October 12, 2008 / 5:42 PM / 9 years ago

Canada's Conservatives lead amid pre-election push

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - With Prime Minister Stephen Harper looking set to win Tuesday’s Canadian election, opposition parties made last-ditch appeals on Sunday to keep him from winning a majority government.

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop in Saint-Tite, Quebec October 12, 2008. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election on October 14. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

A poll on Sunday showed Harper’s Conservatives maintained a comfortable lead over the second-place Liberals, but lacked sufficient support to take enough parliamentary seats to rise above their current status of needing opposition support to pass legislation.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion lashed out at New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, warning that dividing support between the country’s left-leaning parties would allow Harper to take power as he had in the last election.

“In 2006 Jack Layton told Canadians ‘lend me your vote’... well to Jack Layton we should say we want our votes back with interest,” Dion told a rally in Ontario, where he also accused Harper of running a campaign of lies.

Layton, whose NDP has polled in third place, was also in Ontario telling voters Dion had been too weak as leader of the largest opposition party to Harper and did not deserve their support.

Harper is the first leader of a G7 country to face election since the current global economic crisis erupted, and told a Quebec City rally Canada’s economy remains healthier than those of other countries.

“We have a better economic situation than the United States because for two and a half years we have made better choices,” Harper said in a rare jab at Canada’s largest trading partner.

‘MORE MOVEMENT YET’

Harper called the election in September, saying the current minority government had become unworkable.

The party leaders who have struggled at times even to keep the campaign in the headlines, faced an added obstacle Sunday of mustering voter attention when Canadians are celebrating the national Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

A tracking poll by Harris/Decima-Canadian Press showed the Conservatives steady at 35 percent, with the Liberals up 1 point at 26 percent, followed by the NDP at 18 percent, Bloc Quebecois up 1 point to 10 percent and the Green Party slipping 2 points to 9 percent.

A CPAC-Nanos daily tracking poll put Conservative support among decided voters at 33 percent, compared with 27 percent for the Liberals and 22 percent for the NDP. The survey reported 17 percent of voters were still undecided.

Harris/Decima pollster Bruce Anderson said that with the Bloc’s recent surge in Quebec, the Conservatives’ hopes of a majority likely depend on Ontario where they have shown some momentum but where the Liberals remain highly competitive.

“Given the volatility we have seen, it would be safer to assume that there could be more movement yet,” Anderson said in a note.

Pollsters say that customarily a party must win 38 to 40 percent of the vote nationally to seize a majority of 308 seats in the House of Commons, where the Conservatives now hold 127 seats.

The Harris/Decima survey interviews 300 people nightly over a three-day period and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent. The Nanos survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.

Additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Eric Walsh

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