Canada's Conservatives could be headed for big win

Mon Sep 8, 2008 1:45pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

RICHMOND, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's Conservatives appeared on Monday to be riding a wave of public support that could hand them their first majority government since 1988, but the party did all it could to minimize such expectations.

The Conservatives, who formed a minority government after the last election in 2006, entered the second day of the campaign for the October 14 vote with clear signs of being better organized and financed than their main opposition, the Liberals. Polls also showed voters strongly prefer Prime Minister Stephen Harper over Liberal leader Stephane Dion.

A Segma poll in Monday's La Presse newspaper put support for the Conservatives at 43 percent, which would translate into about 183 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons. The poll gave the Liberals 25 percent, or about 62 seats.

"To say that things are going badly for the Liberals is a euphemism. In fact, it smells like a rout," columnist Vincent Marissal wrote in La Presse.

The Conservatives had 127 seats in the old Parliament, while the Liberals had 95. The separatist Bloc Quebecois had 48 seats, the left-leaning New Democrats 30 seats, and the Greens one. There were three independents and four seats were vacant.

Polls two weeks ago had put the two leading parties neck and neck, some with the Liberals slightly ahead, others slightly behind, but in the last week a Conservative lead appeared to have opened up.

An Ekos survey released on Sunday, when Harper called the election, gave the Conservatives 37 percent and the Liberals 24 percent.

Harper has consistently said he expects the most likely result will be another minority government.   Continued...

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses following a campaign rally in Quebec City September 7, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>