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CAMPAIGN NOTEBOOK
by John Ibbitson (@JohnIbbitson) from Ottawa

So much for the phony war. Instead, we have a election dominated by conflicting policy choices that's already fascinating to watch.

Many of us assumed that Stephen Harper's decision to launch the federal election in August would mean little more than some desultory campaigning buttressed by relentless Tory attack ads. And things certainly started out that way.

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But then came the latest revelations in the Mike Duffy trial, and news of a surprise recession, and the explosive escalation of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Now we enter the meat of the campaign with policy dominating everything. Is the Conservative approach of combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, while limiting the intake of refugees, prudent or cruel? Are the Liberals and NDP calls for a massive increase in refugee intake compassionate or rash?

Is Justin Trudeau's plan for $10 billion deficits to boost infrastructure spending economically sound? And how about the NDP plan to create a national subsidized child-care program while balancing the budget?

In the end voters will choose which leader they trust to lead the country. But they will frame that decision within a policy-rich environment, with three different parties employing three different approaches.

This is what elections are supposed to be like. This is fun.

DAILY TRACKING FROM NANOS RESEARCH

Nik Nanos: "If an election were held over the holiday weekend, it would be a two-horse race between the NDP and the Liberals."

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• Bloc: 3.7 per cent (down 0.3 from last week)

• Conservatives: 26.2 per cent (down 2.3 from last week)

• Green: 6.0 per cent (up 0.2 from last week)

• Liberals: 30.8 per cent (up 0.6 from last week)

• NDP: 32.7 per cent (up 2.3 from last week)

Nanos surveys the opinions of 1,200 Canadians over three days by phone (cell and landline). The results are considered accurate 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Read more on methodology.

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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

FROM CHRIS HANNAY (@channay)

  • Conservative support has dropped in the last week, according to a new poll, and Nik Nanos thinks it might be because of the Syrian refugee crisis.
  • Some Canadian banks are helping investors from China skirt that country’s law by investing in real estate.
  • The only person that acted unethically in my office was Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper said in an interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge.
  • Justin Trudeau may be at odds with his father on a parliamentary question, according to an interview the Liberal Leader gave to CBC.
  • Ontario and its teachers are close to an agreement but not there yet.

TODAY's ELECTION PREDICTION:

The NDP post strong results in B.C. and Ontario to win 133 seats, enough for a minority government, while the Conservatives take 107 and the Liberals 96. Try your hand out our simulator and find out what could happen if an election were held today.

Overall, the NDP currently have a 53 per cent chance of winning the most seats.

WHERE THE LEADERS ARE

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Conservative Leader Stephen Harper continues a tour of the Greater Toronto Area today, appearing with Mississauga—Malton candidate Jagdish Grewal at 9 a.m. at the Mississauga Convention Centre. In the evening, he heads to St. Catharines, Ont. For an event at 6:30 p.m.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair begins the day in his home base of Montreal, with events at 9:15 a.m. and noon, before heading to a rally in Toronto in the evening.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is in Atlantic Canada today. He starts off with a breakfast with local Liberals in Amherst, N.S., at 8 a.m., then makes stops in Bouctouche and Neguac, N.B., before ending the day with a barbecue in Fredericton at 6 p.m.

BANK OF CANADA HAS A CHOICE TO MAKE

Will they or won't they? The Bank of Canada shocked the nation earlier this year when it suddenly cut the key interest rate. Now Stephen Poloz will have to decide whether to cut it lower than 0.5 per cent, as economists present differing views of Canada's technical recession. Ian McGugan explains why he thinks the rate will stay as it is.

WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

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"As everyone knows, Mr. Harper favours wedge politics. Divide and conquer has been his political strategy. On Syria, he opposes a major expansion in the number of refugees the country welcomes. He highlights his government's contribution to the air war against the Islamic State. He's right in this aspect of his approach. It's commendable. But even if successful, it won't stop Syria's civil war." – Lawrence Martin on Stephen Harper's statesmanship.

  • John Ibbitson (Globe and Mail): “After an August overture, now begins a three-act political drama starring energized Liberals, challenged Conservatives and an NDP newcomer that has never before been centre stage.”
  • Chantal Hébert (Toronto Star): “It is still possible to chart a path to victory for the Conservatives, the New Democrats or the Liberals.
  • Christie Blatchford (National Post): “Who are these people and how on Earth can they think so well of themselves yet be such unremitting knobs?”

LOOKAHEAD: WHAT TO EXPECT THIS WEEK

The Bank of Canada will release a rate decision on Wednesday.

The next scheduled debate is on Sept. 17, hosted by The Globe and Mail in Calgary.

The election is in 41 days.

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