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Conservatives on 'razor's edge of losing government'

1. A breathtaking shift. Stephen Harper's Conservatives would lose 33 seats if an election were held today and only maintain a tenuous hold on minority government, according to a new EKOS poll.

"From comfortable majority and kudos in October to the razor's edge of losing government altogether," says pollster Frank Graves, whose new survey finds that Canadians simply don't like the Parliamentary shutdown.

"Clearly it has a significant impact. It has become a proxy and a catalyst for a whole bunch of broader frustrations and anxieties that the public are feeling about the government."

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Indeed, the EKOS data is consistent with two polls released yesterday showing the Tories and Michael Ignatieff's Liberals effectively tied for support and that Canadians are displeased with Mr. Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament.

Mr. Graves's poll of 3,730 Canadians, conducted between January 6 and January 12, puts the Tories with 30.9 per cent support compared to 29.3 per cent for the Liberals. The NDP are at 15.3 per cent; the Bloc is at 10.2 per cent and the Green Party has 11.9 per cent.

More interesting, however, is Mr. Graves's seat projections based on the latest numbers.

If an election were held today, he says, the Tories would have only 112 seats compared to the 145 they have now. Last fall, when his polls had the Tories in majority government territory, Mr. Graves had the Harper team winning 177 seats. Now, they would see their biggest losses in Ontario, dropping to 33 from 51seats.

The Liberals, meanwhile, would make gains in Ontario, taking 60 seats from their current 38. Nationally, Mr. Graves has the Ignatieff team winning 107 seats compared to the 77 seats they have now.

His figures suggest the NDP would win 33 seats, down from the 37 they have now. And the Bloc Quebecois would win five more seats, going to 53 from 48 seats.

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Mr. Graves says the Tory implosion is a result of a predictable "recoil" among voters when parties are seen to be a bit too high and the controversy over the Afghan detainee issue, which has now morphed into an issue of government accountability and trust. He is not sure whether the Liberal attack ads, released last Sunday, have had any effect.

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Mr. Graves does, however, see some positives for the Tories in this poll. He says Liberal fortunes haven't been "jump-started." His numbers only show the Grits are moving up "ever so gently."

"This is a Conservative slide rather than a Liberal rise," he says, arguing the challenge for Mr. Ignatieff now is to seize the public disenchantment over prorogation and start providing reasons to Canadians for voting Liberal. Mr. Graves says the Grits need to shift "public thinking about what is different and better" about them.

2. Prorogation protests go international. The organizers of the anti-prorogation rallies planned for Jan. 23 are now saying there will be rallies in London, England, and New York. There is also the possibility of an anti-prorogation demonstration in Los Angeles.

Jonathan Allan, the spokesperson for the rallies that were inspired by the anti-prorogation Facebook group, is boldly predicting huge turnout. "As we enter the second decade of the 21st century and become exposed to the whims of an unaccountable government, we are legitimately confident that these rallies, including the ones in Ottawa and Toronto, will be among the largest independent political protests in years," he told The Globe in an email, noting that it's a non-partisan effort.

"We have rebuked all assistance from opposition parties; this is an entirely grassroots organized event," he writes. "We, as the citizens of Canada, are demanding that the elected representatives of our Parliament return to work immediately - if not in the House of Commons, at least within the context of the parliamentary inquiry into the government's complicity in torture and war crimes."

(Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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