1. Absent PM faces 'virtual tie.' Stephen Harper's decision to kill the compulsory long-form census is killing him in a new national poll, wiping out an 11-point lead he enjoyed over Michael Ignatieff just weeks ago.
The latest EKOS survey shows the Conservatives virtually tied now with the Liberals, 29.7 per cent compared to 28.5 per cent. Pollster Frank Graves calls this the "revenge of propeller-heads" - the educated class in Canada, which seems to have reacted swiftly and negatively to the Tory government's census change.
"This is really a very bad poll for the Conservatives," Mr. Graves says. "They have slipped back into a virtual tie with the Liberals … and looked poised for a disastrous rout in Quebec."
The two-week poll has Jack Layton's NDP at 17.4 per cent, puts the Green Party at 11.1 per cent and shows 10.4 per cent support for the Bloc (13.6 per cent of voters were undecided). The EKOS survey of 3,444 Canadians was conducted between July 21 and Aug. 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Mr. Graves notes the dramatic change in voter intention between the first and second weeks of his poll, which he attributes to the "senseless" census decision and the small success of the Liberal Leader's summer bus tour. He says the last week of data collection "clearly seems to show a significant shift in the voter landscape as the Conservatives slip below the 30-point margin."
Indeed, the Conservatives were at 33.2 per cent in the first week of the poll compared to 25.2 per cent for the Liberals. In the second week, the Tories tumbled while the Liberals gained slightly more than three points.
It might be time, Mr. Graves says, for "Stephen Harper to call in." The pollster was referring to the fact the Prime Minister has been on holidays, not commenting on the big issues for nearly 30 days now.
And it doesn't appear that will change any time soon. The Globe's Steven Chase reports that although the national Conservative caucus is meeting Thursday in Ottawa, Mr. Harper is not planning on taking questions from the press.
As bad as this poll is for the Prime Minister, it may also signal survival for the Liberal Leader, who began the summer under a death watch before his Liberal Express hit the road.
"Although Mr. Ignatieff hasn't achieved a renaissance he is in a considerably stronger position today than at the start of his bus tour," Mr. Graves says.
"So the stalled bus of the infant tour [the Liberal bus broke down temporarily on the first day] which seemed to signal more of a cortege than an express, has been replaced by a highly competitive race."
Still, Mr. Graves notes, the big poll shift is not just the result of the tour. "The public, and in particular Canada's large and growing cohort of university educated, seem to have judged this latest stratagem of a voluntary census as simply senseless."
The EKOS poll indicates that 34.3 per cent of university educated respondents support the Liberals compared to 28.6 per cent for the Conservatives. In the first week, however, the story was different: 30.9 per cent of that same cohort supported the Liberals; 29.7 per cent supported the Tories.
As for regional breakdowns, the EKOS numbers indicate a big retreat from the Conservatives in Quebec - 13.5 per cent of Quebeckers support the Tories compared to 28.2 per cent for the Liberals and 41 per cent for the Bloc Quebecois. In the first week, support for the Tories in Quebec was at 17.8 per cent and the Liberals were at 17.9 per cent.
2. Once more with feeling. Stockwell Day is clearly a risk-taker. Just two days after a wild press conference in which he provoked controversy over his assertion that crime is going unreported in Canada he is will face the media again Thursday morning.
The Treasury Board President is expected to announce a new and expanded definition of a "public office holder" as a way of cracking down even more on lobbying activity in the wake of the Rahim Jaffer affair.
Mr. Day, who is in town with his colleagues for the national Conservative caucus meeting, billed his press conference as about "increasing transparency in Parliament."
Current rules limit ministers and their staff from lobbying for five years after leaving government but this definition is expected to expand to include backbench MPs, including opposition MPs, and parliamentary secretaries.
Mr. Jaffer, a former Edmonton Tory MP, caused a huge kerfuffle this year after it was alleged he was using his former public position to lobby for his private business interests. The RCMP, however, recently cleared him of any wrongdoing.
In advance of Mr. Day's press conference, the Liberals sent out a series of talking points, demanding the government commit to other issues regarding accountability and transparency - including the release of all documents related to Tory decision to scrap the long-form census and enacting the Liberal plan to limit the Prime Minister's powers of prorogation.