OTTAWA, April 13 (UPI) -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper performed best in a pre-election debate with three opposition leaders Tuesday night, a snap poll suggested.
The Conservative leader was on the defensive for most of the uninterrupted 2-hour nationally televised debate in Ottawa, but remained noticeably calmer than his opponents, notably Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and separatist Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe.
They and socialist New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton peppered Harper with criticism of his minority government's performance in the past 5 years on issues such as buying new fighter jets, building larger prisons, corporate tax cuts, immigration policy and secrecy.
Harper kept returning to the point his party's focus was on building a strong economy and said Canada had emerged from the recession faster than other developed countries.
The Ipsos Reid polling firm surveyed 2,365 English-speaking voters for 30 minutes after the debate that ended at 9 p.m. on behalf of Global TV. It found Harper was considered the winner by 42 percent of respondents.
Traditionally, Liberals are closest to the Conservatives, but this time, the NDP's Layton was second with 25 percent. Ignatieff for the Liberals scored 23 percent. Bloc leader Gille Duceppe logged just 2 percent, but that will likely soar after Wednesday's French language debate among the four men at 8 p.m. EDT.
The poll had a 2.1 percentage point margin of error, the report said.
The opposition parties voted down the government in late March and the country's fourth election in 7 years is scheduled May 2.