UPDATE 2-Canada opposition NDP blasts rivals in bid to regain lost ground

Fri Oct 2, 2015 10:37pm EDT
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(Adds exchange over niqab)

By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren

OTTAWA Oct 2 (Reuters) - The leader of Canada's New Democratic Party, trying to regain lost ground ahead of the Oct. 19 election, lashed out at his rivals on Friday while defending his unpopular opposition to a ban on Muslim full face coverings in citizenship ceremonies.

Opinion polls show the New Democrats of Thomas Mulcair - which started the campaign strongly - could come in third nationally and shed one-third of its seats in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, his main stronghold.

One potential beneficiary of the slide is the rival center-left Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau, who says he is the best choice to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Mulcair said Trudeau backed Harper on key issues such as the need for oil pipelines and a controversial new security law that gives police broad powers.

"You have the same economic, social and environmental policies. We're against Mr. Harper, we want to beat him and replace him," he told Trudeau in a televised French-language debate in Quebec.

Mulcair has stumbled in Quebec over the use of the niqab, or full face covering, used by Muslim women during citizenship ceremonies.

The New Democratic Party leader says women do not need to lift the veil as long as they show their faces before the ceremony for identification purposes - a stance that polls indicate is hugely unpopular in the province.   Continued...