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Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 14:14 GMT
Analysis: Canada's election issues

Jean Chretien (centre) fought a bitter campaign
Snap general elections were called in Canada just five weeks ago in response to calls for veteran Prime Minister Jean Chretien to step down.

In defiance of the opinion polls, Mr Chretien won enough seats for his Liberal Party to form a third consecutive majority government, a feat not seen since World War II.

stockwell day
Stockwell Day triumphant after gaining his party's leadership in June
The campaign was one of the most bitter in the history of Canadian politics, with frequent mudslinging matches between Mr Chretien and a new and charismatic right-wing opposition leader, Stockwell Day.

Mr Day, a former preacher and leader of the Alliance Party, promised to relax gun control in the West of the country, introduce a two-tier tax system and reform the health service.

Mr Chretien was relentlessly attacked for personally intervening to persuade a government corporation to give a loan to a business friend so the friend could develop a hotel in which the prime minister once had an interest.

Mr Day came under fire for his fundamentalist Christian views on abortion, the death penalty and creationism.

The issues

  • According to polls, health care is the most important issue for Canadians.

    The Liberals said health care was their number one spending priority. They suggested that a Day government would lead to a privatised or two-tier health service.

    The Alliance Party promised that everyone would have access to the health care they need, regardless of their ability to pay. Although it would have tolerated more private health, it said it would guarantee public funding at consistent levels.

  • Both parties promised tax cuts, but the Alliance Party's cuts were the more radical. They promised a two-tier system, with a maximum rate of 25%, and a minimum of 17%. The Liberals said that the Alliance Party would introduce a flat tax rate before long.

  • The Alliance Party picked up rural support in the west of the country by their promise to repeal an unpopular new law on gun licensing and registration.

  • The Liberals accused the Alliance Party of having a secret agenda to roll back abortion rights. The Alliance Party denied this, but said they may hold a referendum on the issue.

Chretien's election gamble

Mr Chretien was not obliged to call the election until mid-2002.

But he was coming under pressure from party loyalists to step down after allegations of cronyism and corruption, and make way for Canada's popular finance minister, Paul Martin.

He is thought to have called the snap elections in the hope that a big budget surplus and the emotional outpouring over former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's recent death would boost his position.

His election announcement came less than three weeks after the funeral of Pierre Trudeau, a Liberal Party prime minister considered the most influential leader in Canadian history.

Since Mr Chretien first came to power in 1993, the Canadian economy has recovered from a period of sluggishness, buoyed by the boom in the neighbouring US economy.

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See also:

10 Jul 00 | Americas
New opposition leader in Canada
01 Oct 00 | Americas
Outpouring of grief for Trudeau
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