Tories grow more popular
Ottawa — The Conservatives have seized a commanding lead in popularity over the Liberals and inched into majority-government territory, says a new survey released Wednesday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tories held a 15-point advantage over the Liberals and broke past what is considered the benchmark for winning a majority government, says the Decima poll.
However, the survey was taken before the government stirred up a hornet's nest with a pair of controversial decisions involving the military.
The Conservatives stood at 41 per cent — one point above the mark that is traditionally considered the dividing line that separates majorities from minorities.
The Liberals held 26 per cent and the NDP, despite its continued efforts to chip away at Liberal support, remained a distant third at 19 per cent.
Decima's chief pollster says the Conservatives have been steadily gaining ground since the election. They won a minority government with 36 per cent of the popular vote on Jan. 23.
“(They) appear to be continuing to solidify the gains they made in the last election campaign and to perhaps be adding support as well,” Bruce Anderson said.
It's not yet clear what impact, if any, more recent events may have on Conservative popularity.
Mr. Harper was lambasted in the media and ridiculed in several editorial cartoons Wednesday for shutting down a military base to restrict public viewing of the homecoming ceremony for four fallen soldiers.
One such cartoon in the Halifax Herald showed the Prime Minister hoisting an American flag atop the Peace Tower. Another depicted the Conservative party flag at half-mast, and one showed Mr. Harper flapping from a flagpole.
The government has refused to lower the Maple Leaf on Parliament Hill but has lowered flags at some military points at home and abroad.
Mr. Anderson, however, said he doubted this week's controversy would reverse Tory momentum.
“I'd be surprised if that changed very much as a consequence of this week,” he said.
The Conservatives especially gained support among groups that have traditionally been lukewarm to the party: women, young people and urban Canadians.
Mr. Anderson says those gains indicate the Tories are earning a reputation as a moderate party and appealing to middle-of-the-road voters.
“They have been ... building a reputation as centrist in governing style, (and) surprising some people in the demographic groups that have resisted the Conservative Party in recent years.”
The Conservatives had more support than the Liberals among women as well as men, among every age group, in urban as well as rural areas and in every region except Atlantic Canada, the poll said.
The governing party had a seven-point lead over the Liberals in Ontario, where the Liberals currently hold the lion's share of seats. The Tories held 40 per cent in that province, the Liberals 33 per cent, and the NDP had 25 per cent.
The Conservatives remained three points ahead of the Liberals in Quebec, but both parties continued to languish far behind the Bloc Québécois. In Quebec, the Bloc held 43 per cent, the Tories had 25 per cent, and the Liberals were at 22.
The telephone poll of 1,002 Canadians was conducted April 20 to 23, and has a 3.1 per cent margin of error, 19 times out of 20.