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Poll Delivers Bad News To Nova Scotia's Darrell Dexter And Other Atlantic Premiers

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One of the provinces expected to be going to the polls soon may boot out its incumbent government, as voters in Nova Scotia have turned against Darrell Dexter’s NDP. (CP)
One of the provinces expected to be going to the polls soon may boot out its incumbent government, as voters in Nova Scotia have turned against Darrell Dexter’s NDP. (CP)

One of the provinces expected to be going to the polls soon may boot out its incumbent government, as voters in Nova Scotia have turned against Darrell Dexter's NDP.

A new survey by the Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates finds Dexter's New Democrats have slipped four points since May and have the support of only 31 per cent of Nova Scotians. The Liberals, under leader Stephen McNeil, lead with 41 per cent support - a gain of eight points.

The poll was conducted by telephone between August 9 and September 2 and interviewed 800 Nova Scotians. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.

The New Democrats, elected for the first time to govern the province in 2009, have been slipping for months. As recently as February the party enjoyed mid-40s support, but satisfaction with the Dexter government now sits at only 37 per cent (a drop of four points since May) and dissatisfaction is at 54 per cent. If Dexter calls an election for 2013, as is widely expected, the New Democrats could be defeated after only one term in government.

McNeil, seen as the best leader to be premier by 35 per cent to Dexter's 23 per cent, has been making gains at the expense of both the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives. Under Jamie Baillie, the Nova Scotia PCs have only 22 per cent support, a drop of six points since May and eight over the past 12 months. Since the late 1990s, the province has featured many close three-way races between the parties. The next election, however, is setting up to be a face-off between McNeil and Dexter only.

The NDP leader appears to be the latest premier suffering from a bout of anti-incumbent sentiment in Canada: Jean Charest lost his bid for re-election last week while Christy Clark in British Columbia is heading for defeat next spring. The three other premiers in Atlantic Canada are also seeing their support drop.

In New Brunswick, David Alward's PCs have slipped six points since May to reach 38 per cent, putting them only marginally ahead of the Liberals (32 per cent). :Liberal Premier Robert Ghiz in Prince Edward Island has seen his support drop to 42 per cent, while that of the Tory opposition is up six points to 32 per cent.

The most interesting shift in voting intentions on the Atlantic coast could be in Newfoundland and Labrador, where a poll by Environics put the New Democrats ahead of the governing Tories a few months ago. CRA finds Kathy Dunderdale's support has dropped four points since May to 45 per cent, with the New Democrats under Lorraine Michael holding steady at 33 per cent. But in terms of who Newfoundlanders and Labradorians think is best suited to be premier, Michael trails Dunderdale by only six points (37 to 31 per cent). That gap has shrunk by 15 points in only three months.

Alward, Ghiz and Dunderdale do not have to face the electorate again until 2014 and 2015, but time is running out for Darrell Dexter's government. The premier might consider delaying the date of the election into early 2014 if his numbers do not improve by next year. At that point, though, his back will be up against a wall.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.

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