2006/01/12

The Election: Day 45 (How far will the Liberals fall?)

The Strategic Counsel poll shows the Conservatives leading the Liberals by 12 points (39 % vs 27%)and probably headed towards a majority government. Meanwhile Paul Martin's personal popularity is plummeting, especially in Quebec. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has for the first time displaced Martin as the politician Canadians most favour to lead the country. Mr. Harper has the trust of 32 per cent of voters, compared with 25 per cent for Mr. Martin and 17 per cent for NDP Leader Jack Layton.

According to the Strategic Counsel,Martin's disapproval rating in Quebec has hit a historic high. 80 per cent of Quebecers say they now have an unfavourable impression of Mr. Martin, with 46 per cent saying their view is "very unfavourable."

"Those are huge numbers," Pollster Allan Gregg said. "He has come to represent something in that province that the population clearly does not like at a visceral level."

Mr. Gregg, who was a Progressive Conservative pollster in the 1980s, said he has seen nothing like it before, except outside Quebec in the waning months of the Mulroney era, "when spittle would run down their chins" at the mere mention of the prime minister's name.

Meanwhile, Thursday Paul Martin acknowledged that he approved a series of controversial ads targeting Stephen Harper, including one suggesting the Tories would station armed soldiers on the streets of Canadian cities. But he denied that that particular ad, which was pulled from the Liberal website, was intended as an attack on the Armed Forces. Martin told reporters he supports the military and the ad has been misunderstood.

The ad says: "Stephen Harper actually announced he wants to increase military presence in our cities. Canadian cities. Soldiers with guns. In our cities. In Canada." This is accomanied by an ominous drumbeat.

Attempting to deflect the widespread condemnation of this ad, Martin said the ad was intended to criticize the Conservatives' policy because it would spread soldiers too far apart across the country. (I just saw him say this on CBC TV . His nose grew 5 inches as he spoke.)

In another development today Stephen Harper dumped a B.C. candidate who faces charges of attempting to smuggle a car and booze across the Canada-U.S. border. Responding decisively when these charges became known, Stephen Harper said that it's too late to replace Derek Zeisman as a candidate, but that he wouldn't be allowed to join the caucus. "Mr. Zeisman will not be sitting as a Conservative should he be elected," Harper said. "He'll have to get this matter resolved."

Stephen Harper also grabbed the headlines when he stated that a Conservative government would turn its back on the Kyoto accord and set its own targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The accord's targets cannot be met either internationally or within Canada, Harper said, citing the country's woeful record on climate change since the agreement was signed in 1997.

"The Kyoto accord will not succeed at achieving its objectives and this government — the Canadian government — cannot achieve its objectives," Harper said.

Harper did not state explicitly whether a Conservative government would seek to withdraw Canada from the accord. It would be possible for Canada to get out of Kyoto, but not until Feb. 16, 2008, the three-year anniversary of the treaty coming into force.

A new analysis from the C.D. Howe Institute, reported today in the Globe and Mail, shows Stephen Harper's plan to cut the GST would be more beneficial to lower-income Canadians than the Liberal cuts to personal income tax rates. An analysis prepared for the Globe and Mail by Finn Poschmann, C.D. Howe's associate director of research, indicates that people who earn less than $25,000 a year would be better off with a GST reduction, while most other Canadians with incomes up to $125,000 would see roughly equal benefits from either proposal.

"There's no question the GST cut is better for low-income households -- not a lot better, but it's a heck of a lot better than zero," Mr. Poschmann said. "But it's pretty much a wash for everybody else, except for the highest incomes."

Finally I recommend for your reading a thought-provoking column in today's Toronto Star by Jim Travers, the theme of which is that the Liberals messy campaign shows that Martin is a poor leader. Here's an extract:

"What's wrong with a Liberal campaign now free-falling toward a jolting landing is what's wrong with Paul Martin as prime minister.

Contradictory, inconsistent and still searching for a focus, this Liberal tour and Martin's leadership reflect the dangers of power exercised without discipline.

Even the most desperate attack advertising — and new Liberal television spots shout panic — can't hide that this election isn't about Stephen Harper. It's about expectations Martin couldn't meet, a pinball government that ricochets bumper-to-bumper and a ruling party so accustomed to privilege that skimming public money to pay friends is just taking care of business.

Democracy may be a slow-witted beast but it's smart enough to know when the risk of change is less frightening than the risk of doing nothing.

So Liberals who foolishly believed they could fight and win this election the way they fought and won the last must now stop the erosion of core support and find the energy to soldier through 11 difficult days."

1 comment:

Brian said...

I predict the Liberals will fall to 80-90 seats.