Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Well, that would be number four

That is the number of times that Stephen Harper has indicated that he wants an election.

The first three times he was thwarted by circumstances and by Mr. Dion who has so far refused to take the bait.

So now Mr. Harper has created another "crisis" so that he can claim Parliament is not working. Of course that is true in some of the committees but in reality Parliament is working rather well, from a government point of view. They have been able to pass most of what they wanted to pass and they have even been able to pass those measures they did not want to pass. (The crime package comes to mind.)

So why is Mr. Harper using this current tactic?

1) He has had a few good days so internal polling is probably indicating a bit of an uptick for the Conservatives. Of course most of that, if it exists, would just be the result of incumbent advantage and it would evaporate as soon as Canadians were reminded, during an election, of all of the issues that have dogged the Conservatives of late.

2) The IMF released a report today that Canada is in for a rough year and that is on top of some rather bad economic numbers released in the last week, including an uptick in the unemployment numbers. The economic slowdown that everybody is predicting appears to be imminent, which is one reason why Mr. Harper was making statements to the contrary yesterday.

3) Mr. Dion has denied him an election on three occasions so now he is letting go a trial balloon on the more direct approach.

4) The frame of reference for the Mulroney Inquiry has been released. There will be growing pressure on him to set it up in the coming weeks and an election will be just the ticket to put that on the back burner.

5) Stephen Harper could just be trying to use this threat to bury some inconvenient issues before some of those disrupted commitees and he really does not want to call an election.

So, what do the Liberals do?

Stay the course on the committees and let him call an election or back down, while reminding Canadians about the infamous Conservative committee manual and the fact the Liberals have been cooperating with the Conservatives for the last little while. Perversely, Mr. Harper has given the Liberals an opportunity to reframe their recent actions in Parliament in a more positive light.

In the case where he calls an election, the Fixed Election Date law is less than two years old and the promise of fixed election dates goes back to when Stephen Harper was a young Reform Party backbencher. If Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to break his own law and a two decades old political promise the Liberals should be able to live with that. It guarantees that the Conservatives will be on the defensive for the first few days of any election campaign. Studies have shown that people pay attention to the first few days of an election campaign and the last few days. So, giving Canadians the first impression of a government on the defensive would be great news for the Liberals. By the time the Conservatives would be able to change the channel Canadians will have largely tuned out the election.

If he backs down, then he is the one that looks weak, if anybody were to notice. Mr. Harper was actually rather clever in choosing the committee disruptions as his potential election trigger. Most Canadians do not follow the minute details of them so if Mr. Harper decides to back down he can just claim that the opposition has become more cooperative on committees and call off any election. The media is guaranteed to give him a pass on that lie and Canadians will just accept it.

Mr. Harper's desperation for an election is almost palpable now. That is the only reason I can think of for him putting into motion a strategy that will result in him breaking his own law to call an election or will result in him having to back down.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


All Harper needs to do is to put a "poison pill" confidence motion which leave Dion no option but to pull the plug.

Don't know what the "poison pill" is though. If it is not C-50, then what it is?

April 09, 2008 11:13 PM  
Blogger Northern PoV said...

Our current Liberal crew ain't never seen a poison pill they don't like

April 10, 2008 8:49 AM  

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