Polls show uncertain outcome for Canadian election

16:59, April 26, 2011      

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by Mark Bourrie, Zhang Dacheng

With just one week to go in the federal election campaign, shifts in public support for Canada's three major national political parties make it possible for any of the party leaders to become prime minister after the vote is counted.

In the past, the race would have been between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, which have governed the country through most of the 20th century.

But the 50-year-old New Democratic Party (NDP) is placing second in many public opinion polls. If the party can win about 100 seats in Canada's 308-member House of Commons, it stands a reasonable chance of making a deal with other parties that would put it in power for the first time.

In previous elections, the NDP has never ranked better than third in a national election, although it has governed several of the provinces.

A poll released Monday by the polling firm EKOS shows the NDP in second place, just six percentage points behind the ruling Conservatives.

The EKOS survey of more than 3,000 Canadian voters put support for the NDP at 28 percent. The Conservatives had 33.7 percent, far short of a parliamentary majority, while the Liberals had 23.7 percent.

The NDP Leader Tour began Monday in the eastern province of New Brunswick, where Jack Layton visited the city of Saint John. He returned to the Ottawa area for a campaign rally in nearby Gatineau, where the NDP expects to win a seat that is now held by the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

Harper spent Monday in Sault Ste. Marie, a small city in northern Ontario, before heading back to the Canada-U.S. border city of Windsor, which is adjacent to Detroit, Michigan.

In Sault Ste. Marie, Harper promised to maintain the flow of money to Canada's health care system, which is operated by the provinces. Health care expenses are expected to grow steadily over the next two decades as Canada's population ages.

"There is no spending priority of government that is more critical than this," Harper told a crowd in Sault Ste. Marie on Monday morning.

"This is an unshakable commitment. Canadians from coast to coast to coast rely on our health care system and rely on governments to keep that health care system strong, and that is what we will do," he said.

In Windsor, Harper promised federal money for an improved bridge between Windsor and Detroit. The crowded Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River is blamed for delays in the delivery of parts for automotive factories and has been criticized by business leaders on both sides of the border.

Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff spent Monday in the northwestern Ontario city of Thunder Bay, where he also promised more federal money for health care.

Ignatieff toured the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Center before traveling to Vancouver, where several constituency races are still too close to call.

In Thunder Bay, Ignatieff said he would continue to provide money to regional development in the depressed northern region, which is suffering from a downturn in the lumber and pulp and paper industries.

"It has to have stand-alone capacity, it has to have sustained investment. The Conservatives have bled it, cut it and reduced it because I don't think they believe in regional economic development and we do," Ignatieff said.

Meanwhile, the separatist Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe campaigned Monday with retired separatist Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau, whose Parti Quebecois now trails the NDP in Quebec. Parizeau joined the Bloc tour for campaign events in the Montreal area.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, whose political support has evaporated during the campaign, continued her efforts to win her constituency in the Pacific Coast constituency of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Harper's Conservative government was defeated on March 25 by the opposition parties in a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons, which found the government in contempt of parliament.

The parliament was dissolved the following day, and Canada's 41st federal election, the fourth in the past seven years, was slated for May 2.

Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
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