Harper soars on strength of economy

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Sun Media, Friday, May 21, 2010

In the polling business, they say there comes a point where the numbers talk, and the numbers in the new weekly EKOS poll are talking to the Liberals, telling them something isnít working for them, either the message or the messenger. Or maybe both.

The Conservatives have moved out to a nearly double-digit lead, 34.4% to 25.1% for the Liberals, with the NDP at 15.3% and the Greens at 12%.

Thatís more than a boat length between the Tories and the Grits. Itís getting to be open water between them. The regional breakouts are downright scary for the Liberals, who trail the Conservatives in every region of the country and have fallen far behind the Bloc in Quebec.

It isnít just the West where the Conservatives are in command. According to EKOS, theyíve moved out to a seven-point lead, 38-31, in the Liberal heartland of Ontario. Never mind the Liberals as the Greater Toronto Area party ó these numbers would reduce them to just a downtown Toronto party, leaving the suburban belt largely to the Tories. Even in the Atlantic, regarded as unassailably Liberal, the Conservatives lead by five points.

And this after weeks of blistering attacks ó enabled by the Hill media ó on the Jaffer-Guergis affair, the Afghan detainee paper trail and whether abortion should be part of the overseas maternal health initiative. The Liberals have failed to move public opinion their way. If anything, it is moving the other way.

Again, they need to look at both the message and the messenger.

The voters arenít buying into these narratives because they donít care about them and they donít care about them because these storylines donít have any effect on their lives.

What does? The economy, stupid. And the economy is working for Stephen Harper. Canada has come out of the recession in better shape than any of our G8 partners, the ones weíll be hosting in Muskoka next month (and if you think the Friday night drive from Toronto is a nightmare, wait ítil the weekend of the summit).

Canadaís current deficit forecast of $53 billion is only about 3% of GDP, compared to $1.6 trillion or 11% of GDP in the U.S., and $400 billion and a staggering 13% of output in the U.K. Welcome to Downing St., Cameron and Clegg, have a nice day. Our net federal debt of 33% of GDP is again the best story by far in the G7. The strength of the loonie is not only a reflection of its status as a petrocurrency, but Canadaís strong fiscal fundamentals.

As for the Greek disease, fast becoming the euro disease, its impact is apparent in the turmoil in global markets over the last two weeks. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is quite right when he says, ďCanada is not an island.Ē

Even so, our banking system is the strongest in the world. Boring is good, Boring works.

So on the one hand, Harper is winning on competence, one of two core attributes of leadership. The other is trust, which has always been his weak spot.

But Ignatieff is getting pounded on both. As Opposition leader, he has no way of proving his competence to govern, except for the competence of his tour and the coherence of his message.

And then thereís the messenger. Thatís a whole other story.

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