NDP rocks election race, markets hesitant

Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:54pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The left-leaning New Democrats hit new highs in polls on Wednesday, casting new doubt on the outcome of Canada's May 2 election and sending a rumble of discontent through Canadian financial markets.

The NDP's surge could split the center-left vote and hand the ruling Conservatives a majority. But it could also give the New Democrats a chance of forming their first government, in coalition with the faltering Liberals.

The New Democrats, who rail against scheduled tax cuts for big businesses and are pushing an ambitious spending agenda, have never come close to governing Canada. They are campaigning to replace what they say is a broken political system dominated by the two main parties: the Conservatives and the Liberals.

"I'm feeling the winds of change blowing all through this country of ours," NDP leader Jack Layton told a party rally in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Clearly on a roll, he repeatedly referred to himself as the next prime minister.

Markets reacted nervously, aware that Conservatives' grip on power seemed to be fading. The Canadian dollar faltered for much of the day and stocks edged lower, although domestic news was later overshadowed by a Federal Reserve news conference.

An Ekos poll put support for the Conservatives at 34.0 percent, well below the 40 percent needed to guarantee a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

The New Democrats were at 28.1 percent and the Liberals, who started the campaign in second spot, were at 22.9 percent.

Other polls showed the same order for the three parties, but none gave the Conservatives enough support for a majority, so they would need some opposition backing to govern.   Continued...

<p>Canada's NDP leader Jack Layton raises his cane at a campaign rally in Winnipeg, Manitoba April 27, 2011. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election on May 2. REUTERS/Fred Greenslade</p>