Canadian elections likely to focus on carbon tax

Fri Jul 25, 2008 7:00pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Elections to fill three seats in Canada's House of Commons will be held on September 8 with the major issue likely to be the opposition Liberal Party's proposal to introduce a carbon tax.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the date of the elections on Friday. Two of the seats had been held by the Liberals, one in Ontario and one in Quebec, and another in Quebec held by the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

The outcome will not affect the balance of power in the House but the strength of the vote for the Liberals may give some indication of how Canadians feel about the carbon tax idea, designed to combat climate change. The Liberals propose to offset the new tax with income tax cuts and subsidies for the poor.

The elections will play into opposition calculations over whether to topple the minority Conservative government, which was elected in January 2006 and has been sustained in power by Liberal Party support.

The Liberals are running neck and neck with the Conservatives in the polls, meaning a general election could go either way with another minority government the likely result.

The Liberals have less money and are not as well prepared as the Conservatives but they have in recent weeks dominated the headlines with their carbon tax idea.

The Conservatives have been low-balling their chances in the votes.

Environment Minister John Baird dismissed the suggestion it could be viewed as referendum on the carbon tax -- which the Conservatives have been criticizing across the country with campaign-style attack ads.   Continued...