This is how the leaders stood after the last election - how will they look after next week; will Jim Harris be amongst them?

TO the Polls: The (7th) Week in Review

A weekly election crib-note

And in the seventh week, something completely different happened. After weeks of daily policy announcements, occasional scandals (and non-scandals made out to look worse than they were), a couple of debates, and plenty of bickering, the electorate finally took notice. The polls, after over a month of near stasis - lumbering unchanged despite the twists and turns evident to enraptured election-watchers - began to move: slowly at first as the Tories pulled even with the Grits, then later more rapidly as policy documents were released, promises were costed out, and the boogieman suit sent off to the drycleaners.

Perhaps the most interesting region in this election campaign is in the hinterland around Toronto - the 905 belt. Once solidly Tory, now (as with the rest of Ontario) Liberal, this region is highly volatile, and could determine the winner of the election. Expect to see numerous seats swing blue, and a handful possibly swing Orange as well. Other than the Reds and the Blues, the other parties generally kept their polling positions - although everybody expects that to change as the parties jockey for power in the upcoming week and make their penultimate pitches before election-day eve. The change in strategy was evident throughout the week as the parties realised that finally, people were watching.

The Liberals, noticing that their strategy of waiting for the Tories' campaign to implode (a successful strategy in every election since 1993) wasn't going to work this time, fell back on their other standby: the campaign of fear. Claiming, in effect, that the Tories were an anti-Canadian menace, and that a vote for the NDP would only help the Conservatives, the Grits appealed for votes from both sides of the spectrum.

The Tories spent much of the week (and will likely continue this next week) playing it as safely as possible. A comprehensive policy book (mostly of previously announced policies) was released, but beyond that Harper knows it's all about holding back and not doing anything stupid. Muzzeling his more vociferous MPs, and letting his proxies do much of the attack-work on the Grits, Harper's goal for the coming week will be to appear as Prime Ministerial - and unthreatening - as can be.

The NDP find themselves in much the same situation they were this time last election - people like them (and after Layton's performance in the last Parliament, trust them more) but worry that an NDP vote will be wasted on a party not interested in (or able to) holding power. Layton then, has a double burden ahead of him. In the next week, he must both reduce the population's fear of a Tory victory while at the same time promoting himself as the best alternative to the Tories. To fail at either would give people an excuse to vote Liberal instead, either out of fear or complacency respectively.

The Green Party has struggled to hold their place in the polls - fighting against a media conglomorate more interested in ease of reporting than fairness, they have been unable to get their platform into the public conciousness. At this point, while it is still possible for either Jim Harris or one of a handful of Vancouver candidates to win a seat, the battle is for recognition in the next election. The Greens need to appeal to people who want a fourth-way answer to the three major parties, and they need to do well enough that next election (which could be anywhere from six months to four years away) the media will take notice.

One week to go. Like an Olympic velodrom individual pursuit, the pacing laps are over - now it's time for the sprint.


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