New Year - New Government?
Finished off the turkey? Taken down the Christmas lights? Blown your last paycheck at the Boxing Day sales? Made and broken your New Year’s resolutions?
Perfect. Let’s now turn our attention to the Federal Election campaign which never quite took a day off over the Christmas break, even though the rest of us did.
First, let’s re-cap the events of December. The Conservatives ran an announcement-a-day campaign focused on outlining as many diverse policies as possible. This served to neatly debunk the “hidden agenda” mythology touted by the Liberals, and also provided some reassurance to voters that a Conservative government would offer some innovative solutions.
Positions that grabbed the headlines and the imaginations of voters included lowering the GST to 5% from 7%, an annual child care payout of $1200 in place of a cumbersome national day care bureaucracy and a pledge to reduce health care wait times.
Commentators who have been around the block far longer than this one were surprised at the disciplined approach that the Conservatives managed in December. Needing to contrast themselves with the other parties and break out of the anti-scandal box, polling numbers from Ipsos-Reid and SES Research, among others, have shown that the Conservatives have gained the upper hand in the important momentum race coming into the second half of the campaign.
By contrast, Paul Martin and the Liberals lurched from one damage control event to another. Purposely conserving themselves for the after-Christmas phase of the campaign, they appeared directionless and often injured by “friendly fire”, including the infamous beer and popcorn comments and the chow chow/Chow snafu. Episodes like these only served to interrupt their slow and steady message delivery approach.
And then over the holidays, the income trust scandal which had been quietly brewing in the background became the target of an RCMP investigation. Allegations swirled that high-profile investors and lobbyists were tipped off by Finance Ministry officials the day before the government announced much-needed tax relief for these investment vehicles.
Not exactly the present that Martin was hoping for from Santa.
And Layton? Well, the body blow that Layton suffered at the hands of Buzz Hargrove in the first week of the campaign was tough to overcome. The NDP numbers declined significantly through early December, but by end of the second week of the campaign had stabilized somewhat. With his numbers highest in BC and Southern Ontario, expect to see a lot of Jack Layton out here in Lotusland over the next few weeks targeting key seats including David Emerson’s Kingsway riding.
So what’s next? Already the gloves are off. Over Christmas, the Liberals were complaining that the Conservatives had gone negative with their first ad campaign. Quite smart actually - anti-negative negative campaigning.
It doesn’t seem to have stuck, however.
Voters, lately, see right through and often resent negative personal attacks.
It is going to be tough for the Liberals to re-gain the momentum required to hold seats in Ontario and make gains elsewhere. But don’t kid yourself that they won’t use every trick out of the campaign book in their attempt.
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As seen today in 24 Hours Daily.