OTTAWA — Joe Clark and the Progressive
Conservatives are pulling ahead of their rivals in the Canadian Alliance
as the second-place contender behind the Liberals, according to a new
The poll shows the Tories with 14.7 per cent support from decided
voters, compared with 10.5 per cent for the Alliance under new leader
Stephen Harper. Both are far behind the Liberals, who boast 53.1 per cent
voter support according the Aug. 22-25 poll by EKOS Research Associates
EKOS president Frank Graves said the Alliance party, which appeared
under Harper to be consolidating its hold in the West in the spring, is
Graves referred to the performance by Harper, who has been
criticized for staying off the national stage this summer and failing to
take advantage of the disorder in the Liberal party over Prime Minister
Jean Chrétien's future.
"It's rather curious where Mr. Harper has been all summer, and
clearly it hasn't had a positive impact on the Alliance's standing in the
polls," said Graves. "They're slipping badly."
He noted the Tories are also the second-place party in voter
preference in Ontario now, with 17 per cent of decided voter supporter
versus 8 per cent for the Canadian Alliance.
"With the right leader, they're probably well-positioned to
possibly vault themselves into more of a serious contender status," Graves
said. Clark has announced his intention to step down.
Nationally, the New Democrats are fourth in current popularity with
10.6 per cent of voter support, followed by the Bloc Québécois with 8 per
Graves said both the Tories and the Alliance may have trouble
enhancing their standings if Martin becomes Liberal leader. He is well
liked among many conservative voters. His appeal is also strong enough in
Quebec to take voters away from the Bloc, Graves said.
This phenomenon is so pronounced that, based on current polls, the
Liberals led by Martin could win 250 out of 301 Parliamentary seats in an
election, Graves speculated.
The poll offered no great hope for former Ontario premier Mike
Harris, whose name has been mentioned as a possible national candidate
capable of uniting the right.
Harris is "really not ringing any bells with Canadians at all. He's
not seen as a serious contender at all at this stage," Graves said.
When asked to rate who would be a good future prime minister, 43
per cent of respondents said Harris would be a poor choice, compared with
22 per cent who said he would be a good choice.
A long-time adviser to Harris said the former premier will have
nothing to do with federal politics as long as the Conservatives and
Alliance fight for the same turf.
The Tory convention in Edmonton last weekend pretty well sealed any
federal ambitions Harris may have had when the party faithful agreed to
spurn the Alliance and go it alone, the adviser told The Star's Richard
"The decision by the Tories over the weekend, compounded by the
reaction of Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper, almost certainly
means Harris will not be exploring federal options any further."