Swing to left puts Canada PM Harper at risk in close election

Mon Oct 19, 2015 4:58pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel and Allison Lampert

CALGARY/MONTREAL (Reuters) - Canadians looked set for political change on Monday as polls showed a strong prospect that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government will be ousted, or reduced to a minority, amid a late surge by Liberal rival Justin Trudeau.

The 11-week campaign was considered too close to call for nearly two months, a virtual tie between the Conservatives, Liberals and left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP).

But the emergence of Trudeau, the 43-year-old son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, as frontrunner in recent polls has much of Canada's national media writing Harper's political obituary after nine years in office.

"Fear of Harper" has spurred more Canadians to vote, said youth worker Hilary Chapple after casting her ballot at the city hall in Calgary, Alberta province's energy capital.

"People are now engaged more. They want to change things," she said.

Still, a potential three-way split in votes would make it hard for either the Conservatives or center-left Liberals to win a majority of seats. A minority victory would likely presage another election in less than two years.

The Canadian dollar weakened against its U.S. counterpart ahead of the vote, a decline some market players attributed in part to the prospect of a Trudeau win. The Liberals have pledged to run budget deficits to boost infrastructure spending. [CAD/]

The Conservatives have tended to surpass poll forecasts, in part because of a strong get-out-the-vote machine. Harper exceeded expectations by winning a majority in 2011 after two minorities in 2006 and 2008.   Continued...

Lon Streeter carries one-year-old son Beau as wife Bailey holds the door as they head in to the polls in Nanton, Alberta, during federal election day in Canada October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Sturk