(AFP) – Oct 9, 2008
OTTAWA (AFP) — Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged Thursday his Conservatives could lose next Monday's parliamentary election, in the face of global financial turmoil and the cross-border impact of the US economic downturn.
"I've said from the outset that I believe that this is a close election that can go any way," Harper told reporters, as a new opinion poll indicated that Conservative support is slipping as election day nears.
"I've reminded some of you that we were behind in the polls two weeks before this election began, so this is an election that could go either way," he said, pointing to "one of two outcomes" -- either a Conservative or Liberal victory.
When campaigning began, the Conservatives enjoyed a 10-point lead over the main opposition Liberals led by Stephane Dion.
But with stock markets tumbling, and predictions this week of Canada falling into recession in 2009, Harper's "stay the course" campaign has stumbled.
His bid to reassure Canadians -- telling them "not to panic" as the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday saw its biggest one-day drop in two decades -- was proof the prime minister is "completely out of touch with reality," said Dion in Toronto.
Both Dion and Jack Layton, leader of the socialist New Democratic Party (NDP), jumped on Harper for saying, in a television interview Tuesday, that the falling stock markets are a buying opportunity for Canadians.
"I think there are probably some gains to be made in the stock market," Harper said. "That's my own view."
In a tracking poll released Thursday for CPAC, a public affairs cable channel, Nanos put the Conservatives at 33 percent, just four points ahead of the Liberals, with the NDP at 20 percent.
Some 1,031 decided voters took part in the poll, which had a margin of error of 2.9 percent.
Support for Harper was strongest in Western Canada -- he himself is from oil-rich Alberta province -- but flagging in Ontario, the industrial and financial core of the nation, and in poorer Atlantic Canada.
In French-speaking Quebec, the nationalist Bloc Quebecois led the field.
Whoever wins next Tuesday, political analysts agree, Canadians are likely to elect their third back-to-back minority government since 2004 in their nation's British-style parliament.
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