Canada's ruling Conservative Party entered the final sprint of a tight campaign buoyed by two polls indicating it would win a slim majority in Monday's election.
A Gallup Poll published Saturday showed Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's Conservatives with the backing of 40 percent of decided voters against 35 percent for the Liberals led by John Turner.The New Democratic Party trailed with 22 percent, and 12 percent were undecided. The poll was conducted Nov. 14-17 among 2,097 people and has a margin of error of 3 points.
"I think that Canadians, French-speaking and English-speaking, are resolved in growing numbers to provide themselves and their families with the security and the prosperity that a majority Progressive Conservative government will deliver to Canada," Mulroney told an exuberant rally in Montreal late Friday.
A survey by the Angus Reid polling firm, also published Saturday, said 41 percent of voters who had made up their minds supported the Conservatives, 33 percent chose the Liberals and 23 percent favored the left-leaning NDP under leader Ed Broadbent. Eleven percent were undecided.
The Angus Reid poll surveyed 1,512 people by telephone from November 15 to 17 and had a 2.5 percent margin of error.
A Gallup poll last week showed the Conservatives and Liberals in a dead heat.
The latest surveys indicated public support was growing for the government's free-trade pact with the United States. The pact, which would make all trade between the world's largest economic partners duty free over a 10-year period, was attacked by the opposition parties, which vowed to cancel it.
The Canadian stock, bond and money markets have been jittery in recent weeks over concerns that the pact, considered beneficial for Canada by most economists, would be destroyed.
Mulroney began the election campaign in early October with a commanding lead, but Turner's impassioned stand against the free-trade pact in a televised debate three weeks ago is credited with swinging voter sentiment in his party's favor.
"The post-debate surge of the Liberals appears to have caused a largely emotional response which has now dissipated," said Gallup vice-president Lorne Bozinoff.
Congress has ratified the accord and the Canadian House of Commons, where the Conservatives held 203 of 295 seats, also passed it.
But Turner used his party's majority in the appointed Senate to block the agreement which he says would make Canada an economic and cultural colony of the United States.
Turner and other opponents of the pact said more generous Canadian social programs such as medicare and pensions could be attacked by the United States as unfair trade subsidies.
Mulroney and the agreement's supporters, which include most major business groups, argued that freer trade with Canada's largest export consumers would create more jobs and lead to greater prosperity.
A final round of emotional pitches on the divisive debate flooded newspapers, radio airwaves and television screens in advertisements across the country over the weekend.
Mulroney campaigned in Montreal Saturday before heading to his district on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec.
Speaking in front of a huge Canadian flag at a rally in Woodbridge, Ontario, Turner told supporters the election "is your chance to vote for Canada" and denounced the agreement as a threat to Canada's independence from the United States.
"What's theirs is theirs and what's ours is now theirs and we won't tolerate that," he said, as the crowd chanted "No free trade."
Broadbent, addressing a crowd in his home district of Oshawa, Ontario, just east of Toronto, urged voters to ignore the latest polls.
"We're breaking new ground all across this country," he said. "I am confident that before Monday many Canadians will think another time, and Mr. Mulroney won't obtain a majority."