Ipsos-Reid's latest poll for CTV and the Globe and Mail, completed two days before the Gomery inquiry publication ban was lifted, shows the Tories within four points of the Grits nationwide and in Ontario:
In Ontario, the gap between the two main parties shrank from 15 percentage points in February to only 4 points this week. The Liberals led the Conservatives 38-34 in the province, with the NDP at 17 per cent.
Such results in an election would probably mean substantial gains of seats for the Conservatives in Ontario, where last year the Liberals won 45 per cent of the vote and 75 seats, the Conservatives took 31 per cent of the vote and 24 seats, and the NDP took 18 per cent and seven seats.
This should be good for another 20 seats out of Southern and Eastern Ontario and the 905 belt, perhaps a couple more to the NDP in Toronto. That alone would produce a minority Tory government, because many Ontario votes will be wasted on huge Toronto majorities that do nothing to help candidates in swing ridings.
The bad news is that Quebec federalists seem to switching allegiance, not to the Tories, but anywhere else but:
In Quebec, where the sponsorship scandal has already been particularly damaging to the Liberals, Mr. Martin's government fell five percentage points to 29 per cent — support that went to the Bloc Québécois (41 per cent) and the fifth-placed party in the province, the Greens, now at 7 per cent.
The Conservatives, meanwhile, remain mired at 8-per-cent support.
The unreported figure of decided voters for the NDP would be 15% in Quebec. Not all of that would be coming from disgruntled Liberals either, if we compare the 2004 vote to the Ipsos-Reid Poll.
2004 Election: BQ 48.9% LIB 33.9% CPC 8.8% NDP 4.6% OTH 3.9%
Ipsos-Reid: BQ 41% LIB 29% NDP 15% CPC 8% OTH 7%
This raises two questions: is the federalist vote in Quebec so inimically hostile to the Conservative Party that it will move to the NDP or Green Party instead? Might the NDP also be able to draw off some hard-core socialist Bloc votes, cancelling out seat gains it might otherwise have taken from the Liberals?
To answer the first question:
The federalist core remains the West Island and Outaouais, two regions the Tories would have found tough nuts to crack because they are heavily urban, and have either large allophone or civil service populations. In that case, they'll be even worse dead zones than Toronto.
To answer the second question:
Probably not, not even with a Quebec-born leader. Nationalism trumps economic and social policy, even in Quebec. Although Quebec nationalism is largely leftist today, it has been rightist in the past (Union Nationale/Creditiste), and could just as easily swing to the right again.