(Adds debate announcement)
By Allan Dowd
RICHMOND, British Columbia, Sept 8 Canada's
Conservatives appeared on Monday to be riding a wave of public
support that could hand them their first majority government
since 1988, but the party did all it could to minimize such
The Conservatives, who formed a minority government after
the last election in 2006, entered the second day of the
campaign for the Oct. 14 vote with clear signs of being better
organized and financed than their main opposition, the
Liberals. Polls also showed voters strongly prefer Prime
Minister Stephen Harper over Liberal leader Stephane Dion.
A Segma poll in Monday's La Presse newspaper put support
for the Conservatives at 43 percent, which would translate into
about 183 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons. The poll gave
the Liberals 25 percent, or about 62 seats.
"To say that things are going badly for the Liberals is a
euphemism. In fact, it smells like a rout," columnist Vincent
Marissal wrote in La Presse.
The Conservatives had 127 seats in the old Parliament,
while the Liberals had 95. The separatist Bloc Quebecois had 48
seats, the left-leaning New Democrats 30 seats, and the Greens
one. There were three independents and four seats were vacant.
Polls two weeks ago had put the two leading parties neck
and neck, some with the Liberals slightly ahead, others
slightly behind, but in the last week a Conservative lead
appeared to have opened up.
An Ekos survey released on Sunday, when Harper called the
election, gave the Conservatives 37 percent and the Liberals 24
Harper has consistently said he expects the most likely
result will be another minority government, and he downplayed
polls indicating it would actually be a majority.
"I have never yet seen a poll that was right on election
day," Harper said in Richmond, British Columbia on Monday.
Part of the concern the Conservatives have is that if they
are clearly the front-runner then all the other parties train
their sights on them.
Also, some voters are concerned about what they see as a
right-wing Conservative agenda and about what the Conservatives
would do if they did not have to rely on another party to stay
The two top issues in the campaign so far are who would be
best to lead the country through a period of economic weakness,
and whether to adopt the Liberal plan to fight global warming
with carbon taxes, offset partly with income tax cuts.
After weeks during which the Conservatives had the
advertising field to themselves, the Liberals finally put out a
series of ads on Sunday night touting the benefits of their
carbon tax plan and moving forward to a green economy.
The Conservatives started off with soft ads showing Harper
as a family man, but on Monday launched attack ads warning that
Dion would raise taxes and prices.
Dion told a rally in Montreal on Monday he was not
concerned about the polls and said the Liberals would triumph
over Harper and his "laissez-faire, I-don't-care approach".
"His direction is a recession, his direction is a deficit,
his direction is a mess that he's giving to this economy
again," he said.
Canada's television networks announced on Monday the party
leaders would have two nationally-televised debates, one in
French on Oct. 1, and another in English on Oct. 2.
But the networks rejected a request from the Green Party to
be included in the debates after three of the more more
established parties objected.
(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer in Ottawa; Editing by