Conservatives seen winning election

LONDON, Ontario (Reuters) - Canada’s ruling Conservative Party is set to win a federal election on Tuesday but will still have only a minority of seats in Parliament, according to two polls released on Saturday.

Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign rally in Toronto October 10, 2008. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election October 14. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The Conservatives hold 127 of the 308 seats and had genuine hopes of capturing a majority when the campaign started a month ago. Since then, the global financial crisis struck, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has struggled to persuade Canadians to give him a strong mandate to deal with the aftershocks.

An Ipsos-Reid poll for CanWest News put the Conservatives at 34 percent, with the official opposition Liberals at 29 percent and the left-leaning New Democrats at 19 percent.

Harper has said from the start of the campaign that he does not think a majority is likely.

“We’re not talking about a majority. My view is that we’re in a tight race,” he told reporters in London, Ontario.

Earlier in the day, he told a rally of supporters that the election would be a decision on “who Canadians will trust to protect our economy in this world financial turmoil in the weeks, the months and the years ahead”.

Under Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs around 40 percent of the vote to win a majority. This can slip as low as 38 percent if the opposition is badly divided, as it is now.

The Ipsos poll of 2,000 people was conducted October 7-9 and is considered accurate within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The election is the third in four years and, if the polls are accurate, will produce Canada’s third successive minority government. Harper defeated a minority Liberal administration in a January 2006 election.

A Segma poll for La Presse said the Conservatives had 34.6 percent public support, well ahead of the Liberals at 23 percent. The New Democrats had 20.5 percent.

Segma president Raynald Harvey said the Conservatives had bounced back from lows late last week after two televised leaders’ debates, where Harper was pummeled by his rivals and had little chance to shine.

“The Conservatives seem to have stopped their hemorrhage ... they have lost some feathers. But the Liberals are not in a good position to take advantage of this,” he said.

The Liberals have run a poor campaign, promising to introduce a carbon tax to cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost spending on anti-poverty programs.

The measure, to be twinned with cuts in corporate and income taxes, is designed to be revenue-neutral. Harper says the idea is a disaster and Liberal leader Stephane Dion -- whose native language is French -- has had difficulty explaining his complex proposals.

The Liberals are heading for their worst performance since 1984, when they captured just 40 seats. They now have 97.

The Segma survey of 1,500 people was conducted October 5-9 and is considered accurate to within 2.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Eric Walsh