Oh, How Things Change

Posted on Sunday, January 21 at 09:59 by jensonj
It was a heady time for the Conservatives. Paul Martin, his government mortally wounded by Liberal scandals, was out after fizzling in the prime minister's job. And as the Tories got down to work, Canadians seemed impressed with Harper's activist agenda and the targeted tax cuts in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's sure-footed first budget. By May, many Liberals were talking dispiritedly about five or six years in the political wilderness. But Harper's upward trajectory was short-lived. And now the government faces a shifting political landscape that is forcing it to redefine its priorities and adjust to pockets of adverse regional reaction that threaten to undercut its game plan for re-election. As Canadians' concerns have evolved, Harper finds himself fighting to keep the public onside in a bloody conflict in Afghanistan and overcome a glaring failure to anticipate the emergence of the environment as an overriding national issue. As well, the government has been weighed down by controversies over Middle East policy, accusations of a Mike Harris-like tendency to slash social programs and investor anger from the stunning reversal of the Conservative promise not to tamper with income trusts. Also, the political picture has been greatly altered by a decline in public disgust over the sponsorship scandal, particularly in Quebec, says pollster Frank Graves. "It's striking how rapidly that's receded and how quickly the issues have shifted to things that are not particularly favouring the Conservatives" such as Afghanistan and the environment, says Graves, president of EKOS Research. Although the timing of the minority government's defeat in Parliament and the next election remain up in the air, the opposition parties are circling for the kill at the most opportune moment to capitalize on the Conservatives' inability to consolidate their strategic advantage. http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/173017 [Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 22, 2007]

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