Feb. 22, 2003.
NDP on a roll as support rises
Layton win sees poll numbers double 17 per cent backing highest in a decade


OTTAWA—Jack Layton's leadership victory last month and public concern about the prospects for a war in Iraq have driven the New Democratic Party to second spot behind the Liberals in a new poll, with 17 per cent support — twice what the party received in the last election.

"This is the highest score we've seen for the NDP in the last decade," said Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research. "It's about half the level (former leader) Ed Broadbent achieved (in the mid-1980s) — but it's nosebleed country for a party that was stuck in single digits."

The Liberals continue to dominate public opinion with 47 per cent support, the Progressive Conservatives remain stable at 14 per cent and the Bloc Québécois has 7.6 per cent (35 per cent in Quebec) — but the Canadian Alliance is in serious trouble.

The right-wing party is now in fourth place, with only 10.7 per cent backing — less than half the 25 per cent support it received in the 2000 election.

The poll was conducted by EKOS Research Associates for the Toronto Star, La Presse and CBC between Feb. 18 and 20, and questioned 1,006 Canadians, resulting in a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage point, 19 times out of 20.

The Liberals have dropped five points since January, but are still ahead in every province — with a crushing 52 per cent support in Ontario, 49 per cent in Quebec and 55 per cent in Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals will have their own leadership convention on Nov. 15 to choose a successor for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who retires next February.

The EKOS poll is the latest to show progress by the NDP, which had 11 per cent support in December, and 14 in January, when Layton, a long-time Toronto city councillor, won the leadership.

"When a party doubles its support from the last election, you take notice," Graves said. "The NDP looks as if they could effectively translate this" into seats.

"They could do very well."

The Liberals now hold 169 seats in the House, the Alliance has 63, the Bloc has 35 and the NDP and the Conservatives each have 14.

Graves pointed out that U.S.-Canada relations have soured since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington, and support for the war in Iraq has declined. While the Alliance has been hurt by its support for a U.S.-led war in Iraq, the NDP has been unanimous in its opposition to war, with or without U.N. sanction.

Additional articles by Graham Fraser

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