Conservatives Surging in Canadian Polls

Isn't this what happened before the last election as well until the Liberal Party was successful in their campaign of fear?

Conservatives Surging in Canadian Polls
By BETH DUFF-BROWN (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
January 18, 2006 2:56 PM EST

TORONTO - The Conservative Party, which supports policies similar to the Bush administration's, appeared unstoppable Wednesday as it surged in the polls only five days before Canadians elect a new government.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper was now setting his sights on two traditional Liberal strongholds - Ontario and Quebec - where he addressed supporters chanting one of the campaign's central themes: "A time for change."

After 13 years of Liberal Party governments led by Jean Chretien and current Prime Minister Paul Martin, the Conservatives appear poised to not only make big gains in Monday's vote, but possibly even win a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

Martin's minority government was toppled in a no-confidence vote in November after his Liberals were unable to overcome a corruption scandal involving tens of millions of misspent tax dollars and prompting a federal inquiry.

Harper has promised an accountability act that he says would prevent corruption.

"This election is about choice: a government plagued by scandal that is only in it for what it can take, or our new team, who want into public office for what it can give," Harper said in Toronto on Wednesday.

A Conservative Party government is expected to be more in line with Bush administration policies. The Liberals' campaign has portrayed Harper as a closet right-winger who would recast traditionally liberal Canada in the mold of the United States.

Harper is against gay marriage and the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouses gases, and he once referred to Canada as a "northern European welfare state." He also said he would reassess Canada's decision to opt out of the U.S. ballistic missile program.

Martin has warned that Harper also would scrap abortion rights.

But Harper has largely kept his ultraconservative views to himself, and his handlers have successfully portrayed him as a moderate who will work for the middle class.

Canadians have largely praised Martin for standing up to the White House on such issues as missile defense, the war in Iraq and lumber tariffs. Canada refused to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

But a new poll for The Globe and Mail newspaper indicated the Tories were well ahead of the Liberals and could win a majority in the House.

Of the 1,500 people surveyed between Sunday and Tuesday, 42 percent said they would support the Conservatives, while 24 percent backed the Liberals and 17 percent favored the New Democratic Party. The poll conducted by the Strategic Counsel in Toronto had a sampling error margin of 2.5 percentage points.

Harper, who is from Calgary, was wooing vote-rich Toronto on Wednesday, praising residents as hardworking people in a city unique for its diversity.

Winning seats in Toronto, the nation's largest city, would help the Conservatives' chances of forming a government, but the city - with its many immigrants - has voted strongly Liberal in recent elections.

"You can't come to Toronto without talking about new Canadians," Harper told supporters at the Granite Brewery. "New Canadians are hardworking. They pay their taxes. They play by the rules."

He vowed to halve the $862 right-of-landing fee that Canada charges new immigrants and pledged to formally apologize to Chinese-Canadians whose ancestors were forced to pay a humiliating head tax between 1885 and 1923. The tax was enforced to discourage Chinese immigrants, who were no longer deemed necessary to build the national railroad grid.

"Our government will stand up for hardworking immigrants," Harper said. "You know it's not easy, it's never easy, to immigrate to a new country and find the right job and it probably never will be, but we can work to make things easier."

He also said he would create a federal agency to assess ways to make it easier for well-educated immigrants to find jobs in Canada. Many taxi drivers in Toronto, for example, are doctors and engineers from India or Pakistan who are unable to get work in their professions.

"The biggest barrier for new Canadians is that foreign credentials are too often undervalued in our labor market," Harper said. "That's a tragic loss - not just for immigrants but for the economy of Toronto."


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Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
RCS, it was, but it seems that the whiff (or nasty smell requiring attention of the environmental health people, to be more exact) of scandal surrounding the Liberals could have done for them this time. I'll try and find the link (if I can remember which paper I read it in..) to the story where a variety of Canadian psephologists were suggesting that they thought a similar collapse in favour of the Liberals unlikely this time.

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