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Dion shrugs off poll showing Grits nine points back

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:55 p.m., March 1, 2007]

OTTAWA  — Liberal Leader Stephane Dion offered no comment Thursday when asked about a new poll showing his party now trails the Conservatives by nine points.   

"Polls are polls and I don't comment on polls," he told reporters after question period.

"This government is willing to go to an election any way. Otherwise why would they come with these negative ads about me. It's what they want to do. They want to rush an election."

The new Decima Research poll for Canadian Press put the Conservatives at 36 per cent and the Liberals at 27 per cent. The NDP and Greens are tied at 13 per cent and the Bloc has eight per cent support. 

The poll puts the Tories at where they were on election day 13 months ago and the Liberals three points below their election day results when they won just over 100 seats. 

The poll was conducted between last Thursday and Sunday, days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper created an uproar in the House of Commons when he attempted to link Liberal opposition to anti-terror legislation to wanting to shut down the Air India inquiry because a newspaper article identified a Liberal MP's father in law as a potential witness. 

On Tuesday the Liberals joined the other opposition parties in defeating extending two controversial measures in the anti-terrorism act during a vote in the House of Commons. 

After the vote, the prime minister confidently predicted the Liberals would suffer at the polls as a result of the vote. 

"Any party that doesn't take the national security of Canadians seriously will never be chosen by Canadians to form the government of Canada," he said. 

The new poll will not end the the hot theme in the media and around Ottawa questioning Dion's early problems as leader. 

Canadian Press news stories casually describe Dion's leadership as "fledgling," radio host Charles Adler says Dion is having a "sexless honeymoon" with voters and the prime minister quietly jabs Dion each time he deliberately fields questions from deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff during question period, even though he does not do the same thing for the other parties. 

Despite the early difficulties, Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale told reporters after question period he still has confidence in Dion and said the Liberal party is working hard to be ready for an election. 

"Whenever that election comes we will be ready for it and I have every confidence that Stephane Dion is going to do very very well," he said. 

The poll also showed the Tories are now ahead in the Liberal heartland of Ontario with 40 per cent support compared to 32 per cent for the Liberals. 

Health Minister Tony Clement welcomed the new numbers. 

"You're talking to a guy who won by 28 votes. I like those odds better." 

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