Political foes say the five priorities are a packaging PR exercise, but Conservatives and even Liberals say if Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets three of his five top legislative priorities through Parliament before the next election, the Conservatives will likely win a majority.
"Unless something extraordinary comes up that we don't know about, I think we will win the next election with a majority," one top Conservative, who did not want to be identified, told The Hill Times last week. "I think Harper is going to get three of his five priorities approved before the next election and with that he can, in my view, win the next election with a majority."
Some Liberals agree. "These guys are in for at least six years. The situation doesn't look that great in Quebec [for the federal Liberals] even now. We don't have a leader and who knows who will be the leader and what kind of [political] skills that leader will have. So, considering the information that we have at this time, it would be fair to say these guys are in for six years," said one top Liberal who also did not want to be identified
I'll admit that Harper's strategy is formidable and presents a daunting challenge for the opposition. However, given the fact that we are at least a year away from another election, the optimism of Conservatives and corresponding pessimism of Liberals is pre-mature. Until the Liberal Party chooses another leader, any predictions are suspect.
It is true that Liberal fortunes in Quebec don't look promising. Also true, that the Conservatives have made a massive push in Quebec, as they try to make a bigger breakthrough. But, the situation in Quebec is fluid, with many factors still in play. I don't think Quebec is forever lost to the Liberals, as the past elections were more of a rejection of the Chretien/Martin approach and the sponsorship scandal. On social issues, the Liberals are still a more natural fit for a relatively progressive Quebec population. If the new Liberal leader is sensitive to Quebec's aspirations within confederation, free of the old Liberal regime ties and daring on the environment, opportunity still exists for the party. The Conservative breakthrough in Quebec was a combination of shrewd overtures and simply filling the federalist vacuum, as many people could no longer support the Liberals. To say that the Conservatives enjoy concrete support and potential for growth is somewhat misleading. Much of the Conservatives future fortunes are directly tied to how the Liberals respond. Afterall, no one predicted any Conservative presence in Quebec prior to the election.
The defeatists misread the electorate in my view. Despite Harper's small rise in the recent polls, the support is still relatively soft. Important to remember that Harper's enjoys success during a temporary situation. Once the Liberals choose a leader, in concert with the free media bonanza, we will have a much better understanding of the political landscape. Is there reason for concern? Yes. Is the situation a fait accompli? Come on.