12/07/2012 09:35 EST | Updated 12/07/2012 09:36 EST

Maritime Polls Suggest Incumbents Are In Trouble


Atlantic Canadians are poised to vote their two first-term governments out of office, a new poll suggests.

Nova Scotians are expected to cast their ballots in 2013, but the results of the latest quarterly poll from Corporate Research Associates (surveying 800 Nova Scotians between November 7-30 by telephone, giving it a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20) are likely to diminish the likelihood of a spring election.

The poll found Darrell Dexter’s governing New Democrats are trailing Stephen McNeil’s Liberals by 41 per cent to 29 per cent. The gap between with the two parties is widening, with the NDP dropping two points since August. Though the NDP’s decline has slowed over the last few months, the party is still well below the 45 per cent support it registered as recently as November 2011. The Liberals, meanwhile, have jumped 19 per cent in the past 12 months.

The Progressive Conservatives were up five points to 27 per cent, putting them in range of Dexter’s NDP. But Tory Leader Jamie Baillie has been struggling: only 17 per cent see him as the best person to be premier, down from the 22 per cent he scored in February. McNeil tops this question with 33 per cent to Dexter’s 26 per cent, but on leadership Dexter’s numbers have actually improved at McNeil's expense.

That is not the only silver lining for the New Democrats: satisfaction with their government sits at 42 per cent, up five points since August. Dissatisfaction fell four points to 50 per cent. But a year ago it was at just 36 per cent.

Across the border in New Brunswick, Premier David Alward has a little more breathing room. After ousting the one-term Liberal government of Shawn Graham in September 2010, Alward will not be sending his province to the voting booths until 2014. Nevertheless, he could have a problem on his hands.

The PCs held steady in CRA’s latest poll (surveying 400 New Brunswickers between November 13 and December 1 by telephone, giving it a margin of error of +/- 4.9%, 19 times out of 20) with 38 per cent support, but that is a drop from the 44 to 45 per cent the party managed between November 2011 and May 2012.

The Liberals, under newly-elected Leader Brian Gallant, picked up six points to tie the Tories at 38 per cent. The New Democrats fell five points to 19 per cent.

More worryingly for Alward, his personal rating fell four points to 29 per cent, putting him dead-even with Gallant. The new Liberal leader improved upon the previous interim leader’s score by 11 points in a matter of three months.

The question here will be whether Gallant’s bump in the polls is anything but ephemeral. The Liberals had been holding steady before his leadership win, and the gains in the polls are just inside the margin of error. CRA’s next quarterly report will shed more light on Liberal prospects.

Atlantic Canadians could be succumbing to the anti-incumbent attitude that is becoming more prevalent in many provinces across the country: Pauline Marois’ PQ defeated Charest in September’s vote while Adrian Dix looks set to replace Christy Clark in British Columbia next May. The Liberals will struggle to be re-elected if Ontario goes to the polls next spring as well. Could Nova Scotia and New Brunswick be the next dominoes to drop?

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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