Harper says Canada opposition bucks conservative trend

Sat Sep 13, 2008 5:34pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Saturday that his opponents in the federal election were failing to recognize that the Canadian people have become politically more conservative.

In the past two decades, Harper said, Canada has undergone "a tremendous change" in that it has become generally accepted that balanced budgets, free trade and lower taxes are good things.

"One of the things that's surprising to me in this election is to see all of the other parties, including the Liberal Party, basically go to a pre-free trade, Cold War kind of approach to the economy," Harper said in New Brunswick. "This is not where the Canadian public is in this day and age."

He was speaking at the end of the first week of Canada's five-week campaign for the October 14 general election, one in which he has opened up a polling lead over the Liberals.

A Harris-Decima tracking poll released on Saturday put the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals 41 percent to 24 percent, Ipsos-Reid put the gap at 38 percent to 29 percent and a Nanos Research tracking poll at 38 percent to 30 percent.

Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion said Canadians still wanted a "progressive government," and that Harper was just admitting that he was personally more conservative than the general public.

"I want to ask him is how far more right wing is he than Canadians? What is his hidden agenda?" Dion told reporters in Richmond, British Columbia, echoing a line the Liberals used in the last election.

"I'm promoting the policies of the large center," Dion said.   Continued...

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper is flanked by security while boarding his campaign bus in Fredericton, New Brunswick, September 13, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>