“NDP or Liberal government ‘real possibilities,’ says Harper” (The Toronto Star)

With all three parties running closely in the polls, Stephen Harper is again pouring cold water on the idea of a coalition if his Conservatives end up in minority territory. The leaders of the NDP and Liberals also weighed in.

, and (The Toronto Star):

In the face of declining poll numbers, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said he still believes he will win the most seats come Election Day but acknowledged for the first time that his political rivals have gained ground.

“We are fighting for and we believe there will be a Conservative government, but the reality is this is a real choice for Canadians, and an NDP government or a Liberal government are real possibilities.”

After a campaign announcement in Mississauga attended by several GTA candidates, Harper gave a passing nod to poor poll numbers, including a Nanos poll for CTV and the Globe and Mail that showed his party in third place, saying “I think that polls will serve to focus the mind.”

Though the campaign still has six weeks to run, tight polls in recent days have raised questions about the political landscape after election day.

New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair said he wants Canadians to choose his party to form government Oct. 19 election, but he remains open to other arrangements.

“My priority is to defeat and replace Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. They have done enough harm as it is, and across the country there is a really strong, positive reaction to the NDP’s message for what we can accomplish together,” Mulcair said Tuesday in Dorval, Que.

Asked directly whether he would be interested in forming a coalition government, Mulcair said the NDP has supported that in the past as a way to boot the Conservative government out.

“We of course have raised that issue any number of times. In 2008, we went so far as to write a formal coalition agreement with the Liberals, but as you know, they turned up their nose on their own signature and seven years later, Stephen Harper is still there,” Mulcair said Tuesday.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says Canadians don’t want a coalition government if any of the parties fails to secure a majority on election day.

Trudeau has been cool to the idea of a formal coalition with any of his political rivals if the fall election produces a minority government.

During a stop in Amherst, N.S. Tuesday, he said Canadians don’t want one either.

“We will always be open to working with others,” Trudeau said.

“But the fact is Canadians aren’t interested in formal coalitions. Canadians want a clear government with a strong plan and come Oct. 19, that’s exactly what they’re going to get if they vote for the Liberal party” the Liberal leader said a morning stop. […]

The Conservative campaign appears to be shifting slightly its message that Harper is the only leader with “proven” skills, to acknowledging Harper’s weaknesses. It’s not quite the sweater-vest his campaign advisors urged him to wear in 2008 to soften his image.

Still, an ad the party posted online on YouTube this week promotes his “proven leadership” and ends with a nod to his cool, aloof image, with an older woman saying: “Stephen Harper isn’t perfect, but when it comes to the economy — we can depend on him.”

It all comes as Harper warns voters not to test-drive or try out the other parties, saying their ballot choice shouldn’t be viewed as a one-term gig. “It is not a passing temporary choice. It’s a choice with lasting consequences for a generation,” he told a GTA campaign rally Monday.

At the same rally, he slammed his political rivals as “simply not up to” making the tough national-security decisions required of a prime minister. “If you cannot call jihadist terrorism by its name then you cannot be trusted to confront it and you cannot keep Canadians safe from it,” Harper warned.

Nevertheless, Harper did not respond to reports that insiders worry the Conservative campaign is stumbling. On Tuesday, Harper shut down questions about his own campaign manager Jenni Byrne, saying he wouldn’t “dignify those kinds of stories with a response.”

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