Chances for Martin and the Liberals are dimming. Their best chance to stop the Conservative momentum came and went with the final English-language debate. They needed a knockout there, and they didn't get it. Their next best chance--and a real one--was the French-language debate. If they could stop Harper's momentum in Quebec, they could stop it in Ontario too. It is hard to judge without seeing it, here in the Middle East, but I gather the knockout, if knockout there was, landed instead on Paul Martin. He seems at one point to confuse Stephen Harper with Jack Layton. That makes him seem old and tired, and boosts the
"time for a change" argument. Both Layton and Harper also accused him, plausibly, of falsifying their platforms. This may hurt him on credibility and honesty, which is the main issue in Quebec.
The last Liberal chance is a full-blown smear campaign in their late TV ads. That has now begun. Harper is criticized, among other odd things, for his supposed links to a so-called "secret, ultra right-wing American think-tank." Shades of the Trilateral Commission. Shades of the old "hidden agenda."
I think there is a real chance that, like their promises of new spending, these attacks will backfire on the Liberals. First, being a rerun of what they did last campaign, it looks old and tired. Second, given their growing record of scandal, people are probably now less disposed to believe them. And third, any exaggeration reminds the voters that the Liberal word is not reliable, reinforcing their problems with perceived lack of integrity. All the Conservatives need is to land one good strong refutation to any one of the charges, in the national press. If the press will cooperate.
The latest Toronto Star/Ekos poll, out yesterday, shows the Tories moving into majority territory, and ahead of the Liberals in Quebec.
I think we now have the possibility of a landslide.
With the Tories clearly ahead of the Liberals in Quebec, they become the federalist alternative. That will drain a lot of votes from the Liberals there. And a lot of votes from the BQ--people who were against corruption, not for separatism.
Ontario, where the Tories are now leading, should swing further in that direction, confident now that electing the Conservatives will not alienate Quebec. Ontario usually votes for a different party federally and provincially: it appeals to the province's innate caution.
I now expect a Conservative majority government.