Alliance not worried by poor poll results
Party officials say survey not a true snapshot
Tonda MacCharles
OTTAWA — Canadian Alliance strategists are shrugging off a public opinion poll showing lost support across the country, and claim the party's support is holding, especially in its traditional Western base.

In a poll conducted for The Star and CBC, EKOS Research Associates Inc. found the Canadian Alliance has dramatically slipped below the Tories and the NDP, especially in Ontario, and lost ground in the Alliance heartland of Alberta.

EKOS found voters would overwhelmingly support the Liberals if an election were held tomorrow, with 53.1 per cent stating they would vote Liberal. The Conservatives came second at 14.7 per cent; the NDP was third at 10.6 per cent, and the Alliance trailed at 10.5 per cent. The Bloc Québécois registered 8 per cent approval, with its support only in Quebec.

In Alberta, the Liberals were at 34 per cent, the Tories at 25 per cent, and the Alliance at 23 per cent. The NDP was a distant fourth at 13 per cent.

In Ontario, the numbers paint an even starker picture, with the Liberals at 64 per cent, the Tories at 17 per cent, the NDP at 9 per cent, and the Alliance sitting at 8 per cent.

"We're not worried about the EKOS numbers because they run counter to all other recent polls and plain old common sense," Alliance communications director Jim Armour.

"The interviews were done within 24 hours of the Prime Minister's retirement announcement and right in the middle of the Tory convention, which was giving the Conservatives probably the most media coverage in the last seven years," he added.

"I'd argue it's impossible to get a realistic snapshot of what Canadians are thinking in the midst of two fairly significant political events."

But Tories are buoyed by the results.

"It shows that Canadians are looking at us again seriously, and we have to earn that continued attention," said Tory MP and House leader Peter MacKay of Nova Scotia.

"And the way to do that is through substantive policy and addressing the big issues, the five big E's: the economy, the environment, everybody's health, ethics and education. That's what people want to hear about.

"Unity issue for me now is uniting people now behind our party, not uniting parties," said MacKay, a likely candidate for the upcoming Tory leadership.

Alliance pollster Dimitri Pantazopoulos, of Praxicus Public Strategy, said other opinion surveys within the past few weeks have put the Alliance between 16 and 18 per cent nationally, and placed the Tories at between 12 and 16 per cent.

But another major survey — conducted by the Ipsos-Reid polling firm before the Prime Minister's retirement announcement and the Tory convention — also saw the Tories moving ahead of the Alliance party nationally with 18 per cent versus 16 per cent support for the Alliance.

Pantazopoulos also disputed the finding that the Alliance had slipped in its Western stronghold, saying "support in the West has solidified since last year" when the party hit a low-water mark of 6 per cent in some polls, but he declined to release any of the party's internal polling numbers.

Pantazopoulos conceded Harper is not very well known in Ontario, and said the Alliance will have to get back "on a policy agenda" in order to make gains in public opinion in Ontario.

"People have to know you stand for something as opposed to always against something."

As for the Alliance's dismal showing in Ontario, Armour suggested regional breakdowns in polls have higher margins of error "so I don't know whether these polls are particularly useful in getting a snapshot at what's happening in a particular province."

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