1. Conspiracy theory. Stephen Harper's Conservatives are turning their guns on Jack Layton New Democrats now, accusing them of wanting a spring election at all costs - including getting in bed with the separatist Bloc Québécois to get one.
The latest salvo comes in a memo to the Tory faithful released Monday night. "The NDP continues their pre-election scheming with the Bloc Quebecois," it asserts.
Usually the Conservatives focus on criticizing Michael Ignatieff's Liberals. This time, however, their concerns lie with the NDP, which has said it will target many Tory ridings in the next campaign.
Harper strategists arrived at their conclusion based on two recent events. On Monday, senior NDP strategist Brian Topp penned a blog post for The Globe and Mail in which he said he was betting on an election call this spring.
In addition, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe received an overwhelming show of support at his weekend convention and then laid out his demands in the upcoming budget, warning that if they were not met there could be an election.
To the Tories, then, this means that the NDP and the Bloc are in cahoots, especially given their track record. The memo notes that in 2008, Mr. Layton planned a coalition with the Bloc on the advice of Mr. Topp, who played a key role in the negotiations at the time.
The Tories have clearly upped their rhetoric in the past few days. Not only are they circulating these breathless memos but it seems their most recent suite of ads - warning against a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition and showing the Prime Minister in his office working late into the night - are everywhere.
An ad aired during the Grammy Awards show Sunday night and Monday night the anti-coalition attack ad was broadcast during prime time. That kind of ad placement costs many pre-writ dollars.
"Jack Layton and Ottawa NDP want an election and they want a coalition with the Bloc Quebecois," the latest Tory memo says. "He did it before. He'll do it again, and Canada will pay the price."
The Tories notes, too, that NDP national director Brad Lavigne said recently that a campaign could take place "in as little as 30 days." Put this all together and, to the Tories anyway, it spells election.
But Mr. Lavigne is dismissive of the Conservative logic. "Protest much? How can you trust the gang who rail against working with the Bloc on the very same day they're working with the Bloc," he said.
In fact, the Bloc is helping the Tories scrap a law that would allow non-violent offenders to serve just one-sixth of their prison sentence. Now that's co-operation.
2. Widening gap. EKOS pollster Frank Graves is probably wondering where the memo is from the Conservatives criticizing the latest poll from one of his competitors.
An Ipsos Reid survey for Postmedia News and Global National shows a 14-point spread between Stephen Harper's Tories Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, who are polling at 39 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.
It comes on the heels of an EKOS poll Friday, showing a 12.5-point lead for the Tories. Immediately after that poll was released, the Tory spin machine went to work, sending out a memo to supporters saying the numbers were inconsistent with their internal polling.
"In the past pollsters have sometimes reported support for our Party that is unusually high relative to the prevailing data, only to have the anomaly corrected in a subsequent poll, giving the artificial impression of negative momentum," according to the strategists in the memo.
Regardless of the Tory caution, these polls show the Conservatives knocking on the door of a majority government, raising the spectre of a spring election.
And so far nothing from the Conservative Party office, condemning the Ipsos Reid numbers.Report Typo/Error