The leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, one of the main contenders in this month’s federal election, will seek to overturn the country’s gay marriage laws if he is elected prime minister.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper, currently leading in national polls, plans to hold a conscience vote in parliament on the issue if his party wins government.

Gay marriage was legalised in June 2005 after Prime Minister Paul Martin instructed all ministers and parliamentary secretaries in his Liberal Party to vote in favour of the legislation.

It will be a genuine free vote when I’m prime minister. I will not whip our cabinet, Harper said, CTV News reported.

I would simply ask the House of Commons in a motion whether they want to table legislation on the marriage issue to change the definition of marriage, he said. If the motion is defeated, we won’t proceed.

If the motion passed, Harper said marriage would be redefined to being between a man and a woman, but he would allow existing same-sex marriages to continue.

Harper is Martin’s main opponent in the 23 January election, and the vote is expected to be close.

The latest poll of 1,000 Canadians, published this week, found the Conservatives had 36 percent support among voters, compared to the Liberals who have dropped to just 27 percent, CNews reported.

Following a televised debate between the candidates this week, political commentators and viewers agreed Harper came out on top. A national poll conducted after the debate found 34 percent thought Harper had won, compared to Martin’s 30 percent, the Edmonton Sun reported.

During the debate Martin announced that if re-elected he would protect same-sex marriage by removing from the constitution the right of federal governments to override high court decisions.

About 3,000 same-sex couples have been married across Canada, CTV News said.

The Canadian parliament was dissolved last November after a vote of no confidence in Martin’s minority Liberal government, forcing an election. All 308 seats in the lower house are up for grabs.

© Star Observer 2017 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.