April 30, 2004) OTTAWA
- Parliament Hill was abuzz today following the release of a new Ipsos-Reid poll showing the Liberals having gained five points and the Conservatives having dropped five points in the past three weeks.
Some MPs are crediting or blaming Joe Clark and a growing sense of Adscam fatigue from voters for the reversal in fortunes for the Tories.
It's not surprising given the poll comes just days after former prime minister Joe Clark publicly suggested that Canadians would be better off voting for Prime Minister Paul Martin instead of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper because he's "less dangerous."
The new poll puts the Liberals at 40 per cent, the Tories at 23 per cent, the NDP at 18 per cent and the Bloc Quebecois at 11 per cent.
The poll now puts the Liberals, who are expected to call an election on May 9 for June 14, in a position to win a majority government. Ipsos-Reid has said in the past that 39 per cent is the minimum figure needed to win a majority government.
However, much like Clark's tepid support of Martin, the poll is also not a
ringing endorsement for the Liberals. It found that 59 per cent of respondents
think the Liberals should not be re-elected and it is time to give another party
But just as noteworthy as the Liberals' movement into majority territory is the five-per-cent drop in support for the Conservatives, which had been gaining momentum due largely to the fallout from the sponsorship scandal.
Conservative MP Bill Casey was at a loss to explain the Conservative decline.
"How can you say what happened and why the polls go up and down," he said.
"I don't know if (Clark's) remark did it or not," he added. "I don't hear much about Joe. The only comments I hear about Joe are why did Joe do this and it's kind of too bad that he did it."
However, Casey said that Conservatives are no longer gaining support as a result of the sponsorship scandal because "people have gotten used to the scandal issue."
"I think that they've accepted that the money is gone. I think they're still mad and I think they will reflect that at the polls."
But Casey is optimistic that the Tories will gain in a federal election campaign. He compared the upcoming campaign to the 1993 federal election campaign, which saw the ruling Tories reduced to two seats by the then opposition Liberals.
"It was kind of the same thing where the media was watching for things to happen and they did," said Casey. "And I think that could happen in this election as well. I feel it's the same way only a reverse situation."
Even though they remained unchanged at 18 per cent, NDP MPs and spin doctors were upbeat about the poll and the coming campaign, noting that the party is maintaining the bounce in the polls it has received since Jack Layton became leader last year. They also see that the Conservatives are now on the horizon, just five points ahead of them.
"The most recent poll shows there's a real race now for the Official Opposition," said NDP MP Lorne Nystrom.
He explained that the Tories' drop in the polls could be attributed to the party being "too right-wing, too conservative."
"The public are not stupid. The public know this is Republican Party north," he said, noting the Canadian Alliance's support for the U.S. war in Iraq.
Nystrom also noted that the Tories' drop in support is surprising given the recent party leadership race and the sponsorship scandal, a government accountability scandal that Nystrom said traditionally benefits right-wing parties in opposition.
"They haven't gained anything on this (scandal). They have lost on this."
If the Conservatives' political fortunes were pinned on the sponsorship scandal, then it is not surprising that they are falling in the polls.
The Public Accounts committee investigation into the program reached a climax when the central figure in the scandal, Charles Guite, who was executive director of the program during most of the period examined by Auditor General Sheila Fraser, testified before the committee last week.
But instead of providing the types of answers about how the program operated that MPs wanted to hear, some MPs said after his testimony that his appearance raised more questions than he
answered when he suggested that his meetings with Public Works ministers and the PMO regarding the program was "political input," not interference.
In addition, a string of witnesses over the past three weeks have called into question whether the Auditor General may have overblown the scandal because she and her office were not fully aware of how the advertising industry operates with regards to the fees and commissions they charge.
This suggestion that the Auditor General may have overreacted is now seeping into the media through some of the most respected pundits.
"The sponsorship affair has already ruined the professional lives of most of those who played a role in the program. Now, Fraser's reputation is also on the line," wrote the Toronto Star's Chantal Hebert last week.
And yesterday, with little fanfare from the media, the Liberals on the committee used their majority to push through a revised witness list to call back some witnesses, including Fraser, in what the opposition suggests is an attempt to wrap up the hearings to clear the way for an election call next weekend.
"The Liberals have taken a list of witnesses, prepared with the independent advice of KPMG, and replaced it with their own politically motivated list," said Conservative MP Vic Toews in a statement.
"It appears that the fix is in. Now that the Liberals have taken control over the committee's agenda, it is only a matter of time before they shut down this important exercise entirely."
Check out these related links:
the Ipsos-Reid poll results
recycles military spending plans
question of timing
says his Grits are different
stars in new NDP TV ads
MPs ready to go to the polls
lampooned in new Tory ads
to the Conservative radio ads
says bring on election
© PoliticsWatch 2004. All
rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of
PoliticsWatch content, including by framing, copying, linking or
similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written
consent of Public Interests Research and Communications Inc.
PoliticsWatch is registered trademark of PIRCINC.