Here's an absolute must-read by my Star sistah Susan Delacourt.
It's all about how the Liberals are wining that ''left-wing fringe group'' called women while PM Stephen Harper is playing to the oil guys and cowboys -- at the expense of the environment and Canadian unity, according to my other Star sistah Chantal Hebert.
Not surprisingly, its headline reads ''PM from Mars, Iggy from Venus?'' and it shows how Harper's Johnny-come-lately position on maternal healthcare, not to mention his utter disdain for the plight of our own First Nations kids, could make all the difference during the next election. I added the boldface.
... when Harper talked to Sports Illustrated this week about the "tough and aggressive and ambitious" traits of the Canadian national psychology – comparing it to the skills needed for hockey – it's entirely possible that those words found their mark with women. And child care may be as much a men's issue these days as it is a concern for women.
What may have an effect, though not strictly down the gender divide, is Ignatieff's rather risky decision to raise the subject of abortion.
He did it on Tuesday in the context of Harper's new foreign-aid priority – the Liberal leader asking whether help for women abroad would include aid to organizations that support access to safe abortions. This is a hot-button issue for largely Conservative, anti-abortion advocates. In fact, support for abortions is exactly what groups such as Campaign Life were asking Harper to avoid in the wake of his announced new focus on foreign aid for women.
Officially, Harper's office dismissed the Ignatieff announcement, accusing him of playing political games with an issue of conscience and morality.
Conservatives, however, are in a bit of a glass house when they throw rocks in that direction, with their own history of attacks on Liberals over sensitive issues such as anti-Semitism, patriotism and support for the troops. In many ways, this was a deliberate Liberal effort to turn those visceral, wedge tactics back on the Conservatives.
And unofficially, Conservatives were counselling each other to avoid falling into the Liberals' trap this week – to not get baited into another polarized debate on abortion, which, history shows, tends to drive more voters away from the Conservatives than it attracts.
The irony is, the Con men are caught between a rock and a hard place here. If they say they don't want to re-open the abortion debate -- as if it ever closed -- they'll anger their socially regressive base. If they do start talking about abortion, and let all those caucus members, overwhelmingly anti-choice, start yapping, then the Cons will drive away the fiscal conservatives who are socially progressive.
Meanwhile, NDP leader Jack Layton, who today announced that he is battling prostate cancer, is getting in on the maternal healthcare action. Monday, he's holding a newser to ''challenge his three federal counterparts to seek common ground to make the concerns of women and children in Canada a priority in the next session of Parliament.''
Guess we're gonna see a lot more blue sweaters and kittens during the campaign.