December 5, 2008 / 1:02 PM / in 11 years

Harper has crushing poll lead on crisis

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Harper has mounted a crushing polling lead as the result of a political crisis in which an opposition coalition sought to take power, three polls released over the past two days showed.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers a statement in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 28, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The surveys showed Harper’s Conservatives would take well over the 40 percent needed to convert his minority in Parliament into a majority, and a lead of 20 percentage points over the main opposition Liberal Party.

The main opposition Liberals, the leftist New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois, which wants to take Quebec out of Canada, signed a deal on Monday to try to replace Harper with a Liberal-NDP coalition supported by the Bloc.

They were upset with Harper’s attempt, since withdrawn, to cut off direct subsidies of political parties and they also said he was not doing enough to boost the economy. During the election campaign, they had ruled out forming coalitions.

Harper mounted an attack on what he called a coalition driven by separatists and socialists, and public opinion swung his way at least for now, though pollsters say spikes in support can fade as crises fade.

A Strategic Counsel poll in Friday’s Globe and Mail newspaper put the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals 45 to 24 percent, with the New Democrats trailing at 14 percent.

This compares with the October 14 electoral result of 37.6 percent for the Conservatives, 26.2 percent for the Liberals and 18.2 percent for the New Democrats.

An Ipsos Reid survey released on Friday in Canwest newspapers put the Conservatives at 46 percent, the Liberals at 23 percent and the New Democrats at 13 percent.

An Ekos poll released the night before showed a 20-point lead for the Conservatives.

Fifty-six percent of those polled by Ipsos Reid said they would rather go to another election, even though one was just held, rather than let the coalition govern.

Harper won seven weeks of breathing space on Thursday with the suspension of Parliament until late January, when he can present a budget with economic stimulus.

The coalition could try to bring him down then, though some Liberals are saying they should think hard before doing that.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Doina Chiacu

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