Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper Face Off as Canada Votes

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Image: Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (left), Conservative leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (center) and New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair (right) at the end of a debate on Canada's foreign policy in Toronto on September 28.MARK BLINCH / Reuters

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TORONTO — The son of a man who brought glamor and excitement to Canadian politics in the late 1960s is leading the polls ahead of Monday's election to become the country's prime minister.

Justin Trudeau is aiming to end a decade of Conservative rule under Stephen Harper.

Tall and trim at 43, Trudeau channels the star power — if not quite the political heft — of his late father Pierre, who swept to power in 1968 on a wave of support dubbed "Trudeaumania."

Image: Justin Trudeau looks at poster of his late father
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau looks at a poster of his late father and former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during a campaign stop at a coffee shop in Sainte-Therese, Quebec, on Thursday.CHRIS WATTIE / Reuters

Pierre Trudeau, who was prime minister until 1984 with a short interruption, remains one of the few Canadian politicians known in America, his charisma often drawing comparisons to John F. Kennedy. A bachelor when he became prime minister, he dated actresses Barbra Streisand and Kim Cattrall.

At age 51 while in office, he married 22-year-old Margaret Sinclair, who earned notoriety as first lady for partying with the Rolling Stones and at New York's Studio 54. They had three sons, including Justin, the eldest. The couple divorced when Justin was six and the boys were raised by their father, who died in 2000.

He is responsible for Canada's version of the bill of rights and is credited with opening the door wide to immigration.

If he wins, Justin Trudeau, who has three young children with former model and television host Sophie Gregoire, would become the second-youngest prime minister in Canada's history, despite a thin resume. A former teacher who sported long hair until recently, Trudeau has been an opposition member of Parliament since 2008.

The Conservatives have blitzed the country with TV ads targeting Trudeau, saying: "He's just not ready."

Image: Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (left), Conservative leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (center) and New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair (right) at the end of a debate on Canada's foreign policy in Toronto on September 28.MARK BLINCH / Reuters

But Trudeau is tapping into an appetite for change among many Canadians with promises to cut taxes for the middle class and increase them for the wealthy. He plans to spend billions on infrastructure, running deficits for three years to do so. And he has pledged to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.

Analysts say what Trudeau may lack in his father's intellectual depth, he makes up for in approachability.

"There's a puppy-like quality to him and that's not Pierre," said Robert Bothwell, a Canadian history professor at the University of Toronto. "His father was just not at ease with dealing with crowds or pressing the flesh, but looking at Justin, it comes really natural to him and that's a big difference. Pierre had magnetism and was fascinating and beautiful to watch, but he didn't want them to get close."

Related: Four Things to Know About Canada's Election

Even if the Liberals win the most seats, they're unlikely to secure a majority. They would likely rely on New Democratic Party support in exchange for policy concessions.

Liberals governed Canada for 69 years during the 20th century.

Harper got into politics to destroy Pierre Trudeau's legacy and is seeking a rare fourth term in the hopes of safeguarding his goal of shattering Canada's reputation as a liberal haven. Harper has said he'll step down as Conservative leader if his party loses.

Image: Stephen Harper
Canada's Prime Minister and Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks at rally in Regina, Saskatchewan, on Oct. 18, 2015.MARK BLINCH / Reuters

If he wins, Harper would be the first Canadian prime minister since 1908 to triumph in four consecutive elections.

The Liberals lead the Conservatives by almost 9 percentage points. According to the CTV/Globe and Mail/Nanos Nightly Tracking Poll, the Liberals are at 39.1 percent, followed by the Conservatives at 30.5 percent. The New Democrats are at 19.7 percent. The margin of error for the survey of 800 respondents is 3.7 percentage points.

On Saturday, in what some observers called a desperate move, he attended a Toronto rally organized in part by the city's former crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford.

Speaking to supporters in Toronto on Sunday NDP leader Thomas Mulcair remained feisty, even though his party has sunk to a distant third. Like Trudeau, he is wooing centrist voters in addition to his party's left-leaning base.

David Axelrod, who helped mastermind Barack Obama's 2008 campaign and offered advice to Trudeau's team, tweeted congratulations to Trudeau's top advisers for running a great campaign and said "Hope beats fear."

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