OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau's Liberals are going down to the wire, nose to nose with Stephen Harper's Conservatives.
After starting the marathon campaign in third place, opinion polls now have the Liberals sprinting down the home stretch just ahead or just behind the ruling Conservatives. Trudeau appears to have recaptured the mantle of change from the NDP's Tom Mulcair.
Here are five key things Liberal strategists believe the party needs to do to ensure Trudeau is first over the finish line on Monday.
1. Emphasize the difference between the economic policies being offered by Liberals and Conservatives, demonstrating how middle and lower-income Canadians will be better off under a Trudeau government. The party plans to run sharp contrast ads, directly comparing what Canadians will get from a Trudeau government and a re-elected Harper government. Liberals have budgeted for saturation ad coverage in the final week.
In the ads and on the leader's tour, Trudeau will endlessly reiterate his recipe for economic growth: invest billions now in infrastructure, raise taxes for the wealthiest one per cent, cut taxes for the middle class, stop sending child benefit cheques to millionaires and increase them for middle class families.
2. Counter the barrage of Conservative ads with radio and online ads aimed particularly at seniors. The Tory ads infer that Trudeau would end income splitting for seniors, although he's specifically promised to maintain that tax benefit. They also say Trudeau would eliminate the universal child care benefit, without mentioning he'd replace it with what Liberals say would be a more generous benefit.
3. Maintain an energetic leader's tour, designed to showcase momentum and convince voters who want change that the Liberals are the only party in a position to defeat Harper's Conservatives.
4. Focus particular attention on two crucial battlegrounds, where Liberals believe the election will be won or lost: the Greater Toronto Area and lower mainland British Columbia. With the apparent collapse of NDP support in Quebec, the Liberals will also be scrambling to make some unanticipated gains in Trudeau's home province, which has turned into a four-way race.
5. Get out the vote. The Liberal party has invested a lot of time and money into modernizing its technology to identify potential supporters. It has similarly spent considerable energy amassing a volunteer army, whose challenge over the final week will be to ensure Liberal supporters actually go out and cast ballots.
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