With one week left before Election Day, the last stage of a gruelling campaign for political power in Canada has come down to this: trying to catch Justin Trudeau.
Scrambling to gain ground on the front-runner Liberals, Stephen Harper's Conservatives are devoting this Thanksgiving long weekend to raising red flags about what they say are the economic perils of putting Mr. Trudeau in office.
The Liberals have increased their lead nationally over the Conservatives to 6.8 percentage points in the latest Nanos Research tracking poll. (Read it here) This marks the 11th straight day the Liberals have polled ahead of the Conservatives, who are now below the 30-per-cent mark for the third day in a row.
Mr. Trudeau's party is heading into the holiday Monday with sufficient support, pollsters say, to win a strong minority government – a reversal of fortune in a campaign that began more than two months ago.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, still lagging third in the polls after a significant slide in recent weeks, took careful aim at Mr. Trudeau, rather than Mr. Harper, over a major Pacific Rim trade deal the Conservatives signed last week.
Mr. Mulcair accused the Liberal Leader of letting the Harper government off easy over what he characterizes as a job-killing accord. He said Sunday that "New Democrats will not be bound by Stephen Harper's secret deal."
The Liberal Leader took a break from his national tour Sunday, but issued an open letter making his case for a Trudeau government as an agent of change. "One thing has become clear: we can't afford another 10 years like the last 10 years," he wrote.
Mr. Mulcair toured Vancouver Island over the weekend, one region where his party has the best chance of taking seats from the Tories.
It is possible that all of the ridings here could go orange except Saanich-Gulf Islands, where Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is likely to be re-elected.
Mr. Harper's campaign, meanwhile, trained all of its rhetorical guns on Mr. Trudeau and on Sunday at least tried to shore up existing Conservative territory in advance of the Oct. 19 vote.
The Conservative Leader's tour in the Greater Toronto Area was more of a defensive action. Rather than stumping for candidates in ridings where the Tories have never won, Mr. Harper's three public appearances were with Conservative incumbents: Julian Fantino in Vaughan-Woodbridge, Paul Calandra in Oak Ridges-Markham and Costas Menegakis in Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill.
Mr. Harper campaigned at a Woodbridge-area fall fair, a Richmond Hill senior's residence and a Markham pumpkin patch.
Former Harper lieutenant John Baird, who stepped down as Foreign Affairs minister earlier this year, joined the Conservative Leader on the campaign trail for the first time.
Mr. Baird urged Canadians, as they gathered this Thanksgiving with friends and family, to think twice before voting for Mr. Trudeau, who polls suggest has the lead in Ontario, the most vote-rich battleground in Canada.
Mr. Baird said Canadians should not simply vote for the most congenial leader. "This is not a popularity contest like America's Got Talent," Mr. Baird, a veteran of Ontario and Ottawa politics, said of the 2015 federal election.
A three-day rolling poll of 1,200 randomly selected Canadians conducted by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail and CTV between Oct. 9 and 11 suggests the Liberals have 35.7-per-cent support nationally, followed by the Conservatives at 28.9 per cent and the NDP at 24.3 per cent. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
In an interview, pollster Nik Nanos said the results showing Liberals clearly in the lead mean Canadians will be conducting their "due diligence" on Mr. Trudeau's party this week.
The Conservatives, meanwhile, used one of their biggest names in the GTA to raise alarms about the negative economic impact of a potential Trudeau government. Joe Oliver, the Conservative minister responsible for the GTA and government Finance Minister, held a news conference this weekend in Toronto to target a Liberal promise to negotiate an expansion of the existing Canada Pension Plan with the provinces. This measure would in all likelihood require higher CPP contributions from some workers' pay packets and from their employers.
The Conservative candidate cited a warning from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce that said 44 per cent of its members reported they would reduce their payroll or hire fewer workers as a result of the Ontario pension plan costs. "This is really a preview of what a Justin Trudeau government would create."
John McCallum, the Liberal candidate for Markham-Thornhill, said the Conservative attack on Mr. Trudeau's pledge to enhance the Canada Pension Plan is driven by "a state of desperation" in the Harper camp.