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Layton, Harper end '09 on a high at Ignatieff's expense

Jack Layton began the year measuring the curtains of his ministerial office - a tantalizing prospect that was rudely dashed when Michael Ignatieff reneged on the Liberal-NDP deal to forge a coalition with Bloc Québécois support. Though he supported the initiative himself, Mr. Ignatieff was eventually rewarded with the leadership of the Liberal Party - and without having to bother with an election by the membership. But the last laugh goes to Mr. Layton: for the first time in a Nanos poll, he leads Mr. Ignatieff on all indices of leadership - including competence, confidence of Canadians and vision for Canada.

Since September, when Mr. Ignatieff made the maladroit decision to send Canadians to the polls less than a year after the last election, the Liberal leader has seen his score decline steeply from 54.8 per cent to 39.0 per cent. In contrast, Jack Layton, who took the opposite decision in the midst of the worst recession in twenty years, has seen his leadership score rise to 41.2 per cent. Moreover, compared to Mr. Nanos's omnibus survey conducted a month earlier, the NDP has risen by 2.1 per cent nationally on the ballot question and now stands at 18.7 per cent.

For Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after a year of political recovery from a near-death experience, there's good news and bad in the December Nanos poll. The bad news is that, other than on the question of competence, his leadership numbers are also down - though they are still more than twice as high as Mr. Layton's.

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The good news is that, in the poll conducted between December 10 and 13, the Conservatives were still at 39.5 per cent on the ballot question, a dip of only three tenths of 1 per cent compared to the results a month earlier. And the Liberals - the only party that can realistically hope to replace them as government - were at 30.2 per cent, compared to 30 per cent in November.

That said, the survey was conducted before the end of the Copenhagen meeting. And the government is not yet out of the woods on the Afghan detainees issue; proroguing Parliament until after the Olympics would only delay the day of reckoning -unless, that is, Mr. Harper's game plan is to precipitate an election on the March budget. But perhaps the most telling finding in the latest Nanos survey is that the number of Canadians who are undecided on both leadership and the ballot question increased substantially from November - particularly in Ontario and Québec - one more sign of our disgust with the shenanigans on Parliament Hill this past autumn.

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