Column: Campaign becoming interesting as the finish line nears

With just 10 days to go in this forever election campaign, the tight race has tightened

With just 10 days to go in this forever election campaign, the tight race has tightened, if polls are anything to go by, as Conservatives and Liberals jockey for that finish line.

But what started out with the NDP gaining momentum and the Liberals trailing has now reversed. Leading up to the best-in-show poll efforts, Justin Trudeau was coming off as a lightweight (remember those daft attack ads about his hair and “not being ready”?) Well, he punched above his light weight and showed himself pretty competent in all five debates, capable of taking on Harper and Mulcair. And his campaign managers went after the ads with some more intelligent productions of their own.

Trudeau has gone out on a limb with deficit forecasting and economic stimulus in order to make investments in infrastructure and get people working. He is not going to play in Harper’s balanced budget sandbox and said in August he’d run deficits of up to $10 billion a year for three years.

Harper of course promised balanced budgets and actually the numbers have squeaked out a surplus of $1.9 billion. No doubt this was strategically planned as a campaign surprise.

While budget forecasting might have improved Harper’s standing, his position on the Syrian refugee crisis fell far short. A sharp edge in his attitude left some Canadians feeling a cold chill. This week the international trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was signed by 12 founding nations. But its complexity has still got to be deciphered and ratified by whichever government is elected October 19.

Interesting that Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton gave it a thumbs down, saying there were too many unanswered questions and she feared too many job losses. The NDP is opposed to the deal while the Liberals are refraining from judgment and want to see precise details.

Now Harper is off on a niqab rant and an election promise to consider banning the wearing of the face covering for anyone hired for federal service. Why? He wants to ban the niqab not only at citizenship ceremonies but for all employed in public service. It’s not that the Public Service Alliance of Canada, representing the majority of federal employees, keeps tabs on how many women actually wear the niqab. Truth is, hardly any. Just months ago, Conservative candidate Jason Kenney said that the government shouldn’t be telling people what to wear. The issue is causing anxiety among some Muslim women who rightly see this as a wedge issue.

The Federal Court of Appeal rejected the government’s application to stop a Federal Court decision that ruled in favour of Zunera Ishaq, a Pakistani immigrant, who wished to wear her niqab during her citizenship ceremony. The optics of this don’t do Harper any favour since he’s coming across as running a campaign on the backs of minorities.

Recently, a poll of Vancouver’s multicultural population by Insights West showed that 26 per cent of respondents said they will vote for the Liberal candidate in their riding. The NDP at 23 per cent is a close second and the Conservative Party at 14 per cent. But many (30 per cent) were still undecided.

It was interesting that the poll, which was conducted in September among 432 Chinese, South Asian and South Eastern Asian Metro Vancouver residents, showed specific priorities among the electorate including the candidate’s position on issues (59 per cent), the candidate’s political party (21 per cent), their involvement in the community (14 per cent). Also of importance were their ethnicity and their ability to speak a second language. As for Prime Ministerial qualities, Trudeau topped out at 26 per cent, Harper at 21 per cent and Mulcair at 20 per cent.