OTTAWA (Reuters) - As speculation about a Canadian election grows, a new poll on Thursday showed the ruling Conservatives are only narrowly ahead of their main rivals and would lose seats if a vote were held now.
The Ekos poll for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. gave the Conservatives 33.1 percent public support, up from 32.4 percent two weeks ago. Support for the Liberals, the main opposition party, rose to 29.9 percent from 28.9 percent.
Most political observers -- and some officials inside the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- expect the minority government to be defeated over its budget early next year. The Conservatives can be brought down if all three opposition parties vote against them.
The Conservatives came to power in early 2006 and won a strengthened minority in October 2008 with 37.7 percent of the vote. But they have struggled to reach that level since then, and Harper had a bad summer marked by several gaffes.
Under Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs around 36 percent of the vote to gain a working minority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.
The Liberals and the Conservatives gained support at the expense of the left-leaning opposition New Democrats, who fell to 13.5 percent from 16.6 percent after deep divisions during a vote on gun control last week.
Of those polled, 47.3 percent felt the government was headed in the wrong direction and 41.1 percent were happy with what Ottawa was doing.
The Ekos automated telephone survey of 1,976 people was conducted between Sept 22 and 28 and is considered accurate to within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Janet Guttsman