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Ontario Now Dead Heat

[Ottawa – June 25, 2009] – The Conservative Party has edged ahead of the Liberal Party after months of lagging behind, according to the latest EKOS poll, released exclusively to cbc.ca.

The Liberal Party and its leader, Michael Ignatieff, appear to have paid a price for threatening to take the country to the polls this summer. EKOS’ daily tracking shows that they nose-dived after making the threat last week. Although the Liberals may have recovered some of that ground once they made a deal with Prime Minister Harper to avoid an election after all, it has nonetheless been a bad week for them.

At the same time, the Conservatives are benefitting from rising optimism about the economy among some Canadians – those affected more directly by the economic news or stock and real estate markets than by the labour market, which continues to deteriorate.

The Liberals may well recover from this short-term political setback,” said EKOS President Frank Graves. “At least that has been the pattern of the last six months when purely political events have rocked Canadians’ voting intentions.”

“More hopeful for the Conservatives and worrisome for the Liberals is the rising optimism on the economy, which is clearly behind some of the movement back to the Conservatives from the Liberals in recent weeks. This might have the makings of a more enduring trend.”

The principal movement in this most recent poll took place in Ontario. For several months the Liberals have enjoyed an advantage in the province, often reaching into the double-digits. Now, they are neck-and-neck with the Conservatives in Canada’s largest province.

“The Liberals need Ontario to win an election,” Graves said. “They were gaining ground there, but now that advantage has disappeared.

“Another problem for the Liberals is the fact that baby boomers who were an important part of the party’s success in the winter as they shifted from the Conservatives to the Liberals, are now trending strongly back to the Conservatives,” said Graves. “This may be important if the Conservatives hope to reclaim first-place in the medium term.”

Michael Ignatieff’s personal approval rating also took a substantial dip last week. Earlier in the year, while many Canadians said they did not yet know him, those who did have an opinion of the Liberal leader approved of the job he was doing by a substantial margin. By the beginning of this month, more people were familiar with him, and his approval rating was essentially neutral. Now, in this most recent poll, he has slumped into net-negative territory. As with the party’s fortunes more generally, the most wounding change was in Ontario.

“There could be a couple of factors at play here,” said Graves. “It may be that the Tory ad campaign aimed at Ignatieff is finally starting to have a corrosive effect on his reputation. At the same time, Ignatieff was the public face of the Liberal brinksmanship last week, and that may have affected his personal reputation as well as the party’s.”

“Ignatieff’s negatives are not as serious as Stephen Harper’s, but the prime minister has been heading in the right direction in recent weeks, while Ignatieff’s numbers have been heading south. Canadians may not have wanted an election this summer, but they are certainly going to have a campaign nonetheless, as all the parties – and all the leaders – try to move these numbers.”

Click here for complete survey results: 0779-full-report-_june-25_

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