Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Canadians vote amid rebound in stock market

Canadians vote amid rebound in stock market

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the first major world leader to face election since the global financial meltdown, appeared poised to keep his job Tuesday as Canadians voted in a national ballot amid a rebound in the country's stock market and currency.
Polls and pundits predict another minority government for the Conservative Party leader, who has had a tenuous hold on power since the 2006 election and has been forced to rely on the opposition to pass legislation. He called the vote in hopes of winning the 155 seats needed for a majority in the 308-seat Parliament.
Harper has been hurt by his slow reaction to the market meltdown, and that _ among other missteps _ may have cost him his bid for the majority.
But, polls show he is no longer losing support and analysts said Harper has undone part of the damage in the last week. Harper's rival, Liberal leader Stephane Dion, is generally perceived to be a weak leader and is now proposing an unpopular carbon tax to fight global warming that Harper claims will hurt the economy.
Results are not expected until after polls close in British Columbia at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT Wednesday).
Harper and Dion crisscrossed the country Monday in a final day of campaigning, as analysts predicted that the Conservatives would not pull off a majority.
"He's probably maneuvered himself to a position where he can probably hold power but he won't actually be able to implement his agenda," said Robert Bothwell, director of the international relations program at the University of Toronto.
"I think the absolute best result for Harper is a stalemate."
Polls at the start of the campaign had Harper winning a majority, but the prime minister hurt himself when he said during a debate that Canadians were not concerned about their jobs or mortgages. Days later, he said stocks were cheap.
Canada's main stock exchange then had its worst week in almost 70 years.
Harper has since said he knows Canadians are worried. He contrasted Canada's economic and fiscal performance to the more dire situation in the United States.
"Americans are running deficits. We're running surpluses. Americans are incurring debt. We're paying down debt," Harper said.
"We have the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years ... We have a better economic situation than the United States because, for two and a half years, we have made better choices."
On Tuesday afternoon Canada's main stock exchange was up more than 9 percent following moves by governments in the U.S. and Europe to recapitalize major banks and try to unfreeze credit markets.
The prime minister has maintained that Canada will avoid the mortgage meltdown and banking crisis that are hitting the United States and Europe. But his government announced last week that it will buy up to US$21 billion in mortgages from the country's banks in an effort to keep the availability of credit.
Analysts said Harper wanted the election before the economy got worse and ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, which could put a Democrat in the White House and encourage Canadians to choose a more liberal government.
Opponents have painted Harper as a right-winger who would reshape the landscape like a U.S.-style Republican, trying to tie him to the unpopular U.S. President George W. Bush.
"Just because someone's a Conservative doesn't mean he's George Bush," Harper told voters in Quebec on Saturday.
Tom Flanagan, a former campaign director for Harper and a political scientist at the University of Calgary, said Harper lost any chance of winning a majority in the third week of the campaign when Harper defended his decision to cut spending on the arts by saying ordinary working people don't like to hear artists whine about their subsidies. That didn't go over well in Quebec where cultural funding is important.
Harper had been counting on Quebec to give him his majority. His party made a breakthrough in the last election by winning 11 seats there.
A Harris-Decima poll put voter support for Conservatives at 34 percent nationally, followed by the Liberals at 25 and the New Democrats at 19 percent. The Quebec-based Bloc Quebecois was at 11 percent and the Green party had 9 percent.
The poll represented 1,218 interviews conducted Thursday through Sunday with a margin of error of 2.7 percent.
The left-of-center vote is divided among four parties, which may allow Harper to win a majority government even with less than 40 percent of the overall vote.
The party winning the most seats generally forms the government, with its leader becoming prime minister. The opposition parties could unite and topple Harper if they won enough seats for a majority, but analysts said that was unlikely because the parties have no tradition of forming such coalitions.
Liberal leader Dion is a former professor from the French-speaking province of Quebec whose struggles to communicate in English have become an issue. Dion's English is accented and awkward. He stumbles over words during speeches and his grammar is often mangled.
"It just causes a lot of people to turn off. They claim they don't understand him," Bothwell said.
The opposition Liberals have traditionally been the party in power in Canada, forming the government for more than 65 of the last 100 years.
Dion has moved the party to the left by staking his leadership on a "Green Shift" tax plan. Dion, a former environment minister who named his dog Kyoto after the Japanese site of the first climate change accord, wants to introduce the carbon tax on all fossil fuels except gasoline.
The Conservatives have been targeting Dion's plan in television and radio ads, saying it would drive up energy costs. Dion has said he would offset the higher energy prices by cutting income taxes.
Dion has had little success selling the plan to Canadians and even members of his own party, many of whom view him as a weak leader and who will likely remove him if he loses.
If Dion is removed as leader he will become the second Liberal leader in Canada's history who failed to become prime minister. Liberal Edward Blake was defeated in 1882 and 1887.
As Conservative leader, Harper reduced former Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal government to a minority in 2004 and he defeated Martin in early 2006 to form his own minority government.
Since becoming prime minister in 2006, Harper has extended Canada's military mission in Afghanistan and pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol, which commits industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Harper supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq when he was in the opposition in 2003. Dion was part of the Liberal government that opposed the war.
Harper controlled 127 seats across Canada in the last Parliament. If he wins another minority Harper is expected to rely on the opposition to pass budgets and legislation on a vote by vote basis, as he did in the previous Parliament. The Liberals and New Democrats could form a coalition and topple Harper if they win enough seats for a majority but analysts say that is unlikely.