Harper has been accused of being manipulative, secretive, autocratic, controlling and undemocratic. He tried to limit access to information and directed his MPs not to spesk to the media, unless it was approved by the PMO. He has refused to divulge important information to parliamentary committees and even refused to allow Ministers and MPs to appear before these committees. His government has been accused of contempt of parloiament and his government was deafeated on a motion of contempt, the first time in Canada's history. He and his Ref/Con ministers have tried to frustrate parliament, especially when questions of ethical behaviour were being investigated....raising money, election-rules violation, lying to parliament, influence-peddling etc.
Harper has started the campaign as the front-runner, 143 seats and leading in the first polls. He will want to be cautious and his first blunder has not helped. He will try to campaign in a bubble,, appearing at controlled settings/party events, but risks being portrayed as afraid of facing voters and reinforcing his image of being controlling having little to offer on such problems as unemployment, health and child care, seniors'benefits and pensions, the war in Afghanistan and Libya and the economy.
Ignatieff has to take chances. He has to win more seats in Quiebec and the Toronto/ 905 area. He has to get rid of his image of being aloof, too academic....lots of babies and dogs /cats to kiss, more contact with the "great unwashed"( Bob Stanfield tried this in 1974, even having a beer with his daughter in a tavern, but it did not work) . He has so far failed to strike a chord with the voters. He has to sell his ideas, he has to make them resonate and it cannot be stilted or forced.
Layton is not well and the campaign may take a toll. He has to pick up seats in B.C. Sasketchewan and Manitoba, hold on to those in Ontario and the one in Montreal. He will be caught in the middle between the Ref/Con and the Liberals as has happened before. He will target the Liberals, because they pose the biggest threat but he has to make a case against the government he helped defeat, especially out West/ BC and Ontario or he will have trouble holding on to his 36 seats.
Duceppe is off and running, accusing Harper of lying and of his refusal to fund a hockey arena in Quebec City. He has a very good chance of increasing his seats from 47 to at least 50. He is the most experieced campaigner...no more hair-nets.
We are in for some interesting times in the next 39 days. What will the voter turnout be? It has been dropping in recent years. It is too earl to predict, except that Harper is vulnerable....integrity, ethics, contempt, a government that did little except build prisons and trying to pas more punitive laws and got us in a another war. Let's see whether the other parties can energise the electorate.