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Canada's Ruling Conservatives Lose Ground for Unpopular Afghan, Environment Policies
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Unpopular policies on Afghanistan, Kyoto pact and other issues have caused Canada's minority Conservative government to lose ground rapidly, while the opposition Liberals are catching up in supporting rate.

Recent polls have showed that the Liberals, who lost the January federal election after a 12-year successive rule, are gaining back strength. An EKOS opinion poll published last weekend showed that the Conservatives' supporting rate have fallen to only 36 percent from 38.7 percent a month ago and that of the Liberals climbing to 31.7 percent to 28.8 percent.
A Strategic Counsel poll released Wednesday put both parties at 32 percent support among voters. It was the first time since the Conservatives' victory in the January 23 election that a poll no longer had the Liberals trailing.

The most noticeable slide in popularity for the Conservatives occurred in the province of Quebec. The party has been sliding in the polls there since May when it got a 30 percent rate. But that number drops to 16 percent now. The party received 25 percent of Quebec votes in the Jan. 23 election.

Analysts attributed the Conservatives' slide in popularity to Canada's participation in the war in Afghanistan, the government's lack of action to reduce greenhouse gases and its plan to hold a vote on gay marriage.

The rapidly increasing fatalities of Canadian soldiers this year has prompted an ever louder call for troops withdrawal from the public. Now only 36 percent of Canadians support the mission, down from 50 percent half a year ago.

Critics have also accused the Harper government of following the United States blindly in its Afghan policy. Canada should put its main attention on helping the Afghans to reconstruct, instead of fighting with the Talibans as it is doing now, they pointed out.

The Harper government's rejection of the Kyoto pact have also drawn fire widely. Harper, who has repeatedly said Canada cannot meet the targets set out in the Kyoto protocol on climate change, announced last week he would introduce a legislation called Clean Air act which would set intensity-based targets rather than absolute ones for emissions reductions.

Intensity-based targets mean that industries would have to reduce emissions per unit of production but as industries expand, so would emissions overall. This has prompted an immediate outcry from environmentalists and opposition politicians.

The plan indicated that Harper has given up Canada's objectives of the Kyoto pact and Clean Air Act was no more than "political smog", aimed at wooing voters who have pledged their support for Kyoto, critics say.

The Liberals' increasing popularity has emboldened the party to speculate about an election early next year. Former Liberal cabinet minister John McCallum said he had no doubt that his party would vote against the Conservatives' upcoming budget, expected in February or March. If the budget is defeated, an election is triggered. But the Liberals need another party to help in the vote.

McCallum also said that once his party picked a new leader in December, to replace former Prime Minister Paul Martin, support would rise even further.

"If we're tied with the Conservatives without a leader, I think with a new leader and all the publicity surrounding the convention we will be in first place, and so I think it would be very good for us to have a spring election," McCallum said.

The Liberals will elect a leader at a convention scheduled on Dec.2. Front-runners in the race include former Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff, former Ontario premier Bob Rae and former federal Environment Minister Stephen Dion.
(Xinhua News Agency October 19, 2006)


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