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Slim chance of Liberal flameout in Ontario, poll says

Ontario's governing Liberals are not on track to follow in the footsteps of their federal cousins, who hold just 11 of the province's 106 seats, a new survey suggests.

Nearly one in five Ontarians are likely or somewhat likely to vote for a different party in the upcoming provincial election, reducing the prospect of a Conservative victory in Ottawa and Canada's most populous province, according to a new Nanos Research survey, which also shows the gap between the Liberals and Tories narrowing.

"The Liberals have a chance to be more competitive in the provincial election compared to the last federal election," pollster Nik Nanos said.

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The majority won by the Conservatives in the last federal election was a "high-water mark" for the party, Mr. Nanos said, and one that is not likely to be repeated when voters in Ontario go to the polls on Oct. 6.

That is certainly the message Liberal MPP Bob Delaney is hearing when he knocks on doors in his riding of Mississauga-Streetsville. Mr. Delaney, who is campaigning for a third term, said many of his Liberal constituents who voted Conservative in the last federal election are expressing "buyer's remorse."

The Conservatives won the affluent Greater Toronto Area riding in the last federal election, ending its nearly two-decade run as a Liberal stronghold. Many voters were angry with the Liberals during the federal campaign, Mr. Delaney said in an interview, but they did not want their local MP to lose.

"Faced with the reality of who they elected in the federal election, they have turned to me and said, 'That's not going to happen to you,'" he said, adding that many of his Liberal colleagues are hearing a similar sentiment.

The Nanos survey shows that 55 per cent of those polled said they are likely to vote for the same party provincially and federally. But other findings in the survey suggest that Ontario is not likely to see a repeat of the federal election.

In the last survey done by Nanos in May, support for New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath was growing. However, her party has slipped to 16.2 per cent in the recent survey from 18.7 per cent, a change that remains within the poll's margin of error.

In the federal campaign, the NDP won 26 per cent of the votes cast in Ontario on May 2, drawing away enough Liberal votes to help the Conservatives win their majority.

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Support for the Ontario Liberals has grown to 37.6 per cent from 34 per cent in the Nanos poll, conducted last week for The Globe and Mail and CTV/CP 24. The increase in Liberal popularity falls just beyond the survey's margin of error.

While the Progressive Conservatives retain a clear lead over the Liberals, the gap has narrowed to just 4.5 points. Support for the Conservatives remains stable, at 42.1 per cent. It was 41.3 per cent in May.

The poll was conducted between Aug. 10 and Aug. 13, when Nanos Research contacted 1,000 Ontarians by telephone, with 830 of them having decided voting intentions.

The results are accurate within 3.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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About the Author

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

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