A new opinion poll puts Canada's minority Conservative government 39% to 28% ahead of the opposition Liberals. This Conservative lead is the reverse of the position before the summer recess when the Liberals enjoyed a narrow lead. That lead had prompted renewed speculation that Canada would be forced to go to the polls again. Another poll, however, suggests a statistical dead heat between the two parties and The Globe and Mail reports that Liberals are still pondering a November election.
Canada has been in electoral deadlock for the last few years. It has twice elected minority conservative administrations although most Canadians have voted for left-leaning parties. The left-wing parties cannot unite but neither can they tolerate the fact that Stephen Harper is Prime Minister – re-elected less than a year ago with an increased number of seats.
Mr Harper has proved a shrewd tactician – constantly going the extra mile to keep in office. This was most in evidence at the start of the year when he embraced a significant fiscal stimulus package in order to thwart an attempt by the opposition parties to oust him. This tactical flexibility has angered many hard core conservatives who remember Mr Harper as an ideologue from his early days on the national stage. Libertarians are particularly unhappy.
The National Post of Canada notes that an election held now would be costly and would be unlikely to change the balance of power in the Ottawa Parliament: "Only the leaders of the small opposition parties — and the power-hungry elements among the Liberals — are hot for a national vote. But a vote now would cost taxpayers about $300-million and is unlikely to produce a Parliament much different from the current one."
The Conservatives are faced with a much stronger opposition leader than at the last election. The current Liberal leader is Michael Ignatieff. Mr Ignatieff will be remembered by many Britons as a regular contributor to left wing newspapers in Britain during the 1980s. He also spent a considerable amount of time in the USA during recent years. The fact that he has been abroad so much has been the subject of a Conservative campaign against him. The Conservatives' 'Just Visiting' website paints Mr Ignatieff has insufficiently committed to Canada. These videos summarise the attack:
Stephen Harper has recently rejigged his core team. The National Post highlights the appointment of John Williamson as his new communications director.