Polls diverge on support for Conservatives

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) meets with local Inuit along with the Premier of Nunavut Eva Aariak (C) after arriving in Pangnirtung, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic August 20, 2009. REUTERS/Andy Clark

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives have leaped to a strong lead, a poll released Monday showed, while a second survey showed the party remaining in a deadlock with the opposition Liberals.

Results from Ipsos Reid put the Conservatives at 39 percent among likely voters, a level that would be close to delivering a majority government, with the Liberals down to 28 percent. Two months ago, the poll had the Liberals ahead 35 to 34 percent.

A Harris-Decima poll offered a different picture, putting the Liberals ahead 32 percent to 31 percent, a result that was in line with most other recent results.

Ipsos Reid said the Conservatives had been helped by the impression that the economy was recovering from a recession and by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s high-profile tour last week of the Arctic, where he stressed northern sovereignty.

When the Liberal caucus meets in Sudbury, Ontario, next week, the top issue is likely to be whether to bring down the Conservative government and force an early election.

Harper led the Conservatives to reelection last October, with more seats in Parliament than before but still only a minority, meaning he relies on the support of at least one opposition party.

The Liberals are the party that has been keeping Harper in power, but many party stalwarts have grown impatient with that role. Others have said it was too risky to force another election without a compelling reason or a solid lead.

The Ipsos Reid poll, conducted for Canwest newspapers and Global television, had the leftist New Democrats at 14 percent, the Green Party at 10 percent and the separatist Bloc Quebecois at 8 percent. Conducted August 18-20, the survey of 1,001 Canadians carries an error margin of 3.1 points 19 times out of 20.

Harris-Decima’s survey for Canadian Press had the NDP at 16 percent, the Greens at 11 percent and the Bloc at 9. It covered a longer period, August 13-23, with 2,000 respondents, for a 2.2-point error margin.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Frank McGurty