Left-wing party explodes onto Canada election scene

Thu Apr 21, 2011 5:57pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The left-leaning New Democratic Party has exploded from an also-ran in Canada's election campaign to a potential spoiler that could change the Canadian balance of power.

All polls show a surge in support for the NDP, which advocates higher corporate taxes, more social spending and an early withdrawal from Afghanistan, and one showed the party ahead of the Liberals, which has been the major opposition party.

A strong NDP showing could help the governing Conservatives if it splits a left-leaning vote between Liberals and New Democrats, or between New Democrats and the separatist Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, allowing a Conservative candidate to win a race with well under half the vote in an individual district.

But the polls don't guarantee the Conservatives the support they need to win a majority government, and the NDP could also wrest seats from the Conservatives, bringing the likelihood of a third consecutive Parliament where the Conservatives are the largest party but support from others to stay in power.

"It seems clear that the public aren't leaning to give Mr. Harper his majority," said Frank Graves, whose EKOS survey showed the NDP tied with the Liberals.

His automated telephone poll has the Conservatives at 34.4 percent, down three points in three days, ahead of the NDP and the Liberals who are tied at 24.7 percent.

For the first time, the NDP leads the Bloc Quebecois in the French-speaking province of Quebec.

"This steady progression from also-ran to contender has been a smooth and steady," Graves said, adding that he was unsure if the gains could be sustained or expanded.   Continued...

<p>New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton speaks to supporters at a campaign stop in Welland April 19, 2011.REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>