovery and has no interest in going to the polls again.
The Conservatives won a strengthened minority in the October 2008 election, but need the support of at least one opposition party to remain in power.
Under Canada's electoral system a party needs around 40 percent national support to win a majority and 36 percent to win a minority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.
Polls consistently show voters have little enthusiasm for either Harper or Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who has struggled since taking the helm in December 2008.
The Liberals are holding a three-day policy conference this weekend in Montreal, which is designed to revive the party, which had been in power for more than 12 years before losing to the Conservatives in January 2006.
The Ekos automated telephone survey of 2,511 adult voters was conducted between March 17 and 23 and is considered accurate to within 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)
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