As Members of Parliament return to work in Ottawa this week, two new polls are telling different stories.

The first poll by Harris-Decima for The Canadian Press finds the Conservatives hold a seven-point lead over the New Democrats, with 34 to 27 per cent support. The Liberals trail in third with 24 per cent. That is the largest lead the Conservatives have been given in any poll since Thomas Mulcair became leader of the NDP at the end of March.

The second poll by Nanos Research also gives the Tories the edge, but with just two per cent on the NDP the Tory lead is within the margin of error. The Liberals are again in third with 24.6 per cent support.

In other words, as work begins on another political season the governing Conservatives either hold a wide or statistically insignificant lead over the opposition New Democrats.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW

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  • The following data comes from a <a href="http://www.nanosresearch.com/library/polls/2012-09-LeadershipE.pdf" target="_hplink">Nanos Research telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians</a> 18 years or older. It was taken between September 4 and September 9 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

  • 5. Daniel Paillé - 3.2 Per Cent

  • 4. Elizabeth May - 3.6 per cent

  • None Of Them - 7.5 per cent

  • 3. Thomas Mulcair - 12.9 per cent

  • 2. Bob Rae - 13.4 per cent

  • Undecided - 22.5 per cent

  • 1. Stephen Harper - 36.9 per cent

These two polls were both conducted using the same method (live callers) and over most of the same period (August 30 to September 10 for Harris-Decima, September 4 to 9 for Nanos). In fact, the results are not technically contradictory as the difference in support registered for all of the parties is within the margin of error of each poll.

Nevertheless, the two polls tell very different stories. On the one hand, the New Democrats are trailing the Conservatives by a significant margin and have lost support since the 2011 election. On the other hand, the Conservatives are down significantly from the last election while the New Democrats are treading water. Those two stories set up diametrically opposed narratives as focus returns to Parliament Hill.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW

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  • The following data comes from a <a href="http://www.nanosresearch.com/library/polls/2012-09-LeadershipE.pdf" target="_hplink">Nanos Research telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians</a> 18 years or older. It was taken between September 4 and September 9 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

  • 5. Daniel Paillé - 3.3 Per Cent

  • 4. Elizabeth May - 10.3 per cent

  • None Of Them - 11.6 per cent

  • 3. Bob Rae - 13.3 per cent

  • Undecided - 14.5 per cent

  • 2. Thomas Mulcair - 18.1 per cent

  • 1. Stephen Harper - 28.9 per cent

Where the two polls are in strong agreement is on the standing of the Liberal Party at between 24 and 25 per cent support. Perhaps more importantly, the polls find lingering strength for the party in Ontario (a close third with 26 per cent according to Nanos, in second with 29 per cent in the Harris-Decima poll) and Quebec. Both polls put the Liberals at 24 per cent in that province, though it is possible that the provincial campaign in Quebec may have given the federal party an artificial boost.

What the next few polls will say will shed much more light on the situation. The Conservatives and New Democrats have been locked in a close race with each party holding the lead in national voting intentions over the past six months. That trend continues with the Nanos poll but is dramatically broken by the Harris-Decima survey. Which is the correct reading of the political landscape? And if the Liberals are truly seeing a boost in support in Quebec, how might a leadership race that could be dominated by Quebecers change the dynamic in that province? There will be plenty to keep an eye on this fall in Ottawa.

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  • The following data comes from a <a href="http://www.nanosresearch.com/library/polls/2012-09-IssueE.pdf" target="_hplink">Nanos Research telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians</a> 18 years or older. It was taken between September 4 and September 9 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

  • 5. Debt/Deficit - 3.3 per cent

  • 5. Education - 7.6 per cent

  • 5. Environment - 8.7 per cent

  • Unsure - 12.2 per cent

  • 2. Health Care - 18.7 per cent

  • 1. Jobs/Economy - 29.6 per cent