Conservatives extend lead in latest poll

Thu Apr 22, 2010 3:04pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives have not been hurt too badly by a political scandal and are now edging ahead of their main rivals, according to a poll released on Thursday.

The weekly Ekos survey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp put popular support for the Conservatives at 31.7 percent, up slightly from 31.4 percent last week. Support for the main opposition Liberals fell to 27.1 percent from 29.0 percent.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper forced out junior minister Helena Guergis from government earlier this month after receiving what he said were serious allegations about her.

He said little more, prompting opposition accusations of a cover-up.

Under Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, a party typically needs at least 40 percent public support to capture a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

To win a workable minority government, it needs around 36 percent. The Conservatives won a strengthened minority in the October 2008 election but, like the Liberals, seem unable to gain the strong support of voters.

"For all of the short-term excitement this (Guergis) affair produced, it may well serve nothing other than to reinforce increasing voter disillusionment that there is no clear choice to lead the country in the coming years," Ekos said in a statement.

The Ekos automated telephone survey of 1,809 voters was conducted April 14 to 20 and is considered accurate to within 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)