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Tory support undented by nasty parliamentary session, poll suggests

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper's Conservatives have sustained little lasting damage from an unproductive, acrimonious and scandal-plagued parliamentary session, a new poll suggests.

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper's Conservatives have sustained little lasting damage from an unproductive, acrimonious and scandal-plagued parliamentary session, a new poll suggests.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates the Tories emerged from the session with 34 per cent support — a solid seven-point lead over the Liberals.

The NDP were at 17 per cent nationally and the Greens at 10 per cent.

While the Tories were still well short of the support level they'd need to win a majority, the poll suggests they've rebounded from a precipitous slide that followed Prime Minister Harper's unpopular decision late last year to suspend Parliament until early March.

As the session sputtered to a close last week, the Tories were leading in every region of the country, except Quebec where the Bloc Quebecois strengthened its grip on the province, the poll indicates.

And they had opened up a double-digit lead over the Liberals among male voters (38 to 25 per cent) and even pulled slightly ahead among women (29 to 28 per cent).

The Tories' relatively comfortable position follows a stormy six months in which the government was roasted for proroguing Parliament and stonewalling on the release of Afghanistan detainee documents, embarrassed by the Guergis-Jaffer affair and on the defensive over the huge $1-billion-plus tab for hosting the G8 and G20 summits.

"Conventional wisdom and perhaps even common sense might suggest a less-than-productive, combative and scandal-tainted parliamentary session would present political disaster for an incumbent government," said Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg.

"Our most recent polls suggest exactly the opposite is true."

The one bleak spot for the governing party was Quebec, where the Bloc received 45 per cent support from poll respondents — more than double the Liberals' 22 per cent and quadruple the Tories' meagre 11 per cent. The NDP were also at 11 per cent and the Greens at eight.

Gregg said the combined support for federalist parties is "so low that a Bloc sweep (of Quebec's 75 seats) is not beyond the realm of possibility."

"The big question for the Conservatives therefore becomes are they prepared to wage an election on an English Canada-only strategy."

The poll suggests the Conservatives enjoy a comfortable lead throughout most of English Canada:

— In Ontario, the Conservatives were at 40 per cent, the Liberals at 32, NDP at 15 and the Greens at 11.

— In the key 905 area code ridings around Toronto, Tories were at 43 per cent to the Liberals' 32, the NDP's eight and the Greens' 15.

— In British Columbia, the Tories were at 33 per cent, virtually tied with the NDP at 32, while the Liberals lagged with 19 per cent and the Greens with 14.

— In Manitoba-Saskatchewan, the Tories were at 39 per cent, the Liberals at 23, the NDP at 23 and the Greens at nine.

— In Alberta, the Tories were at 55 per cent, the Liberals at 22, the NDP and Greens at 10 each.

— In Atlantic Canada, the Tories were at 38 per cent, the Liberals at 36, the NDP at 17 and the Greens at seven.

The telephone poll of 2,034 Canadians was conducted June 10-20 and is considered accurate within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times in 20. The margin of error is larger for regional sub-samples.

 
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