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Harper thinks the 2015 election will be all about him – he’s right

CAMPBELL CLARK

He talked about Islamic State in Iraq, Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine, crime in Canada, and tax cuts on the way. But Stephen Harper had one main message: I’m the prime minister. Accept no substitute.

The issues themselves were mustered to highlight his experience as a leader, and the portrait of a dangerous and risky world was designed to tell you why you need it. It’s a tune that’s worked twice, in 2008 and 2011, and now, behind Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in the polls, he’s turning it up louder.

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Why this Parliament is all about the next election

CAMPBELL CLARK

When Justin Trudeau got onstage in Markham Friday night and told his audience of Ontario Liberals that someone had asked him if the election campaign had already begun, they all laughed. “I think you know the answer,” he said.

It’s obvious to the parties. The election year – Canada’s first, made inevitable by the fixed election date law that sets an October, 2015, vote – is here.

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NDP hires new digital director, firm who worked for Obama

Josh Wingrove

Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats are taking a page from Barack Obama’s playbook in a bid to close the fundraising gap with the Conservatives and Liberals, ramping up their digital fundraising push as Canada’s political parties face the end of taxpayer subsidies.

This year, the NDP hired Blue State Digital – a firm with ties to Obama campaigns – and its own in-house digital director to boost the party’s online fundraising and outreach. The moves come as the NDP trails its two main rivals in total fundraising, but also as digital campaigns carve out a bigger share of party efforts.

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Health administration is costlier than we think – but not as bad as U.S.

André Picard

For a country that has so much invested in medicare – financially, politically and emotionally – we have shockingly little idea of how much it costs to administer our universal healthcare system.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information publishes an annual report on health spending – which was $211-billion last year, or $5,988 per capita – but the data on administrative costs is thin as a whisper.

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Harper is no big defence spender, and he’s learned that’s OK

CAMPBELL CLARK

When it comes to defence spending, the old Stephen Harper wouldn’t recognize the new one. The new one looks at lot more like Jean Chrétien.

Mr. Harper came to office believing that bigger defence spending paid off in terms of influence, particularly in that most important capital, Washington. But he’s since decided that the results are not worth the extra billions.

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Canada is ‘willing to act’ against ISIS, but what that means is unclear

CAMPBELL CLARK and STEVEN CHASE

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signalled Canada is willing to take part in military action against ISIS in Iraq if major allies mount a coalition to strike at the extremist group.

Though Western countries have been slow to muster concerted efforts to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the United States has challenged allies to form a global coalition – and the Canadian government is now asserting it will do more.

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NDP hopes of Prairie breakthrough dimming: polls

Éric Grenier

New electoral boundaries in Saskatchewan will heighten the competition between the Conservatives and New Democrats in the next election. But can the NDP make the most of this opportunity for a Prairie breakthrough?

The Prairies, and in particular Saskatchewan, are the ancestral home of the New Democrats. Tommy Douglas, the party’s first leader, was a long-time premier for the province. But the area has not returned many NDP MPs to Ottawa over the last few elections: four in 2004, three in 2006, four in 2008, and just two in 2011. All of them were from Manitoba.

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How Ontario premier rejected union leader’s offer to buy LCBO

Adrian Morrow

The leader of one of Ontario’s largest public sector unions has been quietly pressing the government to turn over ownership of its liquor monopoly to his members’ pension plan – an idea that earned him a smack-down from Premier Kathleen Wynne’s office during June’s provincial election.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, is one of the Liberal administration’s most vocal critics on the left, frequently accusing the government of having a secret plan to privatize public services. But Mr. Thomas, apparently, had also been seeking to have the highly lucrative LCBO sold to the OPSEU pension plan.

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Ontario polls swing from Harper, threatening Conservative majority

Éric Grenier

The province that handed Stephen Harper’s Conservatives a majority government in 2011 may be about to take it away, as Ontarians move from the governing Tories back towards Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

The Conservatives won 73 seats in Ontario in the 2011 federal election, the best performance of the party and its predecessors in raw seat count since 1917 and the First World War. The Tories also captured 44 per cent of the vote, their highest share since 1984 when Brian Mulroney won the largest majority government in Canadian history. It was a good year for the party.

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Liberals could nearly sweep Atlantic provinces: polls

Éric Grenier

Seamus O’Regan is only the most recent Atlantic Canadian to throw his lot in with the federal Liberals, as the region looks set to swing over to the party in dramatic fashion.

The former host of CTV’s Canada AM will be seeking the Liberal nomination in the riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, currently represented by NDP MP Ryan Cleary. If polls in the province and the wider region are any indication, Mr. O’Regan has a good chance of winning it.

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