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Prorogation 'Aha! moment' punishes Tories in poll Add to ...

1. Tory tipping point Public anger over Stephen Harper's decision to shut down Parliament is "the real deal," EKOS pollster Frank Graves says. And one way for the Prime Minister to recover is to recall the House.

For the second week in a row, EKOS is showing the Conservatives and Michael Ignatieff Liberals in a dead heat - 31.6 per cent for the Grits compared to 31.1 per cent for the Tories - despite the accolades Mr. Harper and his team are receiving on their response to the Haiti earthquake crisis. The lates survey puts the NDP at 14.6 per cent; the Bloc at 9.1 per cent and the Green Party at 11 per cent.

Mr. Graves says the "new normal" is now parity between the two big parties. The Tories have lost their 10-point lead over the Liberals as a result of prorogation issue, he says.

The poll of 3,206 Canadians was conducted between Jan. 20 and Jan. 26. Mr. Graves says the fact the Haiti response is not blunting the anger over prorogation may indicate "a growing reticence to give credit to the government for things that are seen as a people-of-Canada response or a taxpayers response."

His poll also shows the Liberals regaining their hold in Ontario. It had been slipping, but the latest EKOS numbers show the Liberals with 39.2 per cent in Ontario compared to 31.6 per cent for the Conservatives. The Liberals also have a stronger base now in the other key voter battleground: Quebec. There, the Liberals are at 29.1 per cent compared to 16.2 per cent for the Tories.

And the theory that the Tories are hoping a good Olympic result will somehow propel to a majority government is quickly fading, the pollster says. He believes the nerves of Conservative strategists are now being "sorely tested" if they believe the "prorogation controversy will evaporate in the warmth of the Olympic euphoria."

This, he says, is a "tipping point" issue. It is the "Aha! moment" for voters, who are now saying, "No, I've had it. I've had enough."

Mr. Graves says his data on Mr. Harper's approval numbers shows that all of the anger is being put on his shoulders - 60 per cent of Canadians now disapprove of his performance compared to 42 per cent two months ago. "That is the worst it has ever been," Mr. Graves said. Meanwhile, the pollster says bringing the House back would be a "very smart move."

"I think the public would go, 'Well, duh he got it and at least he's not this sort of inflexible autocrat.'"



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2. Liberal show and tell. Michael Ignatieff's communications director, Mario Laguë, briefed the national caucus yesterday, telling MPs and senators to show Canadians rather than tell them that Stephen Harper's Conservatives are haughty, not transparent or accountable. He said actions speak better than words, according to an inside caucus source.

"Saying something is one thing, showing it is another," according to another source. "And you can say it efficiently if you have shown it often enough."

Mr. Laguë pointed to the recent panel of three ex-watchdogs of arms-length government tribunals - Paul Kenney, Peter Tinsley and Linda Keen - who appeared before the caucus earlier this week. The trio talked about the control of the PMO and suggested they were no longer in their positions because the government didn't like what it had heard from them.

Mr. Ignatieff and his team made headlines with that panel.

"We can repeat that Harper has fired highly competent watchdogs, and we did," a source says about Mr. Laguë's presentation. "But when the public sees and hear them, you can trust that people will make the call themselves on their competence and question the government's motive in firing them."

Meanwhile, Mr. Laguë also cautioned caucus members to be disciplined and to stick to the message - freelancing was discouraged.

That message was underlined by Mr. Ignatieff, according to the source. He is feeling pretty good these days as a result of strengthening national poll numbers and a successful tour of national university and college campuses. The insider said Mr. Ignatieff credited the successes so far with the team being more disciplined.

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