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Canadian Election Set for January 23; Campaign Under Way


Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has set January 23 as the date Canadians will vote on whether to give his government another mandate. On Monday, Canada's three opposition parties voted to force an election amid allegations some members of Mr. Martin's Liberal Party received kickbacks from firms awarded millions of dollars in government contracts. The election campaign has already begun.

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper and Prime Minister Paul Martin launched their campaign Tuesday for the January 23 election by vowing to bring Canadians a government based on the values that are important to them. Mr. Harper said he will bring more integrity to government, noting Mr. Martin's Liberal Party has been damaged by scandal. He said Canadians need new leadership.

"They're counting on us to stand up for them," he said. "Not just to address the cares and concerns they have, but more important than that, to speak to their hopes and to their dreams."

Mr. Martin also invoked Canadian values. In his remarks he stressed the importance of good management. In nine years as finance minister and 17 months as prime minister, Mr. Martin led Canada from massive annual deficits to eight straight budget surpluses. He has paid down $60 billion (Canadian) of the national debt, given more money to cities and created 400,000 new jobs since the start of 2004.

Mr. Martin said the Conservatives value no government, while another opposition party, the left-wing New Democratic Party, sees government solutions everywhere. He said Canadians, like his Liberal Party, value compromise.

"I'm going to be talking about that record," he said. "I'm going to be talking about our promise and how we can achieve it. And of course, in the course of that campaign, I am going to be pointing out the differences between Stephen Harper and myself, the differences between the other leaders and myself. And I will be pointing our where their values are, and where their values differ."

Early polls show Mr. Martin's Liberals slightly ahead in the race. Just under one third of Canadians think Mr. Martin would make the best prime minister, a figure that has remained steady throughout his 17 months in office. Mr. Harper, however, has seen his support shrink from 24 to 20 percent over the same period.

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