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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Conservatives have a moderate but stable lead over Liberals, according to a poll released on Thursday, as speculation swirls that the country will have an election this spring.
But the regular Ekos survey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp said the Conservatives have a significant lead in support over the Liberals in Ontario, the vote-rich province that will likely be the major election battleground.
The survey said the Conservatives have 35.2 percent support nationally, compared with 27.8 percent for the Liberals and 14.9 percent for the New Democrats.
The Conservatives' support is up from 32.4 percent in an Ekos poll two weeks ago, versus the Liberals' 27.3 percent, but it is still short of the 40 percent support pollsters say a party would need to win a majority government.
Currently, the Conservatives have only a minority of seats in the House of Commons and need the support of at least one of the opposition parties to pass major legislation such as the budget.
The Conservatives are scheduled to unveil their next budget on March 22, but it is unclear if they will win enough opposition support to pass it. If the measure fails, the government would be required to call an election.
Ekos said the good news for the Conservatives is that their support in Ontario has risen to 41 percent, versus 34 percent for the Liberals. The Liberals lead only in the Atlantic provinces.
"This is a very significant and fairly newfound advantage for the Conservatives," Ekos said of the Ontario numbers.
The separatist Bloc Quebecois -- which only runs candidates in Quebec -- has a strong lead over all the other parties in that province, which translates to 8.8 percent support nationally.
The poll was a random survey of 2,892 Canadians using both landline and cellphones, and was conducted between February 24 and March 8. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.
Reporting Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson