In mid-term doldrums, Canada's Conservatives hope to reboot

Sun Apr 7, 2013 8:02am EDT
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By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Voter fatigue with Canada's ruling Conservatives and signs of stress within the government are putting Prime Minister Stephen Harper under pressure to freshen up his team and policies as the telegenic son of Pierre Trudeau starts snapping at his heels.

Even though the election is 30 months away - in October 2015 - the next few months will be a critical time for Harper, given mounting evidence in opinion polls that the Conservatives risk losing power after what would be nearly a decade in office.

A different government would likely raise corporate taxes and step up environmental controls, with costs to the energy and mining firms that lead Canada's growth.

A string of polls in the last two months put support for the Conservatives between 29 and 32 percent, barely enough to keep them in power with an unstable minority government.

The party, in power since 2006, won a majority in the May 2011 election with 39.6 percent of the vote.

"I don't think you can underestimate probably the internal fatigue of the government," said pollster Nik Nanos of Nanos Research.

The likely Conservative response: A restating of priorities, including: a balanced budget, then tax cuts, and a cabinet reshuffle.

That would give Harper the chance to bring in new younger ministers, and bring more women into the cabinet. Harper said last year that he planned big cabinet changes in mid-2013, and an aide said the plan remained on track.   Continued...

Combination photo of Liberal Member of Parliament and Liberal leadership contender Justin Trudeau (L) in the House of Commons in Ottawa October 17, 2012 and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in the House March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/Files