Surging Canadian Liberals ask for majority mandate in next week's election

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2015 11:34 AM

By Randall Palmer

HAMILTON, Ontario (Reuters) - Canadian Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, surging in opinion polls in the final stretch of the election campaign, asked voters on Wednesday to give him a majority government on Oct 19 - but insisted he would not get over-confident.

"Am I asking Canadians to vote for us? Yes. Am I asking them to vote for us across the country? Yes. Am I asking them for a majority government? Yes," Trudeau said in answer to a reporter's question.

Trudeau has rarely talked about the possibility of jumping from the Liberals' third-party status to majority government, mainly because it had seemed to be so far out of reach.

But the Liberal Party has broken out from what had been a virtual tie in polls with the governing Conservatives and the left-of-center New Democratic Party (NDP) and is approaching the support levels that have delivered majority governments.

The Liberals now lead the Conservatives, who are seeking a fourth straight mandate under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, by between five and seven percentage points, and the NDP by 12 to 15 percentage points in three polls released on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The polls - by Nanos, Ekos and Ipsos - have the Liberals winning the support of between 35.6 percent and 37 percent of voters. In the past, majority governments have been formed with support in the high 30s.

Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, prefaced his remarks about asking for a majority government by saying in French: "I don't have the over-confidence to speak about a political strategy. I know Canadians will make a good decision."

Privately, pessimistic Conservatives say their prospects have been hit hard by what they call a "disastrous" campaign by the NDP, led by Thomas Mulcair. This means the center-left vote is flocking to the Liberals rather than splitting between the two parties as it did in the 2011 election, a factor which helped Harper win a majority.

"If there is a bright side to this, it's that we can now ignore Mulcair and set the rest of the campaign up as a straight fight between the prime minister and Trudeau - who do you trust the most?" said one well-placed Conservative.

The Conservatives have also tended to do better than polling suggests, in part because of their strong get-out-the-vote organization.

Trudeau adviser Gerald Butts urged the Liberal faithful to focus on the last days of the campaign, not the opinion polls.

"Keep working hard. Every minute you read a poll is a minute you're not persuading a Canadian," Butts tweeted to Liberal campaign workers.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Christian Plumb and Frances Kerry)