Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Scandal Becomes the Main Focus in Canada's Election ; Canadians Go to the Polls Monday, and a Pro-US Conservative Could Become the Country's Next Prime Minister

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Scandal Becomes the Main Focus in Canada's Election ; Canadians Go to the Polls Monday, and a Pro-US Conservative Could Become the Country's Next Prime Minister

Article excerpt

It's being called the tightest election race in a generation - so close that there may be no clear winner to govern Canada after the ballots are counted.

Canadians are going to the polls Monday to elect their next federal government. In what has become a two-way race, they'll decide whether to return to power the scandal-plagued Liberals under Prime Minister Paul Martin for a third consecutive term, or take their chances on a rejuvenated pro-US Conservative Party led by political newcomer Stephen Harper.

It's shaping up that Canada may get neither.

"We're in the process of creating a dysfunctional Parliament that cannot work," warns Barry Kay, a political scientist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. "We'll be having an election within a few months."

If opinion polls are any indicator, neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals will have enough of the 308 parliamentary seats to claim uncontested power - a situation that forces them to forge alliances with their political rivals, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) and the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

In the strange world of Canadian politics, the balance of power could fall in the hands of the Bloc, a regional political party bent on breaking up the country because it wants French-speaking Quebec to secede from Canada.

Canada has been ruled by a minority government eight times in its 137-year history, most recently in 1979. That government lasted nine months.

"I think we'll have another election by the end of the year, certainly by this time next year," Kay says.

Such prospects are a major blow to the once formidable Liberals, who have held political sway in this country for more than a decade. In a bid to break the Liberal stranglehold, two conservative parties - the western-based Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives - united in December and formed the Conservative Party of Canada. …

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