Despite the reverberating silence in my "comments" bin, I know full well why readers return to this page again and again -- for my incisive commentary on Canadian politics! (Pause for laughter.)
I'll keep this brief: my hunch is we could see a Tory minority government. To anyone attuned to the chattering classes, this scenario will seem far-fetched, but I don't think it is. The public perception of Prime Minister Paul Martin is of a shifty weasel who takes hold of the limelight and glad-hands one minute, then privately heads back to the public purse and ties the strings a little tighter. In the meantime, Tory Stephen Harper's media coaching is paying off dividends. He's transformed himself (somewhat) from a shifty-eyed, hunched-over number cruncher to a relaxed and confident figure with a plan that seems tangible to the public (how's reducing the GST sound, folks?).
NDP leader Jack Layton, on the other hand, has made no changes to his person or strategy whatsoever. He still projects a supercilious air of unshakeable rectitude: "I know what you think, but you're wrong, and I'm not listening. You need to listen to me." Used to be the Liberals could depend on Harper mirroring the same attitude from the far right, to scare the voters into the Liberal fold. That has changed, and we are likely to see Tory in-roads in Ontario and British Columbia. Quebec, of course, not so much. Moderate Quebecois voters will get behind the Bloc Quebecois, thinking the BQ will keep the province's generous social programs intact and not make too many frightening separatist waves.
Much of this depends on the different candidates' abilities to avoid foot-in-mouth disease. So long as the BQ doesn't say anything too baldly racist, and the Conservatives don't say anything too baldly homophobic, the Liberals are almost certain to lose seats. The Conservatives only need 17 more to get a minority -- a goal entirely within reach.
Feel free to enter the fray anytime. A friend who engages with me in this sort of speculation suggests a worthy caveat: our projections are completely open to change the morning after the debates.