FACTBOX-Canadian federal election set to start

March 24 (Reuters) – Canada’s minority Conservative
government is almost certain to fall on Friday when all three
opposition parties back a motion of nonconfidence presented by
the Liberals, the largest opposition party in the 308-seat
House of Commons.

If the government falls, an election campaign will start
very quickly.

Here is what will happen next and some possible outcomes:

* Legislators are due to vote at around 1:45 p.m. (1745
GMT) on Friday on a Liberal motion saying the House has lost
confidence in the government. If the motion passes, the
government will fall

* Prime Minister Stephen Harper will then go to
Governor-General David Johnston, Canada’s acting head of state,
to ask that Parliament be dissolved and that the date for a
federal election be set. This visit is most likely to take
place on Saturday, and Canadians will vote on either on May 2
or May 9.

* Four main federal parties will take part: the
Conservatives, the Liberals, the left-leaning New Democrats as
well as the separatist Bloc Quebecois, which only campaigns in
the province of Quebec.

The election campaign will center on the following issues:

The economy

– The Conservatives say Canada’s economy is outstripping
the rest of the world and an election now could put that in
peril. The party is promising to keep taxes low while curbing
spending to help cut the budget deficit

– The Liberals agree on the need to cut the deficit but say
Canada cannot afford C$6 billion ($6.12 billion) of corporate
tax cuts due to go into effect this year. They are also
promising to scrap a C$9 billion deal to buy fighter jets from
Lockheed Martin (LMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research)

– The New Democrats also want the corporate tax cuts to be
ended. They are calling for more social spending to help
vulnerable groups such as seniors and children

Ethics

– The Conservatives — who came to power in 2006 promising
to clean up government — have suffered a number of recent
ethical blows. Opposition parties say the problems show the
government is tainted with sleaze and cannot be trusted

The opposition is also upset at what they say is the
government’s excessive secrecy and its abuse of parliamentary
procedures. This week a committee of legislators declared the
government was in contempt of Parliament for failing to
disclose full details of its spending plans.

What is likely to happen?

Polls show the Conservatives would retain power but not
necessarily with enough support to win a majority of the 308
seats in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he needs a majority to
fend off the chances of the opposition parties forming a
coalition. In December 2008 the three parties joined forces in
a bid to oust the Conservatives and Harper only escaped by
persuading the then Governor-General to suspend Parliament.

Since then, Harper has regularly insisted that the three
opposition parties will strike a similar deal after the next
election if the Conservatives do not get a majority. Liberal
leader Michael Ignatieff sidestepped questions about a possible
coalition on Wednesday, while New Democrat leader Jack Layton
said he was willing to work with other parties to advance his
political agenda.

($1=$0.98 Canadian)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)

FACTBOX-Canadian federal election set to start