Public opinion surveys suggest Tom Mulcair and his New Democrats are lagging well behind the Liberals and are sitting at least a few percentage points behind the Conservatives, but, with time running out on the long election campaign, the NDP Leader is still fighting like a front-runner. (Read the latest Nanos Research tracking poll here)
Mr. Mulcair's bus headed Monday to two ridings held by Conservatives – one in Saskatchewan and one in B.C.'s Lower Mainland – where Liberal support is not strong and where the NDP has a shot at taking seats from the Tories.
A week after a headline in a Montreal newspaper suggested the NDP Leader's numbers are so low it is time to "save the furniture," he is still battling aggressively to add MPs to his caucus, not just keep the ones he's got. And he is taking on both Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau in his stump speeches.
The NDP Leader's primary overture is to those voters who are ambivalent about electing Liberals or New Democrats but want to ensure the Conservatives are removed from power.
"Only the NDP can defeat the Conservatives here in British Columbia," he told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters gathered for an early-morning rally in a campaign office in Maple Ridge, B.C.
As he did last week, he is raising the spectre of job losses, rising drug prices and privacy violations that he says will result from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal the Conservative government signed a week ago, which Mr. Trudeau has not directly opposed.
"I want to say this directly to Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau: Why do you not believe that a better deal is possible for Canadians?" he said in Maple Ridge. "Why, Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau, are you willing to sacrifice the jobs of Canadians and increase the cost of prescription drugs for seniors?"
The NDP Leader is trying to convince Canadians that, because there were many more New Democrats than Liberals in the House of Commons when the writ was dropped, the NDP has a smaller hill to climb than does Mr. Trudeau's party on the way to victory over Mr. Harper.
The New Democrats need "just 35 more seats to stop Stephen Harper's secret trade agreement and bring change to Ottawa," said Mr. Mulcair, for the third day in a row. "The Liberals simply can't do it. They need over 100 seats. Only the NDP can defeat Conservatives and only the NDP will deliver the change we've been waiting for."
Of course, that requires all incumbent New Democrats to keep their seats – and, unless Mr. Mulcair can increase his support significantly over the next week, that seems an unlikely prospect.
Still, the NDP Leader said Monday, he was "having a ball," and he smiled as he deflected questions about the polls and his possible route to victory.
But the fighter in him came out when it was suggested that there are contradictions between his willingness to cancel the TPP and his assurances that he would not cancel a Canadian arms deal with Saudi Arabia because the NDP does not renege on signed agreements.
"C'mon, there's no common measure between the two," Mr. Mulcair said. "There is a long-standing rule in Canada that you make sure that the country you're selling arms to respects basic human rights, which is clearly not the case for Saudi Arabia, but you do not cancel a manufacturing deal like that when you come in" to government.
On the other hand, he said, Mr. Harper signed the TPP with two weeks left to go in an election campaign. "He's giving up jobs in the manufacturing sector, he's lowering wages, he's making it more expensive to buy your prescription drugs, he's hurting the security of your privacy information. I am absolutely not bound by Stephen Harper's secret negotiations."
At an afternoon campaign stop in Saskatoon, where the NDP has designs on at least two seats in a province that has shut them out for more than a decade, Mr. Mulcair said Canadians know they can trust his party and they deserve a good, solid, majority NDP government.
"They have confidence in us," he told the crowd of a couple hundred in a sunny parking lot. "And you know what part of the closing job for us is over the next week? Making sure that we can give Canadians confidence in themselves. Make themunderstand that we're trying to break the 140-year-old habit of rotating back and forth between the Conservatives and the Liberals."