Windsor Star

Leaders not impressing electorate

- BY MEAGAN FITZPATRIC­K CANWEST NEWS SERVICE OTTAWA

As the federal political leaders wrap up their first full week of campaignin­g this weekend, a new poll indicates their performanc­es during the early days may have caused them more harm than good.

The Ipsos Reid poll, conducted for Canwest News Service and Global News between Sept. 9 and 11, shows Canadians’ impression­s of the leaders slipped instead of strengthen­ed, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper had the worst week of them all.

Thirty-six per cent said their impression of Harper had “worsened” since the start of the campaign on Sept. 7, compared with 32 per cent for his main opponent, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion. Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe also failed to impress — 23 per cent said they had a worse opinion of him—and 15 per cent said New Democratic party Leader Jack Layton fell in their eyes.

“For a campaign that’s supposed to be about leadership, this one’s heading in the wrong direction,” said Darrell Bricker, president and CEO of Ipsos Reid.

With the Conservati­ves using a tagline of “Harper Leadership ’08” and creating an antiDion website, www.notaleader.ca, that party in particular is trying to make leadership a central theme in the campaign. Both the Tories and the Liberals are also making deliberate attempts to sell their leaders’ personalit­ies — not just their policies —to voters.

This past week, the Liberals produced a new website called thisisdion.ca that shows family photos and clips of Dion skiing and fishing. The Tories, meanwhile, released a TV ad featuring Harper talking about how he plays piano and card games with his children.

But it was also a week where Conservati­ve slip-ups grabbed headlines. Harper apologized to Dion over the attack website for an animated puffin pooping on a photo of the Liberal leader, the Conservati­ves suspended a senior member of its war room for implying comments made by the father of a dead Canadian soldier were politicall­y motivated, and the premier of Newfoundla­nd and Labrador, Danny Williams, launched an “anything-butConserv­ative” campaign.

“The prime minister believed that his perceived leadership strengths on the big issues that were facing the country would be enough, and they still may be. But at this stage of the game, this doesn’t seem to be an election about leadership,” said Bricker. “To the extent they are talking about leadership, it’s about gaffes, gotchas, slips of the lips either by the principles or their staff, which is a bad campaign for anybody trying to campaign on ideas.”

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