Canada election: Polls put Justin Trudeau in lead

Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign rally in Newmarket, Ontario. Picture: AP
Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign rally in Newmarket, Ontario. Picture: AP
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CANADIAN voters cast their ballots yesterday to decide whether to extend Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s near-decade in power or return Canada to its more liberal roots.

Prime Minister Harper is trailing Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, in the polls.

Pierre Trudeau led Canada for almost all of a 16-year stretch from 1968-84 and is a famed name in Canadian history. He is responsible for the country’s version of the bill of rights and open door to immigration.

Harper got into politics to destroy Pierre Trudeau’s legacy and is seeking a rare fourth term in the hopes of safeguarding his goal of shattering Canada’s reputation as a liberal haven.

“We have a chance to bring real change to Canada and bring an end to the Harper decade,” Justin Trudeau said in Harper’s adopted home province of Alberta, traditionally a Conservative stronghold.

Trudeau, 43, ran an optimistic campaign and appears to have overcome relentless attack ads. In the final days of the campaign he visited districts where the Liberals traditionally haven’t won but now have a chance to win. Harper, 56, ran a divisive campaign that played on fears of the Muslim face veil. He visited districts he won in the 2011 election in an attempt to hang on to them.

The Liberals lead the Conservatives by almost 9 percentage points. According to the CTV/Globe and Mail/Nanos Nightly Tracking Poll, the Liberals are at 39.1 per cent, followed by the Conservatives at 30.5 per cent. The New Democrats are at 19.7.

A minority government in the 338-seat Parliament appears likely no matter which party wins the most seats. That would mean the winning party would have a shaky hold on power and need to rely on another party to pass legislation. Harper has said he’ll step down as Conservative leader if his party loses.

If the Liberals win the most seats, they are set to rely on the New Democrats for support on a bill-by-bill basis. If the Harper Conservatives win the most seats, the Liberals and New Democrats say they will defeat them in a vote in Parliament, raising the possibility of a coalition government or arrangement.