Liberal and New Democrat strategists are plotting ways to siphon each other's support as the Conservative campaign stalls and polls suggest many Canadians are preparing to vote strategically to oust Stephen Harper from the Prime Minister's Office.
The long federal election campaign has passed its halfway mark, and multiple surveys put the three major political parties in a three-way tie.
While the Conservative support is solid, a rolling nightly poll conducted by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail and CTV suggests Mr. Harper's party does not have much room to grow. But many Liberal supporters say they would consider the New Democrats. And many NDP supporters say they would vote Liberal.
That sets the stage for a cut-throat fight to the finish between Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair, with each leader aiming to break free from the pack by scooping up soft support from his centre-left rival.
"It's quite unprecedented that more than half of committed party voters for a political party would consider another party," said Nik Nanos, the president of the polling company. "It all comes down to who is second. If the Liberals are second in a riding, they are going to want to cannibalize NDP support. Where the NDP are second, they are going to try to cannibalize the Liberals."
Liberals say they will do that with a campaign focused largely on economics. Mr. Trudeau is the only one of the three party leaders who has said he would be willing to run "a modest short-term deficit" to pay for programs that would promote economic growth.
In Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, Mr. Trudeau said a Liberal government would spend $1.3-billion to create more than 40,000 jobs a year for young Canadians over three years as well as other investments in youth employment.
"When it comes to helping young people join the work force, we can do better," Mr. Trudeau said. "It's help that Harper and Mulcair can't and won't deliver."
Mr. Mulcair, meanwhile, was making an economic announcement of his own, telling a crowd in Edmonton he is prepared invest $1.3-billion a year in infrastructure to reduce gridlock and to provide additional transfers to municipalities to build and repair roads, bridges and transit.
He said the plan would create 54,000 construction, manufacturing and transit operation jobs across the country and add $4.5-billion to Canada's GDP annually.
Canadians will be hearing a lot from Mr. Mulcair via their television sets over the next few weeks. His party did not put much money into advertising in August, and now has millions to spend in September and October.
The NDP Leader will visit Conservative ridings to court anti-Harper voters, both Liberals and disaffected Tories. The aim is to make the case for change and to contrast his plan with the one being offered by Mr. Trudeau.
In particular, he will try to paint Mr. Trudeau as inconsistent – something that is already being worked into his stump speeches.
"We will be highlighting Mr. Trudeau's abandonment of long-standing and firmly held principles, and we will be highlighting Mr. Mulcair's experience and his plan to kick-start the economy and to help every family get ahead," said Brad Lavigne, the NDP's senior campaign adviser.
Early next week, the New Democrats will provide a budgeted costing of their platform, which the other parties will try to use against them. The Liberals are already waiting to point out that many of Mr. Mulcair's promises would not be realized for several years.
The Liberals say they will be running hard against the New Democrats in Quebec and, to a lesser extent, British Columbia. But the race, they say, will be won in Ontario, where they must defeat Conservatives. And the way to do that is to convince voters that their candidates are stronger than those of the New Democrats.
Mr. Nanos said he expects many voters will remain undecided until they see either the Liberals or the New Democrats take a clear lead.
The one thing that could break the race wide open is a crucial mistake on the part of one of the leaders, he said. "But I think the reality is that, when the race is this tight, all the party leaders are so wound up they are probably not going to make a mistake – but they are probably not going to score points either."