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Cablegate: Election 2008: Race Narrows with One Week to Go

VZCZCXRO0570
PP RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHMT RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #1308/01 2812112
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 072112Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8584
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 001308

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR WHA/CAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL CA
SUBJECT: ELECTION 2008: RACE NARROWS WITH ONE WEEK TO GO

REF: A. OTTAWA 1293
B. TORONTO 288
C. OTTAWA 1258
D. OTTAWA 1216
E. OTTAWA 632

1. (SBU) Summary: Canada's major political parties have
launched their final push to Election Day on October 14.
Although the Conservative government appears certain to be
re-elected, whether it will win a majority or another
minority mandate is less clear. The apparent slowing of
Conservative momentum, the corresponding resurgence of the
separatist Bloc in Quebec, and the prospect of strategic
voting by those seeking to block a Conservative majority make
the shape of the next House of Commons unpredictable. The
remaining nine days will be crucial in firming up voting
intentions, and the parties will likely expend the greatest
part of their advertising budget on a last blitz to move the
polls. End summary.

THE LAST-MINUTE RUSH
---------------------

2. (U) The majority of Canadians voters usually do not tune
in until the second half of an election campaign. Successive
studies show that up to 20 percent of Canadian voters wait
until the final week to make up their minds, while
approximately 14 percent decide on Election Day itself. This
encourages a peak in political advertising in the final week
of the campaign as parties try to nail down these wavering
voters. The fact that this election will fall on the day
after Canada's Thanksgiving holiday, however, may limit
politicians' ability to grab voters' attention.

THE POLLS
---------

3. (U) As of October 6, most pollsters showed the
Conservatives winning a minority government, but slipping
from a high of 41 percent (majority territory) in the second
week of the 36 day campaign. These polls peg Conservative
support at between 32 and 37 per cent nationally, at or below
the 36 percent of the popular vote the party won in 2006.
They attribute the decline to an erosion of support in
Quebec, rising anxiety over the economy, and criticism of PM
Harper's "steady as she goes" approach to turmoil in
international financial markets. While the race appears to
be narrowing, however, Harper retains a decisive edge as
voters' top choice for Prime Minister (34 percent to Dion's
20 percent), and leads all his rivals with an overall
leadership index score of 95 percent on trust, competence and
national vision compared to 51 percent for Dion.

4. (U) Mainstream polls indicate Liberal support between 23
and 31 per cent, at or below the 30 percent of the vote the
party won in the 2006 election. The New Democratic Party
(NDP) appears to have picked up some momentum, rising from 19
to 21 percent over three days in one tracking poll, slightly
ahead of the 17 percent it won in 2006. The Green Party
meanwhile polls between 10 and 12 percent. Ipsos suggests
that the Bloc Quebecois surged eight points since last week
to 40 percent in Quebec largely on the strength of falling
Conservative support in that province.

OTHER MEASURES
--------------

5. (U) In addition to mainstream pollsters, election stock
market indexes and blogs are providing alternative tools to
gauge likely voter preferences. The University of British
Columbia's non-profit Election Stock Market permits buyers to
purchase "shares" in the political parties, betting on which
party they believe will win. "Investors" can wager a minimum
of $25 and a maximum of $1,000. The index in 2006 beat 3 of
4 major national pollsters in predicting the final election
results. Just one week before the election, it puts
Conservative support at 45 percent with 141 seats, the
Liberals at 26 percent with 79 seats, the NDP at 18 percent
QLiberals at 26 percent with 79 seats, the NDP at 18 percent
and 42 seats, and the Bloc Quebecois with 14 percent
nationally and 43 seats.

COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) Intense media focus on daily poll fluctuations can
become "meaningless noise," making it difficult to discern
the larger national picture. The regional nature of many
races, tight three-way contests in key urban constituencies
in the battleground provinces of Ontario and British
Columbia, and the parties' ability to get out their vote will

OTTAWA 00001308 002 OF 002


be essential factors in determining Canada's next government.
The opposition vote is fragmented, opening up opportunities
for strategic voting and last-minute switching, especially by
Green supporters. The effect of the timing of the holiday
weekend and the rate of voter participation (64.7 percent in
2006 and expected to be lower in this election) are also
unknown, making seat predictions hard to call. However, if
the current polls are accurate, the final results could
mirror the outcome of the 2006 election, and ultimately
reflect the essential stagnation in the polls over the past
two and-a-half years. End comment.

Visit Canada,s Economy and Environment Forum at
http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/can ada

WILKINS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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