The Canadian Election: Day Four

Healthcare was the main issue at the forefront of today's campaign. Stephen Harper again seized the iniative by promising that a Conservative government would ensure shorter, guaranteed waits for health care.Harper also committed that a Conservative government would ensure that reduced waiting times for health-care services are enforced. Harper also moved to outflank his critics by addressing the issue of two-tier healthcare. "There will be no private, parallel system," Harper promised. Harper gave tangible examples of acceptable wait times.

The leaders of the other parties were again caught reacted to Harper's initiative with Martin and Layton stating they didn't believe the Conservatives would protect healthcare. Duceppe intervened to stress provincial autonomy.

The other major development of the day was the qualified endorsement of the Liberals by Buzz Hargrove, President of the Canadian Automotive Workers Union, which has traditionally supported the NDP. Hargrove encouraged his members to vote Liberal in ridings where it appeared the NDP didmn't have a chance. He also had words of praise for Martin's Liberal minority government. This came a day after Jack Layton campaigned in auto industry country in southern Ontario. Layton had promised help to strengthen the Canadian auto industry in the face of closures by GM. Hargrove swung his 2 by 4 after Layton was on the Prairies campaigning to win seats in ridings where the Conservatives and the NDP are running neck and neck. With friends like Hargrove, Layton doesn't need any enemies. Both in southern Ontario and in Saskatchewan, Layton stressed that in close seats a vote for the Liberals is in effect a vote for the Conservatives.

A new Strategic Counsel poll shows the Liberals leading the Conservatives 35% to 30%, unchanged from their poll earlier in the week. More interesting, however, was that part of the poll which showed that, in the early days of the campaign, voters found Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's messages more credible than those of Prime Minister Paul Martin.

66 per cent of respondents said they found Harper's message that the election is about the need for change "very" or "somewhat" believable.That contrasted with 44 per cent who found Martin's message about the strength of the Canadian economy "very" or "somewhat" believable.

Overall the Consrvatives have had a good first week, with Harper setting the agenda. Martin, on the other hand,seems to have blown his hand by announcing all the pre-election goodies which were widely perceived as an attempt to buy voters.For the most part he was caught reacting to Harper's daily announcements while praising the Liberal economic record.

Layton has yet to find his footing and seize the intiative. The Hargrove announcement today is more of a symbolic blow than one with real impact.

No comments: