March 11, 2010 / 3:26 PM / in 8 years

Budget fails to boost Conservatives

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A federal budget last week did little to boost the fortunes the Conservatives, who still only have a slight lead in public support, according to a poll released on Thursday.

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 9, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

The weekly Ekos survey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. put the Conservatives at 31.9 percent support, down from 32.4 percent last week. The Liberals, the biggest opposition party, were at 29.6 percent, up from 29.4 percent.

The minority Conservative government promised last Thursday to clamp down on spending to help eliminate a record deficit, caused in part by a multibillion-dollar stimulus program.

“The budget does not appear to have been any sort of turning point politically,” said Ekos pollster Frank Graves, noting Canada was gripped by what he called political lethargy.

“What is remarkable is that no party has been able to command the consistent support of even a third of the electorate since the beginning of 2010 ... There is no modern precedent for this level of weakness by the two major parties,” he said in a statement.

The left-leaning New Democrats were at 16 percent, up from 15.2 percent.

Polls show voters are not enthused about either Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, both of whom insist they do not want an election.

Under Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs at least 36 percent of the popular vote to be sure of winning enough seats in the House of Commons to create a viable minority government.

Harper won a strengthened minority in October 2008 and had a 15-point lead at the end of last year. He then moved to have Parliament suspended until March, which opponents said reflected dictatorial tendencies.

The Ekos survey of 2,165 adults was conducted between March 3 and 9 and is considered accurate to within 2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway

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