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From his storefront campaign office on one of Hamilton's major thoroughfares, David Christopherson surveys a landscape of orange and green signs. It's a pleasant sight for a New Democrat who is running in a riding that for so many years has been federal Liberal turf.

Mr. Christopherson is winning the street war against Revenue Minister Stan Keyes and pundits suggest Hamilton Centre is about to fall into NDP hands.

The veteran provincial politician isn't about to say the battle has been won, but there is a feeling here -- and in the other ridings that make up this steel city -- that the Liberals are on their way out.

"Signs don't vote," Mr. Christopherson said. "But they do show momentum in this town. People take that as an indication that . . . there are people who are not only going to vote for you, but are prepared to stand proud and help you get the message out."

In fact, this election could be the last stand for not just one, but two Liberal cabinet ministers from Hamilton. Tony Valeri, the Transport Minister, who won a vicious battle against Sheila Copps for the nomination in Hamilton-East Stoney Creek is in one of the toughest three-way races in Ontario, and critics are giving the edge to NDP candidate Tony DePaulo.

On Hamilton Mountain, veteran Liberal Beth Phinney appears to be trailing her opponents and the NDP is hopeful of taking that riding.

And in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, parts of the constituency are leaning toward Conservative candidate David Sweet while others seem to favour Gordon Guyatt, a New Democrat who is also an outspoken local doctor. Russ Powers, the Liberal, has a fighting chance. But it's tight.

All of this has the NDP dreaming of the unlikely, but not unthinkable, prospect of taking Hamilton's four seats.

"The first thing I noticed going out [to campaign]was the absolute rage that people had against the Liberals," Mr. Christopherson said. "Every day I kept waiting for it to dissipate a little -- it's still there."

Part of that fury was generated by the sponsorship scandal and the feeling that the Liberals had abused their power. Part of it was directed at the budget of Ontario's Liberal Premier, Dalton McGuinty.

"It is totally unfair, I acknowledge that right up front," Mr. Christopherson said. But people say, "the way I see it, a Liberal is a Liberal is a Liberal and I have nothing but disdain for Liberal thinking."

And then there was the treatment of Ms. Copps. The people in Hamilton believe Liberal Leader Paul Martin unfairly denied her a nomination in her riding after turfing her from cabinet.

"Even people who didn't like Sheila thought it was underhanded and unfair," he said. "And secondly, it was disrespectful to a Hamiltonian. We don't get a lot of our citizens that rise that far to become the deputy prime minister of our nation."

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who was a fan of Ms. Copps, was someone to whom the people of Hamilton could relate, said Henry Jacek, a political science professor at the city's McMaster University.

"He could reach people's gut."

But the same is not true of Mr. Martin, Prof. Jacek said.

"He's a corporation president and he's not very direct, he doesn't communicate well," he said. "And then you add on the whole thing about Sheila Copps which has just made so many people angry, particularly your average income and below [average]income people and your immigrants."

And there may be a perception that there are just too many Liberals around, he said. Hamilton's mayor is a Liberal and there is a Liberal majority in the provincial legislature.

But while the rest of the province outside Toronto -- with the exceptions of pockets in the north and in Windsor -- are turning to the Conservatives, Hamilton is leaning NDP, Prof. Jacek said. He suggests the decline of the steel industry and the large number of recent plant closings may be to blame.

"When Hamilton people are worried about pension, health benefits and unemployment as they are now, the NDP is the big beneficiary."

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