The challenge facing Stephane Dion is to prevent Harper from framing the election on neutral issues.
Harper is going to play on the economy, arguing that Dion's fanciful ideas would only kick us when we're already going down on an international downturn.
The downturn, call it a recession if you like, is a global phenomenon - not Harper's doing, not the Tories' fault. All the big headline stories have come out of the US or Britain. Just one of those things but a spillover crisis in any case that needs a down to earth leader to fend off. "Down to earth" as in none of that nonsense about global warming or carbon taxes.
How will Dion refute that in a way that resonates with the electorate? He's already allowed the Libs to be neutralized on Afghanistan. Not only are the Conservatives comfortably off the hook but they also get to boast about revitalizing the armed forces. The Conservative scandals have died down over the summer and won't surface again until well after the election - if at all. Harper is going to have the gullible scared crazy about economic hard times. The last thing on their minds will be ambitious programmes to fight global warming.
If Dion can't reframe the election on issues on which the Tories are vulnerable or weakest, he's left to whine about Harper's lies. We may find them outrageous but don't expect the voting public to turn on the Conservatives over them.
Should Mr. Dion not go on the attack and effectively skewer Harper it's hard to see how the Tories will be defeated. One thing I'm sure of - if the Libs try to wage their campaign on the Green Shift, they risk spinning themselves into a corner to the delight of Harper and Layton alike.
I've always had serious reservations about Mr. Dion but now, at least, he has a chance to prove his defenders and supporters right. I sure hope he proves me wrong.