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Canada's Conservatives and Liberals Square Off ahead of May Election

April 07, 2011

The defeat of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government in the House of Commons on March 25 has set the stage for a federal election on May 2. But voter fatigue—this is the fourth election in seven years—may explain why Canadians are not yet consumed by election fever.

The Conservatives’ downfall came after opposition parties declared the government “in contempt of Parliament”—a charge unprecedented in Canada’s history. The reason: failing to detail the costs of 18 crime bills, 65 state-of-the-art stealth fighter jets from Lockheed Martin and large corporate tax cuts. Opposition members of parliament (MPs) complained that they had to vote on legislation without knowing the real cost of the measures.

The chaotic week ended with Harper asking Governor General David Johnston, the representative of the Queen in Canada’s parliamentary democracy, to dissolve Parliament.

However, according to Nik Nanos, president of the Ottawa polling firm Nanos Research, it looks like Canada may end up where it started: a minority conservative government with the Liberal Party of Canada as the main opposition party. “We could have a variation of the last two elections so it’s difficult to get excited,” he says. Since the election has been called, Nanos’ polls show the Conservatives holding an 8 to 14-point advantage over their closest rival, the Liberals.

The week of April 5, the Tories were polling at 39.8 percent of public support followed by the center-left Liberals at 30.2 percent and the left-leaning New Democratic Party at 16.5 percent. The Bloc Québécois, a pro-independence party that sits in the House of Commons but only runs candidates in the province of Québec, is ahead in all major polls in Québec.

The question is, can Harper’s team hold on to its lead?

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Huguette Young is a senior editor for Quebecor/Sun Media based in Ottawa, Canada.