Canadians went to the polls yesterday in an election that’s sure to
“dramatically change the country’s political landscape,” reports The

– with all polls predicting a victory for Conservative leader
Stephen Harper. Such a result would end nearly 13 years of Liberal
Party rule, shift the country to the right and move to improve
relations with the US. And even if current Prime Minister Paul Martin does
win, he’ll likely head up a weak minority government and find it
difficult to get legislation past a divided House of Commons.

Yet Martin, whose government was toppled in November after a damaging kickback scandal, says he’s confident of victory,
telling a Vancouver radio station, “It’s certainly a close one, but
I’ve got to say I feel pretty good.” And he can afford to be cocky, for
the time being – Canadian law bars the posting of early election
results on the internet
until after the last polls are closed – that’s 1pm our time – to prevent voters from being
influenced, reports The Financial Times.

And the battle for seats was at its fiercest in Ontario, reports The Calgary Sun. With 106 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons at stake in Ontario,
voting patterns in Canada’s most populous province loom large in
deciding who forms the next government.

Meanwhile, the US media is focusing on the possibility of friendlier bilateral relations, particularly after a series of contentious Liberal ads portraying Harper as a George W Bush clone. American reports were careful to note that Harper and
his party have espoused views that differ significantly on several key
fronts from those of U.S. Republicans, saying Americans shouldn’t
expect a far right-wing conversion.