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Tories and Liberals mired in polling gridlock

1. Olympic stasis sets in. After weeks of anger and outrage over Stephen Harper's decision to shut down Parliament, Canadians are now shutting down from politics, a new public opinion poll finds.

Gridlock appears to be the new normal on the national stage, as voters appear to be tuning into the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

The latest EKOS Research poll finds Stephen Harper's Tories just where they were last week with 31 per cent of Canadians supporting them - a two-point leader over Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, who are at 29 per cent.

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The two main parties are still statistically tied. The NDP is at 16.5 per cent, followed by the Green Party at 11.8 per cent and the Bloc Quebecois with 8.8 per cent.

And what EKOS's pollster Frank Graves sees in all of this is the Tories stuck firmly at "a humble 31." Even a "couple of home-turf gold medals" can't push a few more votes their way, it seems

Earlier this fall, the Conservatives enjoyed a 10-point lead over the Liberals and were knocking at the door of a majority government. The landscape shifted dramatically after Mr. Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament.

"Given the broad dissatisfaction with federal direction and the stability of this new base, [the Conservatives]must be deeply concerned about the dramatic deterioration in their political position from fall," Mr. Graves says in his analysis.

"It seems that no amount of frenzied activity, adroit performance or feel good announcements by the Prime Minister can resuscitate their flagging fortunes."

But this poll doesn't just tell a story about the Conservatives. Mr. Graves says the opposition parties have nothing to boast about.

The Liberals are back in sub-30 territory. "Any rise in LPC fortunes will likely require something more than pointing out CPC failures," Mr. Graves suggests. The only party tracking above its performance for the 2008 election, he adds, is the Green Party.

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The poll of 3,600 Canadians was conducted between Feb. 10 and Feb. 6.

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2. 'Legitmate mandate' fleeting. A minority Conservative government with 122 seats would be the result if an election were held today, according to new EKOS seat projections.

When Mr. Graves plugged his latest poll numbers into his seat-projection model, he came up with a House of Commons that looks a lot like the one we have now.

The Liberals would win 100 seats, with almost half of them in Ontario. Currently, the Tories have 145 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons; the Liberals have 77 seats.

Last week, the EKOS seat projection model had the Tories with 114 seats and 110 for the Liberals. Two weeks ago, the Liberals would have won 122 seats - the same as what the Tories would have now.

The NDP would win 38 seats today; the Bloc would take 47 and there would be one independent seat.

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What a difference a couple of weeks in politics makes.

Mr. Graves says it is now apparent that no political party "can currently produce anything approaching a legitimate mandate to govern the country."

The only way through this, he says, is for voters to start looking at "options like coalitions if they want to avoid fractious minority rule."

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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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