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(JONATHAN HAYWARD)
(JONATHAN HAYWARD)

Ottawa Notebook

The silly season Add to ...

Frank Graves describes the political season that was as a "melodrama" in four parts - "Harpermania!", "the Damn Detainee thing", "Prorogation Follies" and "Much Ado about nothing." And the EKOS pollster concludes that "this melodrama is highly uncertain and now looks very different from what we expected in the fall."

Here's how he got there: Mr. Graves and his team have conducted more than 100,000 random interviews with Canadians since September. The weekly EKOS polls have tracked the rhythms of the past year.

Looking at last fall, Mr. Graves compares Stephen Harper's "compelling Michael Buble impersonation" at the National Arts Centre (Mr. Harper played the piano and sang) with that of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's "Trudeauesque gunslinger showdown".

Remember, Mr. Ignatieff threatened to try to bring down the Harper government - "Mr. Harper, your time is up," he said at a caucus meeting in Sudbury - and then failed miserably.

"The Trudeau redux manoeuvre leaves him [Mr. Ignatieff]gasping in the dust 15 points down and with his approval rating plummeting," writes Mr. Graves, in his analysis.

Mr. Harper and his Conservatives, meanwhile, rose to majority government territory levels and maintained that for a number of weeks.

But then came along the Afghan detainee document controversy, which provoked what Mr. Graves describes as the "prorogation follies."

He says the issue about handing over the secret documents to the opposition morphed into "a question of whether there was a concerted cover-up."

"Pulling the plug on Parliament (at the beginning of the year) seemed to be the prudent political answer; out of sight out of mind," he notes.

Seemed to be a good idea at the time until it backfired on the Conservatives as Canadians became enraged at the shutdown of Parliament.

He says the prorogation issue "marked a real transformation in CPC fortunes" from being able to form a majority to barely holding on to being able to form a government.

"With very few exceptions in our weekly polls since the new year the CPC has descended from the dizzying low 40s of the Fall to dismal low 30s … the only silver lining in these dark clouds is the even worse performance of Michael Ignatieff who manages to descend even below the humble 26 point of his predecessor," says Mr. Graves.

In his last chapter of the political soap opera, Mr. Graves writes about the shift in focus in the last few months of Parliament to the "prurient speculation" about cocaine use, so-called busty hookers and the lifestyle of former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer and his wife, former Harper cabinet minister, Helena Guergis.

"This sidetrack seems to backfire on the LPC as the public expected something a little more uplifting in the halls of Parliament," says Mr. Graves.

And after all of this, the House rose last week for the summer with the Tories just slightly ahead of the Liberals but no one even close to forming a majority government.

Today's EKOS poll shows the Tories with 31 per cent compared to the Liberals with 27.7 per cent; the NDP are at 16.5 per cent; the Bloc is at 9.3 per cent and the Green Party is polling at 13 per cent.

"With the summer now here, stingy voters have no clear choice as to who should rule if there were to be an election now," he writes.

 

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