October 17, 2015 / 6:05 PM / in 4 years

Canadian contenders battle in final weekend of campaign

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - Canada’s political leaders began their final weekend dashes on Saturday before voters decide on Monday whether to grant Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper a rare fourth consecutive mandate after a prolonged and hard-fought election campaign.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau greets supporters during a campaign rally in Saint John, New Brunswick, October 17, 2015. Canadians will go to the polls in a federal election on October 19. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

“This is going to be a close election,” Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the front runner, told about 1,000 supporters in Halifax, on Canada’s east coast.

Later he told reporters he was not taking anything for granted.

“We’re on the verge of accomplishing something big,” Trudeau, 43, said.

Speaking at a rally in Laval, Quebec, Harper touted his economic track record and dodged questions about his relationship with controversial former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who admitted to smoking crack during his time in office.

“Just two days from now, you will choose a government to manage your economy for the next four years,” he told a gathering of about 1,000 supporters.

Harper will attend a rally in Toronto later on Saturday attended by Ford, now a city councillor, whose small-government, anti-tax message has kept him popular in parts of city’s vote-rich suburbs.

Thomas Mulcair, leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party, took aim at Trudeau and the ethics of his Liberal team.

Trudeau’s campaign co-chair was forced to resign last week over controversial advice to an energy company on how to lobby a future Liberal government.

The NDP leader, whose party is in third place in polls, likened the situation to a corruption scandal that unfolded in Quebec a decade ago when the Liberals held power.

“This is the crew that was thrown out of office the last time for that very reason, and now they’re saying promise, cross our hearts, we won’t do it again. But what we’ve learned is they’re already planning to do it again,” Mulcair said at a rally in British Columbia.

Trudeau, son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, is leading the Conservatives by as much as eight percentage points in polls, sitting as high as 38 percent, very close to what is needed to win a majority in the House of Commons.

Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker cautioned, however, that the tradition in Canada is to report all eligible voters, rather than likely voters. An Angus Reid poll on Friday that looked at likely voters put the Liberal lead at only one point.

An Ekos poll released on Friday said the Conservatives had a narrow lead among those who had voted in advance polls.

With additional reporting by Josephine Mason, Andrea Hopkins and Jeffrey Hodgson in Toronto; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Paul Simao

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