The first major opinion poll taken after Canada’s election debates showed on Sunday that the ruling Conservatives were headed for a strengthened mandate but would still fall short of a majority of seats in parliament.
The Ekos survey put the Conservatives, led by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, at 35 percent and the Liberals back at 25 percent. The New Democratic Party (NDP), to the left of the Liberals, stood at 19 percent.
Debates in French and English on Wednesday and Thursday respectively “appear to have failed to shake up the election race, despite what some regarded as effective performances by opposition party leaders,” Ekos said late on Sunday.
Ekos’ automated telephone survey was conducted on Friday through Sunday.
Another poll, a Nanos survey taken partly before the more widely watched English debate, had the Conservatives ahead by just 34 percent to 30 percent for the Liberals. The poll spanned Thursday through Saturday.
The Liberals seized upon the fact that the leftist NDP, which had been doing so well that it had a shot at taking second place in next Tuesday’s election, was 11 points behind in the Nanos survey at 19 percent.
“Can someone tell me how in these numbers the NDP finishes second?” Liberal spokesman Jae Epworth asked in an e-mail.
The Liberals and the NDP are closer in other polls, and the Liberals further behind the Conservatives, who took power from the Liberals with a minority of seats in parliament in the January 2006 election.
A Harris-Decima survey released on Sunday by Canadian Press that covered Wednesday through Saturday put the Conservatives also at 34 percent but the Liberals down at 24 percent and the NDP at 20 percent.
In the 2006 election, the Conservatives got 36 percent of the popular vote, the Liberals 30 percent and the NDP 17.5 percent.
When pParliament was dissolved on Sept. 7, the Conservatives had 127 of the 308 seats, well short of the 155 needed for a majority.
Harper has campaigned on the need for a steady hand in uncertain times, with no new taxes and no major new spending.
Liberal opposition leader Stephane Dion has pledged to keep the budget balanced without raising the overall tax load.
The Liberal Party is proposing a tax on carbon to finance cuts in corporate and personal income taxes.
The move will be “revenue-neutral, and some government investments could be made gradually to ensure the budget doesn’t slip into deficit, Dion said in an interview on Saturday.
“We don’t think Canadians need to pay more taxes,” Dion said by phone from Prince Edward Island. “It’s not our intention at all to increase our tax burden.”
Dion said Harper has squandered the surplus since taking office in 2006.
The NDP want to cancel a corporate tax cut and spend more on housing and education.
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