Has Harper Missed His Chance Already?

After the testimony of Jean Brault blew open the Adscam scandal and demonstrated the extent of Liberal Party corruption, Stephen Harper had an opening to call new elections and topple the Martin government. He chose to wait until an overwhelming mandate developed to ride it to as close to a majority win as he could get. New polling numbers published in today’s Globe and Mail show, however, that Harper may have been too slow on the trigger:

Liberals have clawed their way back into the lead in a tight race for public support as Prime Minister Paul Martin’s all-out public-relations campaign appears to have caused the Conservatives to slip, a new poll shows.
The poll, conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail and CTV, found the Liberals with the support of 30 per cent of Canadians, compared with 28 per cent for the Conservatives and 18 per cent for the New Democrats.
The results strike a blow at Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s hopes for victory just one day after he vowed to force an election “at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Harper has allowed Martin to take back the momentum that just a week ago appeared unstoppable for the Tories. Martin’s performance in his unprecedented national address had been widely panned, but appears to have been more effective than first thought. His focus on budget bills and his promise to hold January elections has allowed his Liberals to recover their standing among Canadian voters, who now favor delayed elections by almost a 2-1 margin. (Note for American readers: Canadian PMs usually only have televised addresses in times of national emergency; they answer to Parliament and normally address issues directly to the MPs.)
Martin still has a lot of work to do to recover any of his personal popularity, of course; most Canadians still don’t trust him to run the government. The grubby deal he cut with Jack Layton had not yet been announced when this poll was taken. However, clearly the Tories have not capitalized on the anger and frustration of the Canadian electorate, and just as clearly Harper may not be the right man to do so.

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