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Polls show Sisyphean task ahead for Harper and Ignatieff

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff are shown in a January, 2011 photo combination.

The Canadian Press

With election rumours swirling, the war of words has yet to have a profound impact on the voting intentions of Canadians. Though their rhetoric is heating up, neither Stephen Harper nor Michael Ignatieff appear capable of making any significant gains against each other.

According to's updated vote and seat projections, the Conservatives have the support of 35.4 per cent of Canadians and are likely to win 135 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons. The Liberals trail with 29 per cent support and 98 seats, while Jack Layton's New Democrats stand at 15.7 per cent and only 23 seats.

The Bloc Québécois has a healthy lead in Quebec that puts them on track to win 52 seats, and the Green Party is likely to remain shut out of Parliament with 8.2 per cent support.

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Compared to the last set of projections released in mid-December, the Conservatives have gained a little more than half-a-point, but are down one seat. The Liberals are up two seats, taking one from the NDP.

The inability of the political leaders to gather any momentum is shown by how little the numbers have moved over the last four months. The first seat and vote projection for The Globe and Mail published at the end of September put the Tories at 34 per cent to 29 per cent for the Grits, and projected 129 seats for the Conservatives and 101 for the Liberals.

If these levels of support were to hold throughout an election campaign, the make-up of the House of Commons would be hardly different than it is now. The Conservatives currently hold 143 seats, while the Liberals have 77 and the New Democrats 36. Though Mr. Ignatieff does stand to make some gains at the expense of the Tories and NDP, the balance of power in Parliament would be unchanged.

With all four leaders trying to grab as much media attention as possible in the run-up to the resumption of Parliament at the end of the month, the focus appears to be on solidifying each of their bases and on making whatever small gains can be made. With the numbers as immovable as ever, it seems to be a pragmatic strategy.

Shifts in the West, stability in the East

While national voting intentions have remained stable, regionally the parties are in constant, if modest, flux. The greatest shifts have taken place in the four western provinces.

In British Columbia, the Conservatives have jumped more than two points to 39.2 per cent support, and are now projected to win 22 seats. Both the Liberals and New Democrats have dropped almost one point each, and now stand at 22.9 and 24.2 per cent respectively. The NDP have lost one seat and are projected to win six.

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The largest gain in this projection goes to the Tories in Alberta, who are up more than four points to 60.7 per cent. The Liberals have taken a step backwards, slipping more than three points to 18 per cent support.

The Conservatives have stumbled in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, however, losing more than two points and dropping to 44.7 per cent and 20 seats. The Liberals are up to 24 per cent while the NDP has gained almost two points and now stands at 22.4 per cent, enough for three seats.

There has been less movement in central and eastern Canada. The Conservatives have made tiny gains in Ontario and Quebec, but have fallen almost two points in Atlantic Canada. The race in the country's largest province remains tight, as the Liberals are also up slightly. The gap is now only 2.3 points, as the Tories lead the Grits with 38.3 per cent to 36 per cent support. The NDP has dropped to 15.3 per cent, losing a seat in the projection to the Liberals.

In the four Atlantic provinces, the Liberals continue to dominate with 41.4 per cent support and a projected 22 seats.

The Bloc Québécois has increased its support in Quebec, surpassing the 40 per cent mark. The Liberals and New Democrats have slipped while the Tories have gained, though Mr. Ignatieff's party is still holding on to second place with 22.4 per cent to Mr. Harper's 17.7 per cent support. The Liberals should win 15 seats, while the Conservatives would be reduced from eleven to seven MPs in the province.'s vote and seat projection model uses a rolling, weighted average of polling results and includes the latest data from polls taken since Dec. 20 by EKOS Research, Angus-Reid, CROP, and Probe Research, as well as polls taken prior to that date. Polls are weighted by sample size, age, and records of pollster accuracy, with larger and newer polls given greater weight.

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Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at

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