Conservatives favourite in Canada poll

Canada heads to the polls on Monday, with voters expected to bring 12 years of Liberal rule to an end.

    Martin (L) has warned Canadians of Harper's far-right views

    Winter snow is melting unusually quickly in southern Ontario, and with it the likelihood that the Liberals led by Prime Minister Paul Martin will be able to continue their hold on power.


    Five major parties are contesting the elections – Liberals, Conservatives, New Democratic Party (NDP), Green Party, and Bloc Quebecois.


    Stephen Harper, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, has been able to consolidate a 10-point lead in most local polls since the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced on 28 December that it was investigating the Liberals on allegations of corruption.


    Troops to Iraq


    The Liberals fought back with a virulent ad campaign targeting Harper as a friend of the pro-war, far right camp in the United States. In 2003, Harper said he favoured sending Canadian troops to Iraq.


    But his message in 2006 is that he wants to clean up government.


    Election facts

    Canada has 20 million registered voters in 10 provinces and three territories across six time zones

    This is Canada’s 39th General Election.

    The last election in 2004 saw a 61% turnout

    Leading candidates

    Paul Martin (Liberal)
    The incumbent prime minister was previously finance minister for 10 years under Jean Chretien before replacing him as prime minister in 2003.

    Despite defeating the Conservatives in the 2004 election, his party has fared badly in polls and faced allegations of corruption.

    Stephen Harper (Conservative) Despite still being only 45, Harper has a long political history starting at school.

    The Alberta MP became leader of the Conservative party in 2004 after helping to form the party by merging the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives.

    Seen as the most right-wing of the leading candidates, he has campaigned on a promise of cleaner government.

    The Liberal campaign failed to dent the Conservative push and may have backfired when one ad accused Harper of seeking to deploy troops in Canadian cities. After triggering much criticism, it was withdrawn.


    Elections were called in late November after the government suffered defeat in the first successful no confidence vote in Canadian history, held over alleged corruption in awarding contracts.


    Since then it has been downhill for the Liberals.


    In the key province of Ontario, a traditionally Liberal stronghold, Conservative, Liberal, and NDP candidates led last-minute charges to sway undecided voters.


    In the riding of North York, Sue Ola, a retiree, said she would make a final decision at the ballot box.


    "I have always been a Liberal, but Martin has squandered so much and we need change," she said.


    On Thursday, Michael Mostyn, a Conservative candidate, dropped by her house.


    "Can I count on your vote?" he asked as he handed her his poster.


    "I guess I'm angry at the Liberals and I wanted to send them a message that they may be losing me," she told




    With the realisation that he is likely to lose many voters at the polls, Martin has been warning Canadians that a vote for Harper is a vote for a US far-right agenda in Canada.


    "We have a party that wants to take this country to the far, far right of the US conservative movement," Martin told supporters at a final campaign stop in Ontario on Saturday.


    Paul Martin's Liberals have
    suffered from graft allegations

    He said the Liberals were the only ones capable of stopping Harper's alleged agenda dead in its tracks.


    But such rhetoric is not necessarily winning over undecided voters.


    M Khan, 41, a Toronto taxi driver, said: "The Liberals are tired and old, and the Conservatives scare me, so I am going with NDP."


    Election results are expected late on Monday night.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera



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