Leger Marketing, everyone's favourite online-based Quebec pollster, has given the NDP their first-ever first place finish in a poll since 1987, as my co-blogger pointed out. While the lead isn't big - 33% to 32% - it's more than enough to secure the NDP a minority government.
However, the rest of the country is somewhat of a mixed bag that puts some doubt on whether or not the actual result we see in Leger's poll is reality. One region in particular has some major issues.
In Atlantic Canada, Leger reports that 49% of respondents chose the NDP, compared to 20% for the Liberals, 16% for the Conservatives, and 15% for the Greens. No one believes the 15% for the Greens, but otherwise it is a plausible scenario. However, I doubt it. The NDP and the Conservatives have more or less been tied in Atlantic Canada in every poll, with the Liberals close behind. Given how small the region is, I very much doubt how reflective the result is.
The problem for the NDP? It means that if they're actually at, say 35% of the vote in Atlantic Canada, and the Conservatives are at 30-35% in the region, the Conservatives automatically get their national lead back. Even shaving off 10% of Leger's reported numbers for the NDP in the region and giving it to the Conservatives, making it 39% to 26% - still a sweep - it changes the national lead to 32.7%-32.3% in favour of the Conservatives, and the seat count to 138-122, also in favour of the Conservatives. Why? Because the NDP dropped from 24 seats in Atlantic Canada to 12.
This muddied result is because in the rest of the country outside of Quebec, the NDP rise hasn't followed. They sit at 34% in BC, 26% in the Prairies, and 26% in Ontario. While they're ahead of the Conservatives in BC, it only counts for four extra seats, and the numbers in the Prairies and Ontario are dismal when you imagine what needs to happen to form an NDP government. And they can only win so many more seats in Quebec.
I've said it before - the NDP will need to win Ontario before they win government. Being unable to breach 30% in the largest province in Canada is a major liability, and they can't form a government by relying on sweeping smaller regions like Atlantic Canada or the Prairies, where entrenched incumbents and parties will resist them much more than in more swing-happy places like BC, Quebec, and Ontario.
To underscore this point, according to Leger's meilleur premier ministre numbers, Bob Rae is considered by more respondents in Ontario to make a better Prime Minister than Mulcair, 16% to 10%. C'mon now.
That is why I add a maybe to this post - because its wholly unclear whether or not the NDP are in first. The race is close, that much we can tell. But because of the margin of error in the Atlantic Region, we can never know for sure if this is really the first time the NDP have led the Traditional Two, or if it's a false lead.