“Campaign woes, poll numbers rattle Conservative camp” (CTV News)

CTVNews.ca Staff:

With polls suggesting that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are now in third place, the Tories may be looking to refresh their campaign.

A senior Conservative strategist tells CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that the campaign needs a reset and there’s discontent with campaign manager Jenni Byrne.

She has been criticized by party insiders for a style they call secretive and dictatorial, and has also been accused of freezing out experienced party operatives.

Asked at a campaign stop Tuesday whether Byrne still has his confidence, Harper said: “I’m not going to dignify those kinds of stories with a response.”

One top cabinet minister has also told CTV News that disgruntled Tories are also upset about Harper’s unwillingness to open Canada’s borders to more Syrian refugees, in addition to other issues like the Mike Duffy scandal.

According to the latest nightly tracking from Nanos Research conducted for CTV News and The Globe and Mail, the Conservatives have slipped to third place. If an election were held over the Labour Day weekend, it would have been a two-way race between the NDP and the Liberals.

Asked about the latest numbers on Tuesday, Harper said he thinks “the polls will serve to focus the mind.”

For the first time since the election was called, Harper also seemed to concede that his party may not win the election.

“Obviously … we believe there will be a Conservative government, but the reality is that this is a real choice for Canadians and an NDP government or a Liberal government are real possibilities,” Harper said in response to a reporter’s question before criticizing his rivals’ campaign promises and policies.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has seized on the latest poll numbers, telling a campaign rally Tuesday that “more and more Canadians are coming to us and saying they are going to be voting for the NDP for the first time.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is focusing on the undecided voters.

He rejected talks Tuesday of a possible formal coalition with the NDP, saying that his party is always open to working with others on passing legislation, but believes Canadians aren’t looking for a coalition government at this point.

Instead, he suggested voters are looking for a government with “a strong team and a real plan.”

Speaking at a campaign event in Nova Scotia, Trudeau stressed the importance of electing a “better” government with a different approach. “People with small dreams for this country aren’t worthy of running this country,” he said.

When Mulcair was asked about a possible coalition in Montreal on Tuesday, the NDP leader said his party has “raised that issue a number of times.” He pointed out that in 2008, the NDP wrote a formal coalition agreement with the Liberal Party, but the agreement fell through when the Liberals “turned up their nose” at signing it.

Speaking in Montreal, Mulcair did not directly address repeated questions about whether he felt the party to win the most seats should form the government.

“My priority is to defeat and replace Stephen Harper’s Conservatives,” he said. “They’ve done enough harm as it is.”

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