Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's gamble in calling an early election has yet to show signs of paying off, with questions being raised over whether he will lose his parliamentary majority or even lose office after six months in power.
Martin's Liberals made no major gaffes in the first week of campaigning for the June 28 vote, but the 65-year-old leader has also failed to catch fire.
In calling the election last Sunday, a year and a half before he had to, the gamble was that he could raise his support during the campaign to the point where he could salvage a majority government -- but his polling numbers have gone the wrong direction.
"In the four weeks remaining before June 28, Martin must reconnect with fickle, angry voters, illuminate a vision for Canada's future that has lost its focus, and, most important, dispel rising doubts about his leadership," columnist Jim Travers wrote in the pro-Liberal Toronto Star.
"Martin, who just months ago, was expected to sweep the country, might now become opposition leader and, in time, little more than a political curiosity," Travers wrote.
Martin had gained respect as finance minister from 1993 to 2002, when he delivered balanced budgets first and then tax cuts. He had an aura of invincibility and superstar popularity as he ousted his political rival, Jean Chretien, as prime minister in December.
He remains ahead of the Conservatives by a lead of 38 percent to 30 percent in the latest poll, but this is a far cry from leads of 30 points to which the Liberals had become accustomed. It would also mean losing a majority in Parliament.
The Conservatives, who are pushing for more tax cuts while Martin now says Canada cannot afford them, could even deny him even a minority government if the current trends continue, Ekos pollster Frank Graves predicted on Friday.
If he becomes a "political curiosity" as a short-term prime minister, Martin would join the ranks of Conservatives Kim Campbell, in office for just five months in 1993, and Joe Clark, who served nine months from 1979-80, and Liberal John Turner, who lasted just three months in 1984.
"I don't think [Martin is] seen as change anymore," the Star quoted Graves as saying as it released an Ekos poll showing 59 percent of Canadians think it's time to change parties.
Voters had certainly tired of Chretien after they gave him three successive majorities. Martin had to try to present a new face despite being elected under Chretien and serving in his cabinet.
The two biggest reasons for the decline in the polls are a spending scandal which saw government ad money being channeled to Liberal firms, sometimes for no work, and a broken-promise tax hike by Ontario's provincial Liberals.
Martin's strategists put a brave face on the numbers -- "It's only the first week," one said -- and said they saw encouraging signs especially toward the end of the week.
A sleeper issue in this campaign is gay marriage, which the Liberals want to legalize but most Conservatives oppose.
WIDE REOPENING DISCOURAGED: A study from Peking University has suggested that lifting restrictions in the style of the US, UK and others would be catastrophic China would face a “colossal outbreak” on a scale beyond anything any other country has yet seen if it were to reopen in a similar manner to the US. That is a prediction based on statistical modeling by researchers at Beijing’s Peking University. A switch from China’s current COVID-19 elimination strategy to a US-style approach with few restrictions would lead to as many as 637,155 infections per day, according to the study, which was published by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday. That would be the largest daily figure reported by any country since the start of the
UNCERTAINTY: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not specify measures NATO might take, but many believe that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project could be canceled The US has said it has evidence that Russia has made plans for a “large scale” attack on Ukraine and said NATO allies are “prepared to impose severe costs” on Moscow if it attempts an invasion. Speaking at a NATO ministers meeting in Latvia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that it was unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a decision to invade, but added: “He’s putting in place the capacity to do so in short order, should he so decide.” “So despite uncertainty about intention and timing, we must prepare for all contingencies while working to see to
NOT ELIGIBLE: Most of those charged over democracy protests were born after the UK handed Hong Kong back to China, figures form Hong Kong Watch showed More than 90 percent of people who have faced protest charges in Hong Kong are too young to access a UK visa scheme dedicated to helping Hong Kongers flee to the UK, say advocates and lawmakers calling for new laws to assist them. The release of the figures on Sunday by advocacy group Hong Kong Watch comes before a British parliamentary debate this week on proposed migration law amendments that would widen the pathway for people with British National Overseas (BNO) status to resettle in the UK. More than 10,000 people were arrested during or after the mass protests that swept Hong
An episode of The Simpsons in which the cartoon family from the US visit Tiananmen Square has been removed from Disney’s streaming channel in Hong Kong at a time when authorities are clamping down on dissent. The missing episode adds to concerns that Chinese-style censorship is becoming the norm in the territory, ensnaring global streaming giants and other major tech companies. Disney+ has made rapid advances since it was launched 18 months ago, reaching more than 116 million worldwide subscribers. The Hong Kong version started streaming earlier this month and eagle-eyed customers soon noticed that an episode of The Simpsons featuring China was