FACTBOX-Canadian federal election set to start

March 24 Thu Mar 24, 2011 12:37pm EDT

March 24 (Reuters) - Canada's minority Conservative government is almost certain to fall on Friday when all three opposition parties back a motion of nonconfidence presented by the Liberals, the largest opposition party in the 308-seat House of Commons.

If the government falls, an election campaign will start very quickly.

Here is what will happen next and some possible outcomes:

* Legislators are due to vote at around 1:45 p.m. (1745 GMT) on Friday on a Liberal motion saying the House has lost confidence in the government. If the motion passes, the government will fall

* Prime Minister Stephen Harper will then go to Governor-General David Johnston, Canada's acting head of state, to ask that Parliament be dissolved and that the date for a federal election be set. This visit is most likely to take place on Saturday, and Canadians will vote on either on May 2 or May 9.

* Four main federal parties will take part: the Conservatives, the Liberals, the left-leaning New Democrats as well as the separatist Bloc Quebecois, which only campaigns in the province of Quebec.

The election campaign will center on the following issues:

The economy

- The Conservatives say Canada's economy is outstripping the rest of the world and an election now could put that in peril. The party is promising to keep taxes low while curbing spending to help cut the budget deficit

- The Liberals agree on the need to cut the deficit but say Canada cannot afford C$6 billion ($6.12 billion) of corporate tax cuts due to go into effect this year. They are also promising to scrap a C$9 billion deal to buy fighter jets from Lockheed Martin (LMT.N)

- The New Democrats also want the corporate tax cuts to be ended. They are calling for more social spending to help vulnerable groups such as seniors and children

Ethics

- The Conservatives -- who came to power in 2006 promising to clean up government -- have suffered a number of recent ethical blows. Opposition parties say the problems show the government is tainted with sleaze and cannot be trusted

The opposition is also upset at what they say is the government's excessive secrecy and its abuse of parliamentary procedures. This week a committee of legislators declared the government was in contempt of Parliament for failing to disclose full details of its spending plans.

What is likely to happen?

Polls show the Conservatives would retain power but not necessarily with enough support to win a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he needs a majority to fend off the chances of the opposition parties forming a coalition. In December 2008 the three parties joined forces in a bid to oust the Conservatives and Harper only escaped by persuading the then Governor-General to suspend Parliament.

Since then, Harper has regularly insisted that the three opposition parties will strike a similar deal after the next election if the Conservatives do not get a majority. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff sidestepped questions about a possible coalition on Wednesday, while New Democrat leader Jack Layton said he was willing to work with other parties to advance his political agenda.

($1=$0.98 Canadian) (Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)

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