Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is seeking a majority government for his Progressive Conservative Party in national elections so he can proceed with the controversial U.S.-Canada free trade agreement.
The trade pact, which has dominated the rancorous campaign, would phase out all remaining tariffs on trade between the two countries starting Jan. 1.Opposition leader John Turner has urged Canadians to vote for his Liberal Party because he opposes the trade agreement and is seeking "to keep Canada Canadian."
Turner revived his party's chances during the 51-day campaign by accusing Mulroney of selling out Canada.
Mulroney, 49, in turn charged Turner with using "scare tactics," including allegations the pact would wreck social programs and cost many Canadians their jobs. Mulroney brought out his mother to show his commitment to retirement benefits.
Polls in the campaign's final days showed Mulroney's Progressive Conservative Party had returned to favor after a two-month slide attributed to the effectiveness of the 59-year-old Turner's attacks.
The opinion surveys showed the governing Conservatives in a good position to win a slim majority of the 295 seats in the House of Commons, which would allow the Canadian parliamentarians to ratify the 10-yeartrade pact.
The leader who can muster a majority of at least 148 seats controls the government.
The socialist New Democratic Party, led by Ed Broadbent, 52, also opposes the free trade agreement and could play a decisive role in any close outcome.
A poll Saturday by Gallup Canada indicated the Conservatives had the support of 40 percent of the decided respondents, the Liberals 35 percent and the New Democrats 22 percent.
Turnout among Canada's 17.5 million eligible voters was expected to be higher than the 1984 elections, when about one in four didn't show up.
If successful, Mulroney could become the first Canadian prime minister to win successive majority governments since 1953. The Liberals were ousted in a 1984 landslide spearheaded by Mulroney.