The Guardian (P.E.I.), Thursday, July 21, 2005
Tories underestimate Grits’ power to demonize them, says Mike Duffy
By Wayne Thibodeau
The Conservative party has consistently
underestimated the Liberals' ability to paint them as
the bad guys, says a journalist described by the Toronto
Star as the "ultimate insider".
Mike Duffy, a native Islander and political reporter
for CTV, said given the scandals plaguing the governing
Liberals, the Conservatives should be riding high in the
But that's far from reality.
A new poll gives the Liberals a commanding 11-point
lead over the Conservatives, with staggering leads in
battlegrounds like B.C., Toronto and Atlantic Canada.
The Pollara poll puts the Liberals at 38 per cent,
the Conservatives at 27 per cent and the NDP at 15 per
In Atlantic Canada it was 45 Liberal, 33
Conservative, 20 NDP.
Duffy said polls like that suggest to him that
radical change is needed.
"I think Canadians don't trust Stephen Harper," Duffy
said, in an interview with The Guardian. "Before you get
to trust somebody you have to know them. Canadians
didn't know him and I think he underestimated the
Liberals ability to paint him. If you give a blank
canvas, somebody is going to fill it in.
"For all his vaunted intelligence, I don't think
Stephen Harper realized just how vulnerable he was to
being painted into a corner by the Liberals and how
effective it's been. The sad thing is that once it's
down to the grass roots, it's very hard to turn it
But Duffy does not believe the Conservatives are
going to try to topple Harper before the next federal
election, expected early next year.
"I don't think there's any stomach for a move to push
Stephen Harper out," he said.
Duffy said the party has a long history of pushing
out its leaders, making reference to Dalton Camp's
efforts to topple John Diefenbaker in the early '60s and
Brian Mulroney's attempts to squeeze out Joe Clark in
the late '70s and early '80s.
"Swallow the leader has been a Tory thing."
Part of the problem, said Duffy, is there is no
Duffy said Peter MacKay, the deputy leader and Nova
Scotia MP, looks great and is a natural politician, but
he doesn't believe he could take the party to where it
wants to go, to the government-side of the House of
"The Liberals would tear him to pieces over this deal
with David Orchard," making reference to his deal to
merge the Progressive Conservative Party with the
Duffy is host of CTV NewsNet's Countdown. He's spent
more than 30 years covering politics in Ottawa.
On Wednesday, the Charlottetown-born Duffy
participated in the 2005 UPEI distinguished speaker
series at UPEI.
There was standing room only in the lecture theatre
at the K.C. Irving Chemistry Centre for the Wednesday
More than 125 people were in attendance.
Duffy has a summer home in Cavendish.
Duffy said Harper has to shoulder some of the blame
for his party's poor standing in the polls.
"One of the problems for Stephen Harper, from what I
hear from people who work for him, or used to work for
him, is that he's his own strategist," he said.
"What's the point having advisers if you don't take
But Duffy admits a Liberal bias at some media outlets
makes it difficult for Harper and the Conservatives to
get their message out.
"I've just been speaking to a couple of young
journalists and I was shocked," he said.
"One young journalist in New Brunswick said to me,
'when I see Stephen Harper I see the enemy.' It's not
journalists' place to have enemies."