By ALLISON DUNFIELD
Toronto Globe and Mail
November 29, 2005
A new poll for The Globe and Mail and CTV News suggests a close contest as voters express their desire for new blood, but are not ready to embrace the Conservatives led by Stephen Harper.
The election, likely to be held on Jan. 23, will almost certainly spell the political doom of one if not both leaders of the major parties.
Martin would have difficulty remaining prime minister more than a year or two if he wins only a minority government, and Harper would have a tough time staying on if he loses a second election.
After losing a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons Monday, Martin told cheering Liberal MPs and others that the opposition parties will have to answer for defeating a government before its key programs could be enacted.
"They decided that forcing an election was more important than giving middle-income Canadians the full benefit of our tax cuts," he said. "Well let me tell them that they can explain themselves to Canadians, because as Liberals we will go into every riding in this land, and we will say to the people of our country, you have a real stake in this election."
Harper told his MPs that the Conservatives will offer Canadians a bright, new future.
"This is not just the end of a tired, directionless, scandal-plagued government," he said to applause. "It's the start of a bright new future for this great land."
NDP Leader Jack Layton predicted his party will win more seats because it has a record of achieving results for Canadians in Parliament. "I hope it doesn't become a campaign filled with negativity and insults," Layton said. "We, of course, have to speak about the different records of the different parties. That's natural. But it shouldn't descend into the kind of name-calling and insults that we oftentimes see in the House of Commons."
The government was defeated 171-133, with the Bloc Quebecois, the Conservatives and the NDP banding together to support the motion.
The Liberals are expected to focus on the continued strong performance of the economy, while warning that a Tory government would imperil that success.
Martin took a swipe at Harper for working with the Bloc Quebecois to bring down the government.
"Let me tell you, Stephen Harper, you made an alliance with the Bloc, not me," Martin said. "The Bloc wants only one thing: a referendum to divide us and break up our country."
The Tories will argue for the need for a change, by hammering on the issue of Liberal ethical lapses and the sponsorship scandal. They must also convince Canadians they can be comfortable with the Conservatives and their leader.
The campaign is expected to last about eight weeks, which would make it one of the longest in recent memory.
However, it's unclear who would benefit most from a long campaign. The Liberals believe it will give Harper more opportunities to stumble and them more time to recover if the second set of debates do not go well for them. The Tories believe it may give Harper extra time to make Canadians feel at ease with him.
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