Canadian contenders battle in final days of election campaign

Sat Oct 17, 2015 9:29pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel and Randall Palmer

TORONTO/HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - Canada's political leaders began their final weekend dashes on Saturday before voters decide on Monday whether to grant Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper a rare fourth consecutive mandate after a long and hard-fought campaign.

Harper attended a Toronto rally that was organized in part by controversial former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who admitted to smoking crack during his time in office. Now a city councillor, Ford's small-government, anti-tax message has kept him popular in parts of Toronto's vote-rich suburbs.

Harper was introduced by Ford's brother, Doug, who has said he would consider a Conservative leadership run if Harper left.

"We need to stay strong and we need to re-elect Stephen Harper as prime minister on October 19," Ford said, adding that it would be an "absolute disaster" if Liberal leader Justin Trudeau became prime minister.

At an earlier rally in Quebec, Harper touted his economic track record and dodged questions about his relationship with the Fords.

The Liberals are leading the Conservatives by as much as 8 percentage points in polls, sitting as high as 38 percent, very close to what is needed to win a majority in Parliament.

"This is going to be a close election," Trudeau, son of the late former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, told about 1,000 supporters in Halifax, on Canada's east coast.

"We're on the verge of accomplishing something big," he later told reporters.   Continued...

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau greets supporters during a campaign rally in Saint John, New Brunswick, October 17, 2015. Canadians will go to the polls in a federal election on October 19. REUTERS/Chris Wattie