The Forum poll of Canadians’ voting intentions publicized yesterday by the National Post cannot be said to contain good news for the most prominent old guys in our nation’s politics — leastways those that are still in the game.

The demon-dialler survey of 1,310 voters done the day before yesterday by the Toronto-based pollster certainly didn’t contain particularly good news for either Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is 55 at the end of the month, or Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, 58. 

The New Democrat, opined Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff, increasingly looks like the leader of “the third party in waiting,” which it pains me to say is a funny line. Actually, Harper does too, although his Conservatives would apparently be saved from that fate if Forum’s poll got it right and an election were held tomorrow, which of course it won’t be.

Indeed, unless you happen to think 41 is old, the only old guy to come off looking pretty good from this sample is interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, 64, who gets better results for his party than either of the other two oldsters in this poll. Rae, said the Post, “will leave the Liberal leadership as the most popular leader in the country.”

But all that really starts to change the minute Rae is replaced by the 41-year-old in question, Justin Trudeau — and that minute that is scheduled to be recorded in just 10 days. That’s when Trudeau will be crowned and the reborn Trudeau Liberals “sweep past” the Harper Conservatives, as the Post grimly put it in its headline, presumably written between gritted neoconservative teeth.

For the record, Forum puts the Liberals under Trudeau in majority territory, with 40 per cent of voters swinging Liberal, 28 per cent voting Conservative and 21 per cent voting NDP.

Well, we’ll see about that. Lots of water will flow under the electoral bridge before that day actually comes about, and Canadians have an entertaining three-way race to look forward to. It’s said here — perhaps over-optimistically — that it could go every which way but loose.

The question I’ve been obsessing about is what the Harper Conservatives, the acknowledged masters of the Karl Rove school of ugly U.S.-style attack politics, will do now?

Because, it’s said here, the prime minister has to pick either Trudeau or Mulcair at which to aim his party’s big guns, because if it tries to attack both in the same fashion, he’ll just come off looking crazy and desperate.

If Bozinoff’s poll got it right, there’s no question which one they’ll pick for the full-blown slime treatment — and, indeed, another story in the Post yesterday suggests that the Tories already have an anti-Trudeau campaign in the can that paints the anointed Liberal leader as inexperienced, not ready to govern.

But is it just me, or is that not the most effective way to go after one opponent when a wish for change is in the air and you’ve been working so hard to paint your other foe as an angry old man? Especially when your own leader is self evidently a pretty cranky old fellow himself! I’m just asking.

Wouldn’t it be pretty easy for a lot of voters to take “inexperienced, not ready for government” as “young and fresh”?

The Conservatives presumably have already concluded that there’s not much percentage in attacking Justin Trudeau on his father’s record, since those few Canadians who can remember Pierre Trudeau’s prime ministership, outside the residents of the nutty Tory heartland here in Alberta, often look at that era through rose-tinted spectacles.

Rove — the adviser to successive Republican candidates south of the Medicine Line — probably has an answer to that one. And since Tom Flanagan is apparently no longer available, the Harper Cons are going to consult Rove or someone just like him.

Then again, as the author of another story in the Post observed, “it may be that the Tories don’t want to weaken either of the other national party leaders to the point where the other then becomes a genuine threat in 2015.”

This perceived problem may explain why recent Harper Conservative attack messages have seemed not to come up to the party’s limburger-sharp efforts in the past. There really are, presumably, limits to what a style of attack designed for a two-party system like the Americans’ can do in Westminster-style multi-party Parliamentary set up.

This general situation may also explain why Trudeau felt confident enough to renounce negative advertising himself — either that, or it was evidence of inexperience.

Well, who knows? If the Liberals are really as strong as is suggested by Bozinoff’s latest poll, Canadians had better start screening for robo-calls… 

“Elections Canada here! You polling station has been moved to … uh, Guelph…”

This post also appears on Alberta Diary, the blog of David Climenhaga, 61.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...