2006/01/10

The Election: Day 43

Liberals are still toast but they are beginning to stink.

The Toronto Star this morning carried the EKOS poll which EKOS refused to release last night pre-debate. More bad news for the Liberals.Headline read:

Tories head for majority/Poll shows `breakthrough' for party
`Significant growth' in Ontario, Quebec

Quote:

"Conservatives are charting a course toward a majority on Jan. 23, according to a new national poll completed yesterday.

"The survey, conducted by EKOS Research Associates for the Toronto Star and La Presse, shows Stephen Harper's Conservatives have sailed into majority government territory after a stunning week of rising popularity, largely at the expense of the Liberal party.

"The EKOS survey of 1,240 Canadians through the weekend and yesterday found 39.1 per cent support for the Conservatives. The Liberals had 26.8 per cent support; the NDP 16.2 per cent; the Bloc Québécois 12.6 per cent; and Green party 4.6 per cent.

"This is the breakthrough Harper has been waiting for," EKOS president Frank Graves said.

"In Ontario, the Conservatives have widened the gap to a 10-percentage-point lead over the Liberals. Of the 518 Ontarians surveyed, 43.8 per cent supported the Tories, 33.5 per cent the Liberals, 16.2 per cent the NDP, and 5.4 per cent the Greens.....

"The Conservatives' gains are nationwide, but their most significant growth is in Ontario, where they have surpassed the Liberals in their traditional heartland, and in Quebec, where they are now the leading federalist alternative to the Bloc Québécois," Graves said.

"EKOS's Paul Adams said Harper's popularity is driving the surge. When those surveyed were asked who had the most positive vision for the future, the Conservative leader received 32 per cent support. Prime Minister Paul Martin had 20 per cent, the NDP's Jack Layton 16 per cent, and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe 10 per cent. "None of the above" registered 10 per cent and 12 per cent said they didn't know."

The Globe and Mail reported that some Liberal staffers are beginning to put out feelers for new jobs amid slumping public opinion polls, while other Liberals have resigned themselves to the fact that they need to lose this election to rebuild the party.

Dismayed and somewhat stunned by their collapse in the polls, Martin's Liberals are now clinging to the hope that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper won't hold up under the intense scrutiny of the last two weeks of the election campaign.

There was amazement in many quarters at Martin's surprise Notwihstanding clause stunt. As Paul Wells put it:

"You don't amend the constitution of Canada because you're nine points back. A prime minister who valued the parchment of the constitution above his own hide would understand that."

" Paul Martin is past retirement age. He has been in public life for 23 years, all of it in the Charter Era of Canadian constitutionalism. He is running for Parliament for the sixth time. He ran for his party's leadership twice. He participated in, what, a dozen leadership debates in two different decades? And the role of the Charter was (thanks to Meech and gay marriage) central to all of them? And he never mentioned this little amendment idea. He amended a Supreme Court reference on gay marriage and forgot to ask the Supremes about his amendment package. He has built two different federal Cabinets with MPs who (hi, Roger Gallaway!) sometimes strenuously support the use of Section 33, and he never told them or us he was thinking of ditching it. He has run three-quarters of the longest campaign in 21 years and he never hinted at a plan to launch a constitutional amendment round.

And we're supposed to see this as a serious policy proposal?"

Meanwhile Macleans reported tonight that Liberal MPs and experts are panning Martin's promise to repeal notwithstanding clause.

Quote:

"Paul Martin will have to overcome objections from some provinces, constitutional experts and even some Liberal MPs if he's to deliver on his promise to prevent federal use of the notwithstanding clause.

"The prime minister lobbed the constitutional surprise into the televised leaders' debate Monday night, apparently hoping to catch Conservative Leader Stephen Harper off guard. But it came like a bolt from the blue for Liberal MPs too.

"Nobody discussed it with me prior," said Toronto MP Derek Lee, the longest serving member of the Commons justice committee.

"Other Liberal MPs and senators whose support would be necessary to amend the constitutional clause complained that Martin's debate pronouncement "came out of left field," as one MP put it privately.

"They were confused about how such a change could be implemented and a number of MPs made it clear they'd oppose it.

"I would support retention of the notwithstanding clause," said Mississauga South MP Paul Szabo.

"Lee said he's open to debating the idea but, in general, his view on constitutional matters is: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

"Constitutional law expert Peter Russell was even more blunt: "It would be foolish to throw it out, in my view."

Moreover, Russell said Martin's plan might not even be legal.

Tossing the half-baked idea into the debate in a bid to revive the Liberals' faltering campaign is "a strong argument for saying Paul Martin is not really equipped to govern," added Russell.

"And I'm not a Conservative.""

It appears that Martin's little bombshell attempt to throw Harper off stride may be prove to be a fatal gaffe, even if he manages to eke out a tiny minority. Harper's response about the balance in the constitutional package was indeed the correct one.

The Liberals followed up this mark of desperation with an all out attempt to demonize Harper by repeating their tactics of 2004.They unleashed twelve new Liberal attack ads taking direct aim at Harper.The ads are some of the most negative yet, suggesting Harper is anti-Atlantic Canada, hides an agenda similar to former Ontario premier Mike Harris and that his rise to leadership was bankrolled by rich American right-wingers.The ads also:

Attack Harper's comments to an American think-tank in Montreal when he called the U.S. a light and inspiration to Canadians and the world;
Claim Harper will either have to raise taxes or run a deficit to pay for his campaign promises;
Quote Harper on private health care in the provinces, saying "Why should I care? Why should the federal government how they're managed."
Claim Harper and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe have a close relationship that will not benefit national unity;
Claim that Harper once said Liberal ridings in the west of Canada are either dominated by recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada;
Report comments Harper made to an American audience, advising them not to feel bad for Canada's unemployed, who receive "generous social assistance and unemployment assistance," and that Canada is content to become a second-tier social country;
Quote a U.S. newspaper editorial that described Harper as the most pro-U.S. leader in the western world. Details at CTV.ca

As for tonight's French debate,I followed it for the first hour on CBC Newsworld but at that point I turned it off because the mismatch between the voices of the interpreters and the leaders was ludicrous. My impression to that point was that Duceppe was making his point about Liberal corruption. He described the new/old Option Canada scandal as a "federal" scandal mentioning prominent Conservative as well as Liberal members of the Council for Canadian Unity. Harper may have bolstered his recent rise in the polls in Quebec.

The big question for the next two weeks is: are Canadians finally comfortable enough with Stephen Harper to give him a mandate to govern? Or will they be sucked in by the Liberal smear campaign that will rage in full force?

1 comment:

Mark said...

Yes, they stink to high heaven. the quicker we can kick them out, the quicker we can breathe some fresh air again.