Harper seen as best leader ahead of vote

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers questions after delivering a speech announcing a new Polar class Arctic Icebreaker for the Canadian north to be named after former Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, August 28, 2008. REUTERS/Todd Korol

TORONTO (Reuters) - Half the Canadian voters in an opinion poll released on Wednesday think Prime Minister Stephen Harper would do a better job than any of his rivals, as Canada readies for a federal election expected next month.

The Ipsos Reid Poll, in the National Post newspaper, showed 50 percent of those polled viewed Harper as the best leader. Jack Layton, leader of the left-wing New Democrats, followed with 31 percent support, while Liberal Leader Stephane Dion trailed a distant third with only 20 percent.

“If this election is going to be a referendum on leadership, Stephen Harper has a heck of an advantage,” Ipsos Reid President Darrell Bricker told the Post.

Ipsos Reid polled 1,003 Canadians between August 26 and August 28 for its survey and considers its results are considered accurate to within 3.1 percent.

Harper is widely expected to call an election this week, with Canadians going to the polls on October 14

Ipsos Reid also noted falling support for the main plank in Dion’s election platform -- a revenue-neutral carbon tax designed to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases.

Ipsos-Reid said public backing for the plan had dropped to 45 percent from 52 percent when Dion unveiled the idea in early July. Those opposed to it grew to 51 percent from 42 percent.

Reporting by Scott Anderson and David Ljunggren; editing by Janet Guttsman