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The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"An early election has been Canada's worst kept secret"
 real 56k

Sunday, 22 October, 2000, 17:20 GMT
Canada faces early elections

Jean Chretien (centre): Riding high in the polls
Canada faces early elections after Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien called a snap poll in an attempt to capitalise on his government's current popularity.

If he is successful in the 27 November election, it would be the first time since 1945 that a Canadian government had won three consecutive victories.

Mr Chretien, who is way ahead in the polls, was not obliged to call the election until mid-2002.

He is thought to be gambling that a big budget surplus and the emotional outpouring over former prime minister Pierre Trudeau's recent death will boost his position.


The election campaign begins officially at this moment

Jean Chretien

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.

But correspondents say Mr Chretien's move could backfire: Canadian voters have in the past punished politicians for calling early elections to take advantage of their lead in the opinion polls.

"The word gamble is going to be used a lot to describe this Liberal decision," said Lawrence LeDuc, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.

The Liberal Party holds 161 seats in Canada's 301-member House of Commons. It won 155 seats in the 1997 vote, and has picked up six more in by-elections since then.

Conservative challenge

Of the five main parties fighting the election, Mr Chretien will face the strongest challenge from the newly-formed Canadian Alliance.

stockwell day
Stockwell Day triumphant after gaining his party's leadership in June
It has 58 seats in the House of Commons, and is led by a telegenic former preacher, Stockwell Day.

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.

This week, he announced how he is planning to spending a budget surplus of several billion dollars.

Five hundred million dollars has been earmarked to upgrade Toronto's waterfront as a part of a bid to host the 2008 Olympics, while taxes will be cut by $100bn over the next five years.

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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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