Once-mighty Liberals dwindle under NDP surge

Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:48pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's Liberal Party, which has run the country more often than any other and seen itself as the natural governing party, could be relegated to a supporting role in a suddenly dramatic federal election.

The leftist New Democratic Party has knocked the Liberals to third place in the closing days of the campaign for the May 2 election and made it hugely unlikely that the Liberals could replace the ruling Conservatives in government.

"The extent of the Liberal Party of Canada's humiliation (is becoming) harder to deny," veteran Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella said on his blog on Wednesday.

"So sit back and enjoy your cup of hemlock, federal Liberal ostriches. It'll all be over soon," said Kinsella, who has run the Liberal war room in the past but is now bitterly observing the campaign from the outside.

For most of the campaign, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper had warned that unless he got a majority, the Liberals would try to take power, helped by the New Democrats.

The prospect of the NDP taking power with the help of the Liberals now looks more likely than a Liberal-led government.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff promised early in the campaign he would not form a coalition and distanced himself from the idea of taking power with the help of another party.

He said on Wednesday he still expected to form a Liberal government, but he spent a great deal of time explaining how the Liberals and NDP had worked well together in the past.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff gestures while answering questions during an election campaign event in Vancouver, British Columbia April 26, 2011. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>