Canadian PM's party barely holds "safe" seat after strong Liberal challenge

Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:04am EST
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* Expenses scandal hits Conservatives' support in rural district

* Opposition Liberals resurgent under Trudeau leadership

* Four seats contested in Monday's special election

By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's ruling Conservatives only narrowly held onto what had been viewed as a safe seat in a district election on Monday after a scandal over Senate expenses hit his party's support.

The Conservatives' slim margin of victory also underlined the resurgence of the Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau, the 41-year-old son of the flamboyant late prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who took over the party leadership in April.

The Conservatives' near-defeat in the rural western Canadian province of Manitoba in the special election for the House of Commons will prompt soul-searching in the party, which has held the seat for 56 of the last 60 years, mostly by huge margins.

Harper has been tarnished by a scandal over housing and other expenses claimed by Conservative senators and by an apparent subsequent attempt to cover it up.

The Liberals suffered their worst-ever showing in the last general election in 2011, when they took only fourth place in the Manitoba riding of Brandon-Souris. But under Trudeau, it has catapulted into first place in national polls and came within one percentage point of taking Brandon-Souris on Monday night.   Continued...