December 10, 2005

Canada’s Liberals retain lead in run-up to debates

OTTAWA (Reuters) - One quarter of Canada's election
campaign is now over, and the opposition Conservatives have not
yet been able to shake the lead of Prime Minister Paul Martin's
Liberals in most surveys.

Polls published on Saturday showed broadly similar results
to those just before the government was toppled on November 28
after an official report detailed kickbacks from government
contracts which were illegally used in Liberal campaigns.

Some focus will now be on debates next Thursday and Friday
and on January 9-10. Conservative leader Stephen Harper boosted
his poll standings in the debates in campaign for the June 2004
election, though Martin recovered and was able to stay in

So far the Conservatives and Liberals have played a largely
positive campaign, not talking predominantly about the kickback
scandal. But analysts believe the gloves could come off after
the Christmas and New Year's break, in the final stretch to the
January 23 election.

A rolling Strategic Counsel poll for the Globe and Mail and
CTV put the Liberals at 36 percent, the Conservatives at 28
percent and the leftist New Democrats at 16 percent. On Friday,
it showed 36 percent Liberal, 30 percent Conservative and 15
percent New Democrat.

An Ipsos-Reid poll for CanWest newspapers had only a
four-point Liberal lead, up from a two-point lead in its
previous survey. Ipsos put the Liberals at 34 percent, the
Conservatives at 30 percent and the New Democrats at 16

In Quebec, the second most populous province, Ipsos gave
the separatist Bloc Quebecois a crushing lead of 55 percent to
the Liberals' 26 percent.

Neither survey would give the Liberals a majority in
Parliament. That normally requires at least 40 percent in
popular support.

However, another tracking poll released by SES on Friday
put the Liberals at 41 percent to 26 percent for the

Both the Ipsos and Strategic Counsel polls were taken
December 6-8. Strategic Counsel surveyed 1,500 people, which
should give a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points 19 times
out of 20. The Ipsos survey was of 1,000 people, which carries
a 3.1-point margin of error.