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Canada election
campaign gets nasty in final days

Canada election
campaign gets nasty in final days

Strong polling gains by Conservatives put Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal Party on the defensive Wednesday as campaigning for a new Canadian government grew increasingly ugly in its final days. Both parties unleashed a series of negative TV ads in the run-up to the January 23 vote. The Liberals have ruled since the last Conservative government under Brian Mulroney in 1993. Martin's minority government was toppled in a no-confidence vote by parliament in November, with his opponents claiming the Liberals had lost the moral authority to govern. They had seized on a scandal in which some senior Liberal Party members were caught in a kickbacks scheme involving the misuse of millions of dollars in federal funding. Martin's poll numbers began slipping dramatically last week when it was revealed that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were investigating a possible leak by government officials that appears to have influenced the stock market. Meanwhile, Martin unveiled the Liberal Party platform. He reiterated his pledge to call for a constitutional amendment making it impossible to repeal minority rights. A clause in the constitution allows federal and provincial governments to pass legislation to override a federal bill of rights adopted in 1982. Though no federal government has used the clause, Martin implied a Conservative government might do so to weaken minority rights, including a woman's right to abortion. "I don't believe a prime minister can cherry-pick rights," Martin said. Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper has said he supports the constitutional clause but pledged not to invoke it to overturn legislation by Liberals last year that legalized same-sex marriage, even though he's opposed to the concept. (AP)

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