Canada set for election, result too tight to call

Sun May 1, 2011 3:34pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's federal election on Monday is too close to call, raising the prospect of a potentially destabilizing political battle between the ruling Conservatives and opposition parties.

Polls show the Conservatives are set to win the most seats in the 308-seat House of Commons but it is impossible to say whether they will capture a majority, or if they can find opposition support to make a minority government work.

Canada -- the largest single supplier of energy to the United States -- has not seen such an unpredictable election for more than three decades, McGill University political science professor Richard Schultz told Reuters.

"It's so up in the air ... as a close watcher (of politics), I'm as confused as anyone by this," he said.

The right-of-center Conservatives have been in power since early 2006 with two successive minority governments, which required them to gain opposition support to pass key bills.

They insist they need a majority to keep taxes low and ensure Canada continues to recover from the global crisis.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- who has run a relentlessly negative campaign -- says if he falls short of his goal, center-left opposition parties will oust him and create a "dangerous" coalition guaranteed to destroy the economy.

His main target is the left-leaning New Democrats, running a strong second in the polls. They promise to raise corporate taxes, increase social spending and bring in a cap and trade system to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.   Continued...

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign rally in Stratford, Prince Edward Island May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>