Dion wades on as criticism grows

Tue Sep 16, 2008 2:24pm EDT
 
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Liberal leader Stephane Dion, whose party is trailing the ruling Conservatives badly in the polls ahead of the Oct 14 election, stood his ground on Tuesday as rumblings of discontent with his campaign grew louder.

The campaign -- already marred by poor planning, difficulty communicating and an environmental tax message that has failed to capture the public's imagination -- is now also being undermined by media stories of discord within party ranks.

Liberal officials, usually unnamed, are being quoted saying they made a mistake when they picked Dion, a former university professor, as a compromise candidate to be party leader in December 2006.

Dion tries to sweep the criticism aside.

"I (have) never been stopped by anonymous sources, and we have a mission to deliver for this country," Dion told a news conference in Nova Scotia in answer to repeated questioning about unhappiness in the ranks.

The Liberals have run Canada longer than any other party but their performance in the current campaign is such that one pollster has even raised the possibility of them being driven into third place in the election standings.

Ekos pollster Paul Adams says his firm's data showed "a dramatic tightening in the race for second spot, with the New Democrats now within striking distance of overtaking the Liberals."

His most recent data showed the Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, at 38 percent support and the Liberals at 23, with the left-of-center New Democrats at 19.   Continued...

 
<p>Liberal Leader Stephane Dion waves to supporters while attending an election rally in Richmond, British Columbia September 13, 2008. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>