One of the keys to the Conservative Party's electoral success has been their record on the economy.
There has been a perception — whether it's true or not — that, out of the three major parties, the Tories' are the best stewards of the economy.
According to a new survey, released last week, perception is changing: not only are Canadians less confident about the state of our economy, 40 per cent think Stephen Harper is doing a poor job managing it.
From January 14 to 18, Abacus Data asked Canadians: How would each of the following federal political parties do in managing Canada's economy?
Very poor job
The Abacus pollsters explain that the prime minister's economic prowess is still respected by the Tory base and with swing voters but that the numbers should concern the party brass.
"For Tom Mulcair and the NDP, the results in this study suggest that most Canadians do not consider the NDP as ineffective or incompetent economic managers," the pollsters note.
"For Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, the results suggest that despite media elite-level questions about Trudeau's competence or capabilities to be Prime Minister, the strength of the Liberal brand and the goodwill that many Canadians have for Mr. Trudeau seem to be leading the day.
"The federal budget that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will release on February 11 comes at a time when voter confidence in the state of the Canadian economy is softening. More Canadians still rate the current economy as good rather than poor, but the trend since October 2013 is not a favourable one for the Conservative government. For a government that has staked so much of its reputation and future success on how Canadians perceive it as sound economic managers, declining confidence and weak prospective economic evaluations is a discouraging sign."
For the average Canadian, judging the Harper government's performance on the economy has to be a difficult a task.
We've all heard the Tory talking points:
- 'The best job creation record in the G-7, since the recession';
- 'The lowest taxes in 15 years';
- 'The best economic growth in the G-7 since the recession'; and
- 'Poised to achieve a surplus budget in 2015 which makes us the envy of the developed world.'
On CTV's Question Period, on Sunday, representatives from the the opposition parties put forward their views about the economy ahead of the February 11 budget.
"All the experts agree that growth right now, our GDP, is very sluggish. We saw in November...GDP was just [at] 0.2 per cent," NDP finance critic Peggy Nash said.
"We have some serious economic issues. We're in a situation where our exports are tanking and yet household debt is reaching an all-time high."
A Liberal MP decried Canada's job numbers.
"In fact, the economy was basically flat, we had net job losses in 5 of the 12 months last year. We have youth unemployment...a quarter of million young people are unemployed. Youth unemployment is twice the national rate and the government is saying don't worry be happy," Geoff Reagan said.
"I think that it's concerning that projections are showing that Canada is going to lag behind the average of the G-7 in terms of economic growth over the next four years. That would be the first time for [four] consecutive years since Brian Mulroney was prime minister."
How does that old saying go: 'People can up with statistics to prove anything'?
If the economy is indeed the ballot box issue in 2015, expect to hear those three distinct narratives a lot over the next 20 months.
Are you a politics junkie?
Follow @politicalpoints on Twitter!