Six months ago, it looked like the prime minister was well on his way to his fourth mandate. The public supported his entry into the war on ISIS. They were scared of the terrorists Mr. Harper said were just outside the gates. And the economy seemed to be doing well. But, Michael Warren writes, things have changed:
Today we are losing that war and public support has dropped dramatically. It’s becoming clear the only way to defeat ISIS militarily is to put allied troops on the ground. But that’s too controversial to contemplate before the election. Chances are the Islamic State will consolidate its territory in Iraq, Syria and Libya and continue terrorizing western countries at will. Over the next few months Canadian voters will be reminded of this grim reality on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, the terrorist attacks on Parliament Hill and in Quebec created a climate of fear, amplified and exploited by the government, which provided the prime minister political permission to re-craft the balance between Canadian freedoms and security by writing tougher anti-terrorism laws. Eighty two per cent of Canadians favoured the idea of such legislation. But support had been cut in half by the time the final Bill C-51 was introduced. It was widely criticized for giving CSIS too much power without sufficient oversight and for encroaching on our freedoms and privacy.
And what of the economy? When the Conservatives met their pledge to balance the budget, and with a $7-billion surplus no less, the government’s economic strength seemed unassailable. Add to that the Tories’ promise to spend the surplus on a slate of populist policies — income-splitting, increased limits on tax free savings accounts, expanded child care benefits — and the Conservative outlook could hardly have been sunnier. But for many voters that’s a distant memory.
Since then the opposition parties have advanced their own proposals for income transfers and child-care schemes that have broad voter appeal. Moreover, Canada’s economy shrunk for the first time in four years in the first quarter. Even Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz described the economy’s first three-month performance as “atrocious.”
Add to that the revelations which have come out of the Duffy trial and the prime minister starts to look like the Incarnation of Incompetence. There are three months to go before the election. Recent history suggests that a lot can happen in three months. Things can change dramatically. So making predictions about victory are certainly premature.
Just ask Stephen Harper.