Sunday, January 15, 2006

Paul Martin trying to shore up the base.

Canada: That may be a bit of a problem.

"MONTREAL, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, whose ruling Liberals look set to lose the Jan. 23 election, on Sunday tried to rally flagging support in a traditional stronghold and said he did not believe voters wanted him out. Polls show the Liberals -- hit by a combination of scandals, a poor campaign and voter fatigue -- will be ousted after more than 12 years in power and replaced by the opposition Conservatives. Liberal insiders privately concede they cannot win, with some predicting a rout. A key minister of Martin's government admitted on Sunday she was having trouble keeping her campaign afloat. But Martin shrugged off suggestions he was in trouble and said he disagreed with a recent series of polls which show Canadians want a change in government. "The issue is -- change for what?" he told reporters in Montreal, citing what he said were Conservative policies which would damage the country at home and abroad."
Signs of a bad campaign is small crowds and in the last weeks having to rally in what should be wrapped up by now.
Most of those seats are in and around the city of Montreal, long a bedrock of Liberal support. But local polls now show even this bastion is fast crumbling, forcing Martin to spend two days campaigning there. "Martin tries to save the furniture," read the main headline in the French-language La Presse newspaper on Sunday. The lowest number of Quebec seats the Liberals have ever won is 13 and the party could sink below that level as it is squeezed by both the Conservatives and the separatist Bloc Quebecois, which wants independence for the province. "I reckon we'll win 12 seats," one of the top Liberal organizers in Quebec told Reuters. Even that number could be optimistic, since there is little evidence of enthusiasm in Montreal for the Liberals. When Martin addressed a rally to support Heritage Minister Liza Frulla on Sunday, there were barely 40 people in the room. Other Martin rallies over the weekend attracted similarly meager attendance. Frulla -- who won her seat by just 72 votes in the June 2004 election -- acknowledged she had a battle on her hands. "It was very difficult (in 2004) and it's still very hard, very hard here on the ground," she told reporters, complaining that unnamed opponents were resorting to "dirty tricks". To add to Martin's challenges, Conservative leader Stephen Harper is now campaigning in normally pro-Liberal areas where his party has not won seats for years and has regularly attracted several hundred people to his rallies. Martin has found it hard to put across his campaign platform and on Sunday, after making a speech promising to boost funding to cities, he expressed frustration that reporters immediately pressed him on the Liberals' woes. "To be honest, I have some difficulty understanding the context of your question. I have just made a very positive announcement," he said.

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