News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tories surging ahead as Federal election nears

Another opinion poll has today shown the Tories with a large lead over the Grits, with a 37% share of the vote putting Stephen Harper within striking distance of an historic Conservative majority government in Ottawa. The Strategic Council poll for the left-leaning Globe and Mail newspaper suggests that the Conservatives are well ahead on economic management at a time of increasing economic uncertainty, which is pushing that up the list of voter priorities.

The Grits' Green Shift policy is looking like a serious blunder. It has damaged the Liberals' standing on the key issue of the economy, but not helped them much on the environment, with only 20% of voters saying that the Liberals have the best environment policy. Instead, the increased media profile of the environment as an issue has aided the Green Party, whose share of the vote has risen sharply.

Last week's Angus-Reid poll showed a similar trend. More worryingly for Dion is the regional breakdown. In BC, the Grits find themselves placed fourth, behind the NDP and the Greens (who last week picked up a defecting Liberal MP in Vancouver). Alberta and the Prairies (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) both see the Tories dominating as usual, with over 50% of the vote. Despite the continued Tory dominance in Alberta, the polls are reporting a shift against the national trend towards the Grits here. The limited number of winnable seats for the Liberals mean that they would have little to celebrate from such a result though.

Ontario, long a Liberal bastion, shows little change from the last election, with the Conservatives only closing the gap by one percentage point. That would still leave the Liberals having to defend key marginals in the province, limiting the scope for them to push resources towards making any gains.

The big story is further east still. Quebec sees the Conservatives in a strong second place, only two points behind the declining Bloc, and clearly the best options for Quebec voters who wish to remain within Canada. In the Atlantic provinces, it seems likely the the Green Shift has significantly damaged the Liberals, who came out on top in all four of the provinces in the last election but now trail the Tories by 9 points, with plenty of marginal ridings to play for.

The regional breakdowns always need to be taken with a pinch of salt. The margins of error are normally greater than they are for the national picture, and the Alberta election last year showed how spectacularly wrong they can be. Nonetheless, against a backdrop of a polls from a variety of sources showing the Conservatives on the up and Liberals in decline, things are looking pretty good for another Harper government. Whether that government is a majority or not could come down to the results in the key marginals, and it seems that the areas with the most marginals have the biggest swings to the Conservatives. Moreover, the Conservative party is flush with cash to fund an election, whereas the Grits are still struggling to pay down the debts built up in the 2006 election and subsequent leadership contest. That, combined with the need for the Liberal leadership to watch their own backs and defend a large number of currently Liberal seats leaves the Tories with a real tactical advantage.

There's still all to play for in the upcoming election, assuming that it does happen, and a Conservative majority remains a big ask for a country which has returned Liberal governments for so much of the last century. But this does look like the best chance for the Tories in 20 years.

Hat tip for the regional breakdowns NB Tory Lady

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