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Hold your breath. Or rather, don’t. Even though we’re now officially into an election year, the prime minister insists he has no plans to go to the polls before the fixed election date of Oct. 19, 2015.
The opposition certainly isn’t buying the prime minister’s claims.
“I believe we’re in a three-way race going into 2015,” he says. “I think across this country, depending on which region you’re in, the race looks a little different. But boy-oh-boy, 2015 is going to be an exciting year.”
For the Conservatives, the pre-election narrative will go something like this.
In this, look for the focus to be on economic management, the completion of trade deals and Harper’s emergence on the international scene, whether it’s talking tough to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, or winning plaudits for driving the UN’s maternal and child-health initiative in developing countries.
“If I’m the prime minister that’s a significant advantage,” a Liberal strategist says. “We’ve closed the gap. But with no spending limits pre-writ, the Conservatives have the money to promote their agenda.”
And it’s not just the party’s bank roll that’s in play.
The Conservatives haven’t been at all shy about using government resources to promote their legislative initiatives, the most recent being the ad barrage around the fall economic update, which brought in income-splitting for families with children, and enhanced the universal child-care benefit.
In both cases, voters won’t see the results until later this year.
New Democrats are busy constructing their own narrative about the Conservative’s record over nine years in office — a record they argue includes the Senate scandal, election fraud and a total disregard for the environment.
Both opposition parties insist most families will see little if any savings from the so-called family tax cut.
“I think the opposition has to get going if they want to counter the spin that the Conservatives are the best economic managers around,” says David McLaughlin, a former Conservative chief of staff and campaign strategist.
That’s not to say the Conservative don’t have challenges of their own, particularly with the price of oil now sitting at roughly $ 30-a-barrel less than what the government forecast.
But both opposition parties have their own problems as well, heading into 2015.
The New Democrats are mired in third in nearly every public opinion poll, and former caucus chair Glenn Thibeault bolted to run for the Ontario Liberals just before Christmas, saying it was where he could best serve his Sudbury constituents.
As for the Liberals, Trudeau has yet to lay out a policy agenda. And there has been significant confusion over some of the positions he has taken, such as on sending fighter jets to Iraq and announcing that all of his candidates must be pro-choice.
It all makes for an interesting lead-up to this election year.
So, hold your breath, or don’t. Circle Oct. 19 on your calendar.
But you might want to do it in pencil.