Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Canada's Leader 'Quits' - While Still Ahead in Polls A HURRY-UP VOTE

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Canada's Leader 'Quits' - While Still Ahead in Polls A HURRY-UP VOTE

Article excerpt

Slipping in polls, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien yesterday called an "early" election for June 2 rather than finish out his four-year term.

Mr. Chretien's Liberal Party enjoys broad approval and a large lead in polls over four opposition parties. But he and his strategists worried that the party's steady drop in polls since last summer could prove disastrous if they waited for an autumn election.

Last summer, 57 percent of decided voters said they would reelect Chretien's Liberal Party. Today just 41 percent would vote the same way, according to an Angus Reid Group poll. Even that lower level would be sufficient. It is the same percent the Liberals received when they easily won control of the government from the Progressive Conservatives in October 1993. Still, there are trouble signs. Unemployment is at 9.3 percent, and one-third of the electorate say they are worried about job security, polls show. Pollsters say Liberal support is broad, but also relatively "thin" and could drop quickly if the current economic boom doesn't create many more jobs. "He's done well cutting the deficit and managing the economy," says Darrell Bricker, senior vice president at Angus Reid in Ottawa. "But there is weakness on the jobs issue." Hugh Thorburn, a political scientist at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, agrees with Mr. Bricker. "It's quite clear the government is in a strong position now, and all the polls indicate they're sure to win," he says. "A year from now, the economic prospects are not quite so good.... What this government wants is a fresh four years to deal with Quebec {secessionists} and anything else that turns up. It is exactly the same strategy being followed by {President Jacques} Chirac in France," who also called early elections last week. Chretien has several things going for him. First, he has adopted a low profile with the news media and a low-visibility approach to governing. Both approaches are favored by Canadians. …

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