Skip to comments.PM Unable to Elevate Liberals: Poll (Canada)
Posted on 03/09/2004 7:27:59 AM PST by NorthOf45
PM Unable to Elevate Liberals: Poll
Support for Martin's party stalls as decision looms on spring election
By DREW FAGAN From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Ottawa Paul Martin's strategy of tackling the sponsorship scandal head-on has burnished his personal popularity but left his party stalled in minority-government territory less than one month before the Prime Minister has been widely expected to call an election, a new poll indicates.
The survey, done by Ipsos-Reid for The Globe and Mail and CTV, puts Liberal support at 38 per cent nationally, with the Conservative Party at 26 per cent and the NDP at 17 per cent.
The brightest spot for the governing party is that Mr. Martin enjoys broad support among Canadians with almost six in 10 voters saying they approve of the job he is doing.
But, in spite of the Prime Minister's repeated vow to get to the bottom of the sponsorship scandal and his actions in firing the heads of Crown corporations, he has hardly budged Liberal support since it plummeted one month ago after the Auditor-General's report into the scandal.
"The credibility of the party has been put into question," said Darrell Bricker, president of Ipsos-Reid. "Despite all the efforts to get back what they once had, they can't seem to get back above 40 per cent."
Mr. Martin, who took over as Prime Minister late last year after Jean Chrétien stepped down, needs to call an election to win his own mandate. But the recent polling figures including the current result make that a risky prospect. He could call an election as early as the beginning of April, but some within his party would prefer a vote later in the spring or in the fall.
In mid-January, Liberal support stood at 48 per cent, just as it had when Mr. Martin took office a month earlier.
But party support collapsed to 35 per cent after the Auditor-General's report, and subsequent polling by Ipsos-Reid this latest one was conducted March 2 to 7 have found that the party has made up only a little of the lost ground.
"He [Mr. Martin] has arrested the decline, but 10 points were bled off that haven't come back. You could afford to lose five, in their position, but not 10," Mr. Bricker said. "It still looks like they would form the government, but it's hard to see how they get to a majority."
Indeed, a detailed breakdown of the poll by region may make dire reading for Liberal strategists.
Ontario is the key to a Liberal victory; it provided the party in the 2000 election with 100 of its 173 seats in the 301-seat House of Commons. (There will be 308 ridings in the next election as a result of redistribution, meaning 155 seats are needed to form a majority.)
This latest poll shows the Liberals with 47-per-cent support in Ontario, compared with 31 per cent for the Conservatives and 16 per cent for the NDP. (Two months ago, the figures were 57, 18 and 17.)
The lead for the Liberals remains formidable. But the advantage that the party had in 2000, when the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives split the right-of-centre vote, is now gone.
In addition, the resurgence of the NDP means that the Liberals and the NDP could split the left-of-centre vote in many ridings. Each change in circumstances potentially bodes well for the Conservatives and makes another Liberal sweep in Ontario unlikely.
The party, according Mr. Bricker, could lose 25 or more seats in Ontario especially in Eastern Ontario, through Central Ontario north of Toronto, and in parts of the Southwestern region of the province.
Where would the governing party make up for those losses to keep its majority? The Ipsos-Reid survey suggests that, at least for the moment, the Liberals likely wouldn't be able to do so.
In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois now leads the Liberals by 18 points 49 per cent to 31 per cent. (In mid-January, the Liberals led by six points.) That puts the Liberals at risk of not being able to reclaim the 37 seats they won in 2000 across the province's 75 ridings especially since Liberal support is concentrated in parts of Montreal dominated by anglophones and in areas along the Ottawa River.
Liberal support is strongest in Atlantic Canada at 49 per cent. The Conservatives have 31-per-cent support and the NDP stands at 17 per cent. In these four provinces, Mr. Bricker suggested, the Liberals could end up with a few more seats.
But the prospects of gains in Western Canada, as in Quebec, now appear greatly diminished.
In British Columbia, the three major parties are in a tight race with the Liberals leading at 33 per cent, and the NDP and the Conservatives close behind at 29 per cent and 27 per cent respectively. (The Green Party, which has 4-per-cent support nationally, is now tracking at 10 per cent in B.C.)
In Alberta, the Conservatives lead the Liberals 57 to 24. The Liberals are, in Mr. Bricker's words, "getting pummelled." (Although the governing party's support is weakest in Alberta, Mr. Martin still has a 54-per-cent approval rating in the province, roughly in line with the national average of 57 per cent.)
In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Liberals lead with 36 per cent, followed by the NDP at 31 per cent and the Conservatives at 24 per cent.
Mr. Bricker noted that, across Western Canada, so-called vote-splits how the vote breaks down in individual ridings may not favour the Liberals. In many urban areas, the Liberals and the NDP will be in close fights. But in rural areas, the Conservatives appear to dominate.
"The Liberals don't have a very efficient vote generally," Mr. Bricker said. "That's how you end up with a minority."
Mr. Martin's decision about whether to call an election soon is complicated by the additional factor that governing parties often lose support during election campaigns. In the 1997 and 2000 races, for example, former prime minister Jean Chrétien's party started out with support in the mid to high 40s but ended up on election day with roughly 40 per cent of the votes cast.
This latest Ipsos-Reid poll suggests that Mr. Martin would have no such luxury; if anything, he'd have to gain support on the hustings to win a fourth successive Liberal majority.
The poll, which was based on a randomly selected sample of 2,111 Canadians, is considered accurate to within 2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Why can't people see that Martin is as guilty as the next guy and his actions' motivation is damage control and desperation.
The "next guy" being: Chretien, Gagliano, Stewart, Rock, Copps, Radwinski, etc., etc., etc....
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