One year into his Conservative majority government, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is facing stiff competition from the federal New Democrats with a new poll showing both parties in a dead heat.
Those representing the Liberals and New Democrats in Kamloops say Harper can blame his disdain for democracy and poor handling of the F-35 affair for his party’s showing in the survey.
But Kamloops Thompson Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod defended her leader and her party Wednesday, saying the Conservatives are standing firm on a campaign promise to keep Canada’s economy growing.
“If you look at the big picture, Canada remains the envy of the world in terms of our fiscal situation,” said McLeod.
All three major parties marked the historic May 2, 2011, election Wednesday, which returned the Tories with a majority government, saw the New Democrats surge into Opposition and the Liberals reduced to a rump third party.
The day also revealed a Canadian Press-Harris Decima survey taken in the last week of April that put the Conservatives and NDP in a statistical tie.
The poll of just over 1,000 people indicates the NDP has 33-per-cent support while the Tories have 30 per cent.
But, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, support for the two parties could be equally split.
The poll suggests that support for the Tories has dropped since election day when they received 39.6 per cent of the popular vote, while the NDP’s support is unchanged.
The NDP became official Opposition with 30.6 per cent of the popular vote.
Former federal NDP candidate Michael Crawford and Ernie Cordonier, president of the Kamloops Thompson Cariboo Liberal riding association, credit a year of political scandal to the Tory’s survey performance.
This includes allegations of election fraud in last year’s campaign involving robocalls and indications that the Tories misled voters during the election about the true cost of the F-35 military jets.
“Harper tends to pride himself on being an economist and being honest, transparent and open and then Canadians hear this is what’s really going on behind the scenes,” said Crawford. “I think he’s taking a big hit on that.”
He attributes the NDP’s enduring success with the party’s new leader, Tom Mulcair. Crawford promised the New Democrats will hold Harper accountable.
But Cordonier said Mulcair’s tendency to go toward the right of centre could he his undoing. If traditional New Democrats rein him in, it could pave the way for the Liberal’s return as the party of balance.
“I think the party will pull him back,” he said.
The poll doesn’t concern McLeod. She said polls put the Wildrose Party ahead of the Progressive Conservative during the recent Alberta provincial election but the people voted otherwise.
“Polls need to be taken with a grain of salt,” said McLeod.
The vote saw the Liberals sink to third-party status with 18.9 per cent of the vote, and the new poll suggests their support still hovers around that mark.