The Globe and Mail has an article running today that argues Harper and the Conservatives are losing ground with women, francophones and $100,000+ earners. Due to the drop in support from these groups the Conservatives are once again tied with the Liberals in popular support at 31%, a drop in 6% from one year ago. According to Peter Donolo from Strategic Counsel (the same group that advised Harper to use more positive propaganda to curb the public's cynicism),
"drop in support among the more affluent may be due to the decision to tax income trusts and a spate of foreign takeovers of Canadian companies, while the decline among women and francophones is almost certainly due to the numbers of Canadian soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan. "
In addition to the Afghanistan issue being a big factor affecting women and francophones, the handling of the Afghan detainees was also a sore point in the recent session at Parliament. This is also on the heels of Quebec's Van Doos regiment being deployed to Afghanistan and a growing controversy over the MND refusing access to mission information. It's also noted in the article that terrorism fell in behind health care and the environment as a national priority. In other words, for two of the groups that are looking at the alternatives to the Conservatives the Afghan/terrorism file isn't doing much to instill confidence but is actually hurting them. So what is their response? The Conservatives have decided to restart the debate over renewing Canada's anti-terror measures.
While this may seem like a shot at my theory that Harper and the Conservatives are only looking for power, pushing a seemingly unpopular proposal, this move is about reinvigorating support among the West (where numbers are down 4%), men, people with only secondary education or less and core supporters. These groups tend to favour the perception of a tougher stance on military and security issues and the Conservatives understand that. Rather than immediately try to appeal to women, francophones and others by eschewing positive rhetoric on the fly - something that has shown to be a weak spot for the Conservatives - they will fall back on an issue they are well versed on in an attempt to shore up other groups.
And then there's something about suckling at an unnamed orifice of Bush Jr. and the Americans... ;)