Perhaps this is true but Harper doesn't bother to give any evidence for this. Polls about peoples attitudes about various matters should support what he says one way or the other. Anyway Harper at least admits that the country is not as right wing as many in his party. This is why he must hide much of his agenda although he was able to pass a considerable amount of conservative legislation with the support of Liberals. He wants to be able to do more however.
No doubt Harper thought conditions will worsen economically and for the Conservative party. When Dion opted for the Green Shift I think Harper saw that this would not sell very well. He seems to be right especially in BC where the provincial carbon tax is unpopular among many it would seem. A big spike in gas prices may help Harper as well.
Harper strategists are carefully crafting a softer image of Harper and sell him as a moderate and not to be feared but rather respected as a capable and strong leader. In Quebec, he moved to recognise Quebec as a nation, a bold stroke for a Prairie based politician. Even though his base is probably not at all enamoured of Quebec sovereigntists Harper seems to be having some success in luring them into the Conservative camp. This is from the Globe and Mail.
Harper: Canada a more conservative country
STEVEN CHASE AND OMAR EL AKKAD
Globe and Mail Update
September 13, 2008 at 8:42 PM EDT
GRACE HARBOUR, NFLD. and OTTAWA — Tory Leader Stephen Harper says he thinks Canadians have become more conservative over the past two decades.
But, he added, they're still not as right wing as his party – which means it must moderate its policies in order to govern.
“I think the Canadian public has become more conservative,” he said during an election stop at a factory in Fredericton on Saturday.
“At the same time I don't want to say the Canadian public is overwhelmingly conservative or that it is necessarily as conservative as everybody in our party.”
Mr. Harper said that even as his party is trying to sell Canadians on the Conservatives it must put water in its wine when making policy.
“That means our party has to make sure that it continues to govern in the interests of the broad majority of the population. That means not only that we want to pull Canadians towards conservatism but Conservatives also have to move towards Canadians if they want to continue to govern the country.”
He said in the last two decades there's been a broad embrace of policies once considered the domain of conservatives, from free trade to balanced budgets and spending restraint.
“We saw the Liberal Party in the 1990s flip its positions on all these issues and adopt small c-conservative positions,” Mr. Harper said.
But there's also been a revival of pride in ideas and entities that conservatives have traditionally backed, Mr. Harper said, meaning not just policies and organization that Liberals and New Democrats say defines Canada.
“Not just [in] things like Medicare and the [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] but [also] in our national military and other institutions,” he said.
Making his first campaign visit to Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Harper shrugged off the latest attacks from Danny Williams and urged voters to ignore the Premier's call to defeat federal Tories.
“No one can tell a Newfoundlander or Labradorian how to vote,” Mr. Harper told a crowd of about 250 in Harbour Grace, Nfld., where he stumped for Tory MP Fabian Manning in the riding of Avalon.
Earlier that day, Mr. Harper told reporters he thinks that voters are receptive to the Conservative message in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the Tories held two of seven ridings before the election was called.
“Premier Williams has a vote like every other person in this country but there's half a million other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who will have their vote as well and I am convinced we have got a pretty good case to make to them,” Mr. Harper said during an election stop in Fredericton.
He also said Mr. Williams is also not telling the truth about a closed-door conversation the two men had in 2007 – one where the Premier says Mr. Harper told him “he didn't need Newfoundland and Labrador to win an election.”
“I never said that at all. What I said was the contrary: I told Premier Williams some time ago I believe we're going to win the next election … and I want Newfoundland and Labrador to have a place in our government,” Mr. Harper said “Premier Williams didn't like the last government. He doesn't like this government and I don't think he will like the next government, whoever that would be.”
Still, Mr. Harper praised Mr. Williams' premiership and said the attacks don't bother him.
“He has his style. In many ways he's a very effective premier. I have learned never to take things personally in this business.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Williams launched his sharpest broadside yet at Mr. Harper, attacking the Conservative Leader's integrity and urging all voters to think twice before giving the party a majority.
He renewed his battle with Mr. Harper over the division of spoils between Ottawa and the province over offshore oil revenue, accusing the Tory chief of breaking his word in a 2007 equalization agreement.
“What in heaven's name will happen if he wins a majority?” Mr. Williams said. “Stop, think, and decide if that is what this country deserves.
“When we vote, I would rather that we stand on the solid ground of principles than on the shaky ground of broken promises. If you believe the country deserves better, then you know what to do.”
The answer, he said, was “as easy as A, B and C,” referring to his ‘Anything But Conservative' campaign.