Canada vote could boost Conservatives or oust them
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians voted on Monday in one of the country's most unpredictable elections ever, one that could give the ruling Conservatives a more solid grip on power or, just as easily, force them out of office.
The right-of-center Conservatives, who have governed Canada since early 2006, started the campaign with a healthy lead and said they needed a majority of seats in the House of Commons to let them focus on the economic recovery and keep taxes low.
Over the last two weeks, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has watched his advantage dwindle in the face of an extraordinarily effective campaign by the left-leaning New Democrats, a pro-labor party that has never held power nationally.
Harper says that unless he gets a majority, opposition parties will unite to oust him and create "a ramshackle coalition" that would cause enormous damage.
"I just want to make sure our country keeps going, creating jobs, and that we do not take a risk of a minority Parliament that drives us off the cliff economically," Harper told CFRA radio in an interview on Monday.
The death of Osama Bin Laden could give a last-second lift to the Conservatives, the party that has staked most on defense and security. The NDP, which has deep anti-military roots, wants to pull Canadian forces out of Afghanistan immediately.
Much will depend on whether the New Democrats, whose organizational structure is weaker than that of the Conservatives or the official opposition Liberal Party, can get their supporters out.
The New Democrats and the Liberals are competing for the same center-left voters and if they split that vote, the result could mean a narrow majority for Harper. That would ensure him a fixed four-year term in power. Continued...