July 18, 2003
Poll suggests Tories could form opposition
Net 16.7% of decided voters

Liberals keep dominance


OTTAWA—The Progressive Conservative party under new leader Peter MacKay has a chance to form the Official Opposition in the next election, a new poll suggests.

An EKOS Research Associates poll released today gives the Liberals 54.0 per cent of support from decided voters.

The Conservatives are a distant second with 16.7 per cent of those polled, and the Canadian Alliance trails five points behind with 11.2 per cent.

The New Democratic Party is close behind with 10.4 per cent — while the Bloc Québécois is fading with 4.8 per cent, or 20 per cent of the vote in Quebec.

Only 5 per cent of those polled think it is unlikely that Paul Martin will win the Liberal leadership, while 89 per cent think it is very likely (58 per cent) or somewhat likely (31 per cent).

The pollster also asked Canadians about their views of Paul Martin, widely expected to win the Liberal leadership at the convention in Toronto Nov. 15 to choose Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's successor.

The Liberals dominate in every region of the country, with 43 per cent of those polled in British Columbia, 34 per cent in Alberta, 39 per cent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 59 per cent in Ontario, 51 per cent in Atlantic Canada, and a stunning 65 per cent in Quebec.

According to EKOS, the Canadian Alliance is second in British Columbia and Alberta, third in the Prairies, fourth in Ontario and Atlantic Canada and fifth in Quebec among decided voters.

On the basis of those results, Frank Graves, president of EKOS, argues that the Conservatives are in a position to overtake the Canadian Alliance as the Official Opposition.

Thirty-six per cent of decided voters said they were at least somewhat likely to switch parties; and 28 per cent of all those who feel they might switch would go to the Tories.

"There is a chance that the Tories could surprise and form the opposition," Graves said in an interview.

"It's completely contingent on (Progressive Conservative leader) Peter MacKay. He's got a golden opportunity to do well."

Graves said that the Canadian Alliance was offside with voters on issues like Kyoto and Iraq.

" But Canadian Alliance MP and deputy whip Dale Johnston dismissed the poll, saying that EKOS is out of step.

"COMPAS showed us at least five points ahead of where Graves does," he said in an interview.

EKOS found that only 12 per cent of those surveyed thought that a Paul Martin-led Liberal party would be a bad thing, with 43 per cent seeing it as " a good thing" and 43 per cent "neither good nor bad."

Asked how much change a Martin-led government would mean in comparison to the current Liberal government led by Chrétien, 14 per cent said that it would mean "major or radical change," while 54 per cent predicted it would mean "some change."

Of those polled, 27 per cent suggested it would mean little or no change.

EKOS collected its data on voting intentions between June 19 and July 9, based on a random sample of 1,501 telephone interviews across Canada.

This provides a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The opinions about the impact of a Paul Martin victory in the Liberal leadership were collected between July 8 and 11, based on 600 telephone interviews across Canada.

This provides a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Additional articles by Graham Fraser

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