NDP surges to strong second place in poll

NDP Leader Jack Layton waves to supporters during a campaign stop in downtown Montreal April 23, 2011. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

TORONTO (Reuters) - Support for the New Democratic Party surged to within 6 points of the ruling Conservatives in an opinion poll released on Monday, raising the prospect that the left-leaning NDP could knock the Conservatives out of power after the May 2 election.

The EKOS survey of more than 3,000 Canadian voters put support for the NDP at 28 percent, compared with 33.7 percent for the Conservatives.

The Liberals, now the main opposition party in Parliament. had 23.7 percent support in the poll. It was the biggest lead the NDP has held over the Liberals during the campaign.

“We have seen almost from Day One a slow, steady and now a dramatic rise where the NDP has gone from 14 points in a pre-writ poll to 28 points,” pollster Frank Graves said on the web site. “That is a doubling. I’ve never seen anything close to that.”

Graves said the figures could conceivably bring the NDP, led by Jack Layton, more than 100 seats in Parliament. The poll indicates that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives could win around 130 seats.

But that’s not a majority in Parliament, raising the prospect that the NDP could form a coalition with the Liberals and Layton could become the party’s first prime minister.

“It’s hard to imagine a 130-seat diminished (Conservative) government would be able to hold on to power against a clear majority of seats and a major advantage in popular support for the NDP and the Liberals,” Graves said. “The idea that you could have a Jack Layton-led coalition sounds preposterous, but that’s what the numbers suggest.”

EKOS surveyed 3,004 Canadian voters between April 22 and April 24. It considers its results accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Reporting by Janet Guttsman