Canada's PM fights for credibility: Two weeks before election day, polls predict no overall winner

TWO WEEKS before election day, Kim Campbell appears headed for the history books not only as Canada's first female prime minister but also its shortest serving one.

She has broken tradition by campaigning through Canada's Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but Ms Campbell and her Conservative Party are losing ground to their traditional rival, the Liberal Party led by Jean Chretien, and more significantly, to two regional parties which threaten to transform Canadian federal politics.

Based on weekend polls, Mr Chretien's Liberals, with 37 per cent of decided voters, will have the largest number of seats after the 25 October election (compared with 22 per cent for the Conservatives) and will form the government. But the Liberals are unlikely to have an absolute majority because of the growing strength of the Bloc Quebecois, which supports the separation of Quebec, and the Reform Party, a right-wing populist movement with roots in Western Canada.

In the month since Ms Campbell called the election, she has experienced a precipitous decline in popular support. After replacing Brian Mulroney as Conservative leader in June, Ms Campbell travelled the country boosting her image as an unconventional politician with a fresh approach. She entered the election campaign with personal approval ratings of between 50 and 60 per cent compared with Mr Chretien who languished between 20 and 30 per cent, while the leaders of the other parties were around 10 per cent range. But her campaign has been plagued by mishaps. The two new regional parties have capitalised on the widespread distaste for the old political elites and the sour aftertaste of a failed constitutional referendum campaign a year ago.

The Bloc Quebecois seems poised to sweep up to 60 of the 75 seats allocated to Quebec in the 295-seat federal parliament, even though its aims appear contradictory and its leader, Lucien Bouchard, says he has no interest in exercising political power and would not join a coalition with other parties to form a government. The Bloc's strength, combined with other regional splits, could prevent traditional parties from gaining a majority. Mr Bouchard's sole interest, he says, is to be a strong voice in Ottawa to protect Quebec interests before a Quebec provincial election next year and an expected referendum on Quebec's future relationship with Canada. As he told a group of students at Laval University in Quebec City last week: 'We're on the verge of something important that will change our collective lives. It's the future that will lend its sense to the present, and the verdict of time is not yet rendered.'

Such words might sound like gobbledygook outside Quebec, but they sum up the ambiguity within the province towards the concept of sovereignty. Recent polls indicate many Quebeckers think a sovereign Quebec would still send MPs to Ottawa, still use the Canadian dollar, and that Quebeckers would continue to carry Canadian passports. The results suggest that even if the Bloc attracts a majority of Quebeckers' votes in this election, it would represent a rejection of the status quo but not necessarily an endorsement of a fully independent Quebec. Just as the Bloc Quebecois is running candidates only in Quebec, the Reform Party is presenting candidates only in English-speaking Canada, and a driving force is its opposition to the bilingualism which has been a feature of the federal government throughout the country.

The Reform Party wants to stem multi-racial immigration into Canada, and its charismatic leader, Preston Manning, is campaigning for a squeeze on federal government, public spending cuts and tax cuts. The party wants to cut unemployment benefit, old age pensions, medicare and subsidies to business.

Against these pressures, Ms Campbell has been unable to articulate a clear political alternative, and her initial popularity has been diminished by gaffes and poor performances in two television debates last week.

A fiscal conservative, the Prime Minister says her priority is to eliminate deficits but she admitted this would mean little relief in unemployment until the year 2000. Mr Chretien and the Liberals promise more conventional kick-start economic programmes, including roadbuilding and infrastructure work to create employment. The veteran Liberal leader, has been dismissed as a political has-been, but his slow and steady approach may be working.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

NQT Secondary Teachers

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is actively r...

A Level Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: A Level Chemistry Teacher - Humb...

RE Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Teacher of Religious Education ...

Maths Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering