Support for Canada's ruling Tories plunges

Support for Canada's ruling Conservatives has plunged to its lowest level ever while in government, as a reinvigorated opposition presses them over scandals and a sluggish economy, a poll said Friday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tories, who swept to power in 2006, have the support of 29.4 percent of committed voters, according to the Nanos poll, while the main opposition party, the New Democrats, gained almost two percentage points to reach 25.3 percent.

The Liberals, ranked third in Parliament in number of seats, held 34.2 percent.

The number of undecided voters nearly doubled to 18.4 percent, which pollster Nik Nanos said are probably disenfranchised or "grumpy former Conservatives."

Nanos pointed to an expense scandal, the election of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and also the malaise in the economy for the Conservatives' weak showing in the mid-June survey of 1,000 Canadian voters.

"Roll those three things up and it provides for a very difficult environment for the Conservatives politically," he told public broadcaster CBC.

Over the past months, the Conservatives have faced growing criticism over a Senate spending scandal that turned into a criminal investigation as police reviewed a payment to a delinquent senator by the prime minister's chief of staff, who has since quit.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's right-hand man, Nigel Wright, resigned suddenly last month after revealing that he paid Can$90,000 (US$87,700) to Senator Mike Duffy in order to help the lawmaker repay funds he had wrongly claimed as Senate expenses.

After the repayment, Duffy stopped cooperating with an audit, leading to opposition cries of a cover-up and demands for a probe.

Meanwhile, Trudeau, the eldest son of late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, was picked to lead and resurrect a party that held power for most of the last century but was relegated to the margins as the country's number three grouping in the last election.

The survey is considered accurate within 3.5 percentage points. So if the numbers hold until the next election, expected in 2015, young Trudeau and his Liberals could form Canada's next government.