Ontario election race a toss-up ahead of Thursday vote

Tue Jun 10, 2014 3:13pm EDT
 
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By Cameron French

TORONTO, June 10 (Reuters) - Two days before election day in the Canadian province of Ontario and polls show a dead heat between a left-leaning Liberal government that many feel has overstayed its welcome and an austerity-minded Conservative opposition that has failed to capture the imagination of voters.

Voters will decide on Thursday whether to return Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberals to power in Canada's most populous province or hand the reins to Tim Hudak's Conservatives. The polls show they are finding it a grim choice.

"We have a sizable portion of the electorate that are just flummoxed, they don't know what to do," said Frank Graves, president of polling company Ekos Research Associates.

"They're caught between real disdain for the (Liberals) over ethics and accountability issues, but equally strong fears of what actually would happen with Mr. Hudak in the chair."

Ontario accounts for about 40 percent of Canada's economy and is home to the country's auto and financial industries. But the province of close to 13 million people has been battling slow growth and huge government deficits since the 2008 financial crisis. Its debt is C$288 billion ($263.81 billion).

According to an Ekos poll, the Liberals lead with 34.7 percent, just ahead of the Conservatives at 34.5 percent. The New Democratic Party, led by Andrea Horwath, has 19.8 percent.

The numbers suggest that, barring a wide swing in the final two days, whomever wins will have a minority in the provincial assembly and will have to gain the support of another party to pass legislation.

Wynne has pledged to ramp up spending to stimulate the economy and to create a provincial pension plan, while slaying Ontario's deficit, C$11.3 billion this year, by 2017-18.   Continued...