September 8, 2015 / 2:27 PM / 5 years ago

Canada's ruling Conservatives fall further behind in new poll

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s ruling Conservatives, battered by a flurry of negative news, are well behind the two main left-leaning opposition parties ahead of the Oct. 19 election, according to a new poll released late on Monday.

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at Laurel Steel on a campaign stop in Burlington Ontario, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill

The Nanos survey has the New Democratic Party (NDP) at 32.7 percent, the Liberals at 30.8 percent and the Conservatives at 26.2 percent. A month ago, Nanos had the Conservatives five points higher and leading the pack.

The Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are trying for a fourth straight mandate but have been hit by the fallout from a corruption trial at which Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, testified. Wright has denied wrongdoing.

Recent economic data also showed the economy shrank in the first two quarters of 2015, putting Canada in recession for the first time since the global financial crisis. Harper has pointed out that June’s data showed strong economic growth.

He also came under fire last week over whether the government was taking in enough refugees from the Syrian conflict, in light of a photo showing the body of a Syrian toddler washed up on a Turkish beach. An aunt living in Canada revealed the family had hoped to come to Canada.

Nanos said the poll results raised the possibility that, if the Conservatives are seen as likely to lose the election, some of their supporters might vote Liberal to prevent the NDP, which has socialist roots, from taking power in Ottawa for the first time.

“The next potential dynamic would be Conservative supporters strategically voting Liberal to block the NDP,” Nanos said.

However, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has made the case that his party would be fiscally responsible, promising balanced budgets while the Liberals are allowing for deficits of up to C$10 billion ($7.6 billion) a year. He also pledged not to raise personal income tax rates. The Liberals would hike taxes on the wealthy while cutting middle-class rates.

One caveat on the Nanos poll is that it was taken in the evenings of Sept. 4, 5 and 6, a long weekend when many Canadians likely were on holiday.

The poll was commissioned by CTV News and the Globe and Mail newspaper and used live agents to phone 1,200 respondents. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Reporting by Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao

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