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Canadians to
decide fate of Liberal Party

Canadians to
decide fate of Liberal Party


Canadians will determine Monday whether to send their Liberals packing after 13 years and place antigay Conservatives in power.

Canadians will determine Monday whether to send their Liberal Party packing after 13 years and give the antigay Conservative Party a shot at repairing relations with Washington and tackling issues such as health care, tax cuts, child care, and crime. All polls leading up to the parliamentary election indicated that voters were ready for change despite fears Conservative leader Stephen Harper is too extreme in his views opposing abortion and same-sex marriage to become prime minister. Results should start coming in after voting ends in the eastern province of Newfoundland at 7 p.m. Eastern time. In a tight race, the winner may not be known until ballot counting begins in British Columbia four hours later. Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority government was toppled in a confidence vote in November after the Liberals were unable to overcome a corruption scandal involving the misuse of funds for a national unity program in Quebec. An initial investigation absolved Martin of wrongdoing but accused senior Liberal members of taking kickbacks and misspending tens of millions of dollars in public funds. If the Liberals defy the polls and eke out a win with a minority government in the 308-seat House of Commons, Martin will remain weak. And if Harper doesn't win a majority, he'll need support from minority parties to pass legislation. The Conservatives are pinning most of their hopes on Ontario, Canada's most populous province and traditionally a bedrock of Liberal support. They also have a chance to make inroads in Quebec, where they were shut out in June 2004 elections. The youngest candidate at 46, Harper has toned down the rightist rhetoric that cost him the last election and has painted the Liberals as a party of corruption. Martin, 67, has trumpeted eight consecutive budget surpluses and sought to paint Harper as a right-winger posing as a moderate to woo mainstream voters. The prime minister also has promised to lower income taxes, finalize a national child care program, and ban handguns. He claims Harper supported the war in Iraq, which was opposed by many Canadians, and would try to outlaw abortion and overturn same-sex marriage legislation approved in July, all of which Harper denies. Joanna Lundy, a mental health worker in Vancouver, said she will reluctantly cast a Liberal vote to block Harper. "He's not open to diversity," she said. "I think he'll put us in the dark ages on women's issues, abortion issues, gay issues." (AP)

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