The Election: Day 52

According to a poll conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail-CTV News two-thirds of Canadians say it's time to change the government. This poll indicates that the Conservatives continue to hold a double-digit polling lead (16 points)despite some tightening and apparent resistance from the Liberal stronghold of the Greater Toronto Area. Nationally the results are:

Conservative 41%
Liberal 25%
NDP 17%
Bloc 12%
Green 5%

The desire for change has grown most in Quebec, where 83 per cent say it's time for a change, up from 59 per cent when the election was called. The desire for change is up across the country. However, the most resistant voters are in Ontario. Ontario continues to be the Liberals' last bastion as voters in the Greater Toronto Area continue to support Paul Martin's party over the Tories.

Turnout at advance polls for the federal election this year jumped by about 25 per cent compared to the 2004 election.

Perhaps the most significant development in this election has been a seismic shift in Quebec. Chantal Hebert describes the changes occurring there during this election:

"For the first time in over a decade, it is once again politically correct to support the Conservatives in Central Canada. After a 13-year absence, the party has returned to the mainstream and, from all indications, it is there to stay.

"But it goes beyond that. Quebec has been the scene of a dramatic shift, a sea change whose implications are still difficult to measure except to know that they are significant.

"Consider the following:

"This was never going to be a good year to run as a federal Liberal in Quebec. But if Quebecers had only wanted to punish Paul Martin for the failings of his party and his government, they would have stuck with the Bloc Québécois.

"Gilles Duceppe remains Quebec's most respected leader. He has run a campaign whose only fault to date has been its predictability. For his pains, he has recorded a double-digit loss in support since the election call. According to a CROP poll published this week, the Bloc could come out of the election with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote on Monday. In the Quebec City area, it has actually fallen behind the Conservatives.

"Harper's surge in Quebec caught the Bloc completely off guard. It seems its counteroffensive was too late in coming to nip it in the bud.

"That a leader from Alberta — whose policies remain controversial in Quebec — is the beneficiary of this turn-around makes it even more remarkable......

"Regardless of Monday's seat count in Quebec, this will have lasting consequences. For better or for worse, the Conservative party has for now become the federalist option of choice in Quebec. For the foreseeable future, it — rather than the Liberals — stands to attract the better candidates....

"The sovereignty movement is the biggest immediate loser of Quebec's flirt with Harper. In the short term at least, the momentum toward another referendum has been reversed. For those who harbour the dream of a winning referendum at the first opportunity, this is a wake-up call that will be difficult to ignore."

Conservatives themselves say they may have difficulty cashing in on their new-found popularity in Quebec because they don't know who many of the voters are and they face problems getting some of them to the polls.

Today Stephen Harper moved to correct an impression left by remarks he made yesterday. In an article entitled: "I'm an ally for public servants" in the Ottawa Citizen, Harper vowed to extend "an open hand to all public servants" if he's elected, saying he would prevent political aides from receiving preferential treatment when applying for public service positions.

"First and foremost, and contrary to fearmongering, we have no plans to cut department program spending. In fact, our plan commits us to moderate spending growth from now through 2011."

Harper called on public servants to "renew the partnership that has built this country for more than a century."

The government has often blamed its mistakes on the public service, he wrote.

"We would end the practice of allowing political staff and party supporters to displace veteran public servants with greater experience or qualification," he wrote. "We would also create a Public Appointments Commission which would set merit-based requirements for appointments to government boards, commissions and agencies, so that competitions for key posts are both widely publicized and fairly conducted."

As the election campaign enters its final days, Paul Martin has been hammering away at Stephen Harper, using his recent comments about the Supreme Court as a battering ram to try and dent his armour.(
CTV News)

Harper, meanwhile, is doing his best to play it safe and maintain momentum in the last few days before Canadians go to the polls, without letting the Tory train slip off the tracks.

Martin stepped up his attempts to try and drive a wedge between Harper and voters
by claiming to stack the courts with hard-core social conservatives. He keeps raising the specter that Harper will reopen the debate on abortion and claw-back same-sex marriage rights.

Harper keeps insisting that he has no plans to reopen the abortion debate, but has said he would allow a free vote in Parliament to decide whether the same sex issue should be revisited.

Meanwhile NDP Leader Jack Layton is coming under fire from his critics in his own party for running a campaign that they say is helping to elect a Stephen Harper government. The charge occurred as Layton continued his strategy of attacking the second-place Liberals while they're down.Campaigning in B.C., Layton for the first timed turned his attention to Harper. He warned B.C. voters that supporting Harper would mean bringing in a right-wing agenda similar to those of Gordon Campbell, Bill Bennett and Bill Vander Zalm.


Anonymous said...

Has the leopard changed its spots?

Interesting article in today’s Toronto Star by David Crane, which summarizes the discomfort felt by many at Harper’s apparent “evolution” (as Harper describes it). Some extracts follow (my capitalization):

“Crane: Has Harper really moved left?
Jan. 20, 2006. 07:48 AM

.... Yet big questions remain about what a Harper government would be like. Has Harper really changed from a right-wing ideologue to a middle-of-the-road Conservative? IS THE NEW HARPER MORE THAN SKIN DEEP? OR IS HIS CAMPAIGN SIMPLY AN EXPEDIENT RESPONSE TO INTENSIVE CONSERVATIVE POLLING?

Harper's history is of a strong believer in small government and especially a weak national government, devolution of power to the provinces, as well as being a social conservative seemingly more in tune with the religious right than mainstream Canadian values.

In a telling profile by Marci McDonald in Walrus magazine of members of the so-called Calgary School, a group of Alberta academics who have an almost pathological dislike of both the federal government and Ontario, Harper's neoconservative credentials as part of that group are spelled out. THE ARTICLE QUOTES TED BYFIELD, A LEADING VOICE OF A QUASI-SEPARATIST WESTERN CANADA AND HARPER SUPPORTER AS SAYING AFTER THE 2004 ELECTION, "THE ISSUE NOW IS: HOW DO WE FOOL THE WORLD INTO THINKING WE'RE MOVING TO THE LEFT WHEN WE'RE NOT."

On Canada-U.S. relations, he says he would "demand" the United States repay the duties on Canadian softwood that it illegally collected. But what does that mean? Harper has said he would have supported the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, has talked of a customs union with the United States, shares the Bush administration's opposition to the Kyoto accord and other strong action to deal with climate change, and would review Canada's position on ballistic missile defence.

On the big issue of the fiscal structure of Canada — the division of spending and taxing powers of the federal and provincial governments — Harper believes in reducing the role of Ottawa and handing over powers and revenue to the provinces. He calls this correcting the "fiscal imbalance" but is vague on what this would mean.
The danger is that it could end up meaning a much weaker national government able to act on behalf of all Canadians.

The single most damaging promise he has made is to replace Canada's initiative on early childhood development and replace it with a family allowance of $100 a month for every child under 6. Harper's plan is based on the idea that women should stay at home and not work, since they are the main beneficiaries of his proposal, while early childhood development is about ensuring youngsters are ready to learn when they enter the school system.

In many respects we are entering uncharted territory. It would be easier if we knew which is the real Stephen Harper.”

cardinal47 said...

Well, I guess we know who the real Paul Martin is. A vain ambitious man disloyal to his leader and his party with an all-consuming desire to be king. Once he secured the crown he didn't know what to do with it. He didn't have the royal jelly