UPDATE 2-Canada’s PM sets May 2 election, slams opposition

* Election on May 2 will be fourth in seven years

* Polls show Conservatives set to retain power

* PM says would be crazy to vote for opposition parties
(Adds quotes, background, details)

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, March 26 (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister
Stephen Harper set May 2 as the date of the next election on
Saturday and said people would be “crazy” to vote for
opposition parties he accused of trying to illegitimately seize
power.

A clearly angry Harper railed against the three opposition
parties that brought his minority Conservative government down
on Friday. The opposition said the government was tainted by
sleaze, had managed the economy poorly and was in contempt of
Parliament.

Polls show the right-of-center Conservatives are set to
retain power in what will be Canada’s fourth election in less
than seven years.

Harper, in power since 2006 with two successive minority
governments, says Canada does not need an election at a time
when economic recovery is still fragile. Canada’s economy is
one of the best performing among industrialized nations.

Harper told reporters that if Conservatives don’t win a
majority in the election, the three opposition parties would
form what he called an illegitimate, unstable and reckless
coalition.

“They are still trying to keep the door open because they
will do it if they get a chance … you don’t try and form a
government if you lost the election. That is not legitimate,”
he said, visibly struggling to curb his temper.

Voting for the opposition, he added, “would be crazy, given
the circumstances Canada faces”.

Harper spoke after visiting Governor General David Johnston
— the representative of Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s head of
state — to seek the dissolution of Parliament.

Michael Ignatieff, leader of the main opposition Liberal
Party, responded by calling Harper a liar.

“He wouldn’t recognize the truth if it walked up and shook
his hand,” he told reporters.

“(He) is out of touch with the priorities of Canadian
families, and he’s led a government whose record of waste,
contempt and abuse of power has gone out of control.”

In December 2008, the Liberals and the left-leaning New
Democrats signed a deal to defeat Harper and the separatist
Bloc Quebecois promised not to bring them down.

Harper’s government, which only escaped being replaced by
that coalition by having Parliament suspended, said on Saturday
the opposition parties had a hidden agenda and were waiting for
another chance to grab power.

“Last time they made some mistakes and we were able to
thwart it. Next time they’ll do it in a way that they cannot be
thwarted,” he said.

Canada’s overall economic policy likely would not change
markedly if either the Conservatives or Liberals won, since
both parties stress the need for austerity and agree on the
importance of paying down a record budget deficit.

Two online polls on Saturday gave the Conservatives a large
lead, reinforcing the suspicion that the opposition had taken a
considerable risk in bringing down the government.

Pollster Nik Nanos of the Nanos Research firm said the
Conservatives were reassured by the numbers, the Liberals were
convinced they could do better than the polls showed, and the
New Democrats were confident they could pick up seats from
their rivals.

“It’s a very odd mixture where everyone is looking at the
same numbers but they have different strategic interpretations
of what it means for themselves,” he told Reuters.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)

UPDATE 2-Canada’s PM sets May 2 election, slams opposition