December 10, 2009 / 2:29 PM / in 8 years

Conservatives' lead narrows in Canada poll

TORONTO (Reuters) - Small opposition parties have chipped away at support for Canada’s ruling Conservatives, with the left-leaning New Democrats the main winners, according to an opinion poll released on Thursday.

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 9, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

The EKOS survey showed the Conservatives with support from 35.6 percent of voters, down from 36.9 percent on November 26.

Backing for the opposition Liberals eased to 26.5 percent, from 27.1, while support for the New Democrats rose to 16.7 percent, from 15.3 percent.

The results indicate the Conservatives would stay in power if an election were held now. But -- just like now -- they would not have a majority of seats in Parliament and would need support from at least one other party to stay in power.

EKOS, which polled 4,800 Canadians in an automated telephone survey, said it was noticing a “gentle but progressive” decline in the Conservatives’ fortunes.

“We are now seeing virtually dead even splits as to whether the federal government is moving in the right or wrong direction,” it said. “This is a significant shift from a long period where the Conservatives had enjoyed a modest but significant lead on this indicator.”

The survey also showed support for the Green Party holding firm at 11.3 percent, after 11.4 percent in November, possibly helped by publicity surrounding the Copenhagen conference on climate change.

“If the (Greens) can crack the ceiling where they actually have a chance of producing MPs (and if younger voters decide to vote more than their anemic rates in the last election), then the Greens may be poised for a modest breakthrough,” EKOS said.

Canada has a first-past-the-post voting system that favors large parties. The Greens have never won a seat in Parliament.

The EKOS survey has a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Reporting by Janet Guttsman; Editing by Eric Beech

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