Harper raises old ghosts in bid to win election

Wed Apr 20, 2011 1:26pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Pime Minister Stephen Harper is raising the specter of a traumatic referendum on Quebec independence and other painful constitutional battles as he seeks a decisive win in the May 2 federal election.

Polls show the Harper's Conservatives are set to win the most seats in the House of Commons, but may fall short of a majority.

Harper says that if he only wins a minority, he will quickly be voted out of power by the three opposition parties.

If opposition parties were to take over, the result would be an unstable coalition that would create a "gaping black hole" threatening Canada's stability, Harper said on Wednesday.

"Everything they're talking about points to higher spending and tax hikes. It points to renewed fighting over referendums, constitutions and national unity," Harper told reporters during a campaign stop in Quebec.

Quebec held a referendum on splitting away from Canada in 1995. The separatists lost by the thinnest of margins, but only after the country suffered a near nervous breakdown.

This election will be the fourth in less than seven years in Canada, the largest exporter of energy to the United States.

Harper says he need a majority to fend off the prospect of "political instability, repeated elections, another referendum ... and stumbling around on national unity".   Continued...

<p>Prime Minister and Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks to the elderly during a campaign stop at St-Louis Residence in Riviere-du-Loup, April 20, 2011. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>