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lawrence martin

If victory goes to the guy who wants it most, Stephen Harper is making a good case for another crowning. The Prime Minister has been on a roll lately, moving at whirlwind speed both at home and abroad. He has had his best month in a long, long time. He is dominating the news agenda, leaving opposition leaders in the shadows.

In less than a week's time, the Prime Minister circumnavigated the globe twice. All the way to China for a summit. Then back to Ottawa for an appearance at Remembrance Day ceremonies. That's about 26 hours in the air. Then across the oceans to Australia for the G20. A mere 40 hours return.

Liberal challenger Justin Trudeau is supposed to be the one projecting vigour and vision. On both counts, he's being upstaged by the great navigator. One is pro-active, the other is reactive. Whatever the results from last night's by-elections – at this writing, results were not in – the PM is piling up points, and momentum.

In Australia, Mr. Harper set the pace by taking the lead over his U.S. and British counterparts in taking down Russian President Vladimir Putin. Whether his scolding – "Get out of Ukraine" – took place exactly as reported doesn't matter. It's what made the news and Mr. Harper's communications spinner, Jason MacDonald, deserves a pay raise. Mr. Putin's side of the exchange (he apparently shot back saying that he isn't in Ukraine) wasn't reported until later.

Domestically, Mr. Harper got out front with his early release of his income-splitting and child-care proposals. Then came Finance Minister Joe Oliver's economic update, which was seen as savvy in that his fiscal plans will leave little surplus in the budget. It means opposition leaders will have difficulty making any big spending promises without accompanying tax increases.

Mr. Oliver won't want to see the latest OECD report, which shows Canada falling in the rankings on innovation, on research and development and running an intellectual property deficit. But that's not what's been making the big headlines.

While Mr. Harper has been moving hell-bent for leather, Mr. Trudeau has been on the defensive, this time on account of his handling of sexual harassment allegations against two Liberal caucus members.

In politics, the tides move to the leader who is setting the terms of the debate. Early in the year, Mr. Trudeau was doing that, with a ground-breaking reform to remove senators from the Liberal caucus. This was a rare thing in politics – a leader taking action to lessen his own power. But beyond that, Mr. Trudeau has come across as more of a bystander than a table setter.

For Mr. Harper, the political dynamic changed with the two back-to-back terror incidents. While tragic, their timing was politically highly beneficial, as polls are showing. They validated his security agenda.

A sore spot for the PM was the resignation of former parliamentary secretary Dean Del Mastro following a conviction on three counts of violating the Canada Elections Act. This is the same Dean Del Mastro whom Mr. Harper trotted out regularly in Question Period to make unfounded accusations against opposition members. His case is further fuel for opposition claims that this government is ethically corrupt – but with Mr. Harper making other big news on a daily basis, the story disappeared quickly.

Things continue to turn the PM's way. He got out of China just before Washington and Beijing announced a major agreement on climate change, an embarrassing subject for him. The U.S. midterm elections brought him results that make approval of the Keystone XL pipeline more likely.

As for the big dark cloud on the horizon – the trial of Senator Mike Duffy, a case that could reveal ethical corruption at the highest levels – there has been news of interest as well. Mr. Duffy is reported to be in very dubious health. The trial may never take place.

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