Monday, September 18, 2006

No Surprise: Tories Eye Spring Election

I don't think anyone finds this terribly surprising:
The working assumption among senior ministers in the Harper Cabinet is that the country will go to the polls after a Conservative budget; the legislative schedule that will be rolled out from today is designed to cram as much as possible into the shop window between now and then...

The Conservatives will attempt to engineer their own defeat in order to achieve Stephen Harper's stated ambition to drive a stake through the heart of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The budget should be a collection of goodies meant to buy votes. If the Tories continue to stall in the polls, I wouldn't be surprised to see them fastrack the next GST cut, due to increased revenues. Strategically, the spring budget affords the Tories their best chance to frame the election debate, on issues that they deem attractive. Also, the achilles heel of Afghanistan should be relatively quiet, as the budget will be delivered before the usual uptick in Taliban activity each summer. For a control freak like Harper, the lure of budget time will be too tempting.

However, I think the spring budget may also be great timing for the Liberals. You would expect a bounce in support after a high profile convention, as well as a honeymoon period as the new leader gets acquainted. The budget timing should weave in nicely with the "new" Liberal Party, headed by a leader who still enjoys a positive vibe. I don't think the media will turn on the new leader at such an early stage. I also think the Liberals will look relatively effective with a clear face at the helm, as opposed to the mish mash we have presently. Harper may have trouble using his standard line of the tired old Liberals, when appearances would suggest otherwise. As far as I'm concerned, Harper is dreaming if he really thinks he can "drive a stake" through the Liberals. Spring sounds good to me.


Walks With Coffee said...

Not a surprise but worth noting nonetheless.

However, the CPC may be it tough shape in the Spring:

They are not likely to have election money back yet (Convention-donation Gate).

US politics will get very ugly next year as Dems will be bringing down Reps in prep for presidential primaries. Accordingly, Harper's association with Bush is going to bite big next year.

Additionally, the BLOC has yet to exact its "pound of flesh" and will stab Harper in the back eventually in order to secure seats... and next spring is as good a time as any for the BLOC to make its moves.

Most seriously, Canada's high dollar is killing jobs in Ontario and by Christmas that is going to bite hard and the voters will want revenge for Harper mis-management... i.e raising net taxes and stalling the economy and putting thousands out of work in Ontario.

etc. etc. etc.

Harper hasn't a clue how to run a government and the longer he sits on high proclaiming that doing nothing is right because this that or the other is "politized" - except warfare - the more Canadians are going to realize he is at best a dud... and generally clueless... and dangerous when he is "thinking".

Steve V said...

As far the Bloc is concerned, I guess the wildcard is whether Harper tries to deal with the fiscal imbalance. I don't see how Harper can deliver, so he might settle for giving Quebec oodles of cash on various projects, like the just reported greenhouse emissions money and the already allocated over-expenditure for Quebec City's birthday bash. No matter how Harper attacks the problem, Duceppe must relish the chance to call him out.

Walks With Coffee said...

Steve v, "No matter how Harper attacks the problem, Duceppe must relish the chance to call him out."

bang on.

They have him on Lebannon and Afganistan... now they are hunting to get him on somthing just as big that is close to home that has money attached... which doesn't usually take too much creative thinking. All the BLOC has to do is start asking for something the CPC cannot give but Quebecers want and the BLOC has Harper's Quebec seats...

SouthernOntarioan said...

I doubt Harper will go to the polls in the spring unless he is forced to. The lure of a majority is significant, but as you pointed out there are significant factors playing into the Liberals/Bloc/NDP hands.

Another factor is his proposed fixed election dates. IF (big if) he makes it a law, then he'll be bound to try (at least be seen as try) to hold on as long as possible, which leaves the initiative more or less up to the Liberals.

Walks with Coffee brings up a very important point about the job-killing dollar in Ontario. Certain areas are being metaphorically slaughtered (like Windsor) but that is a combination of poor economic policy decisions from Toronto Liberals as well. Net taxes were decreased though no matter how any economist cuts it though so good luck trying to pin it on Harper.

As for the US politics influence, also remember that the Ontario Liberals might go down to defeat in 2007. That might have an influence as well.

The fiscal imbalance question is more of a question of how much power Harper is willing to give to the provinces. If the Bloc sees that Harper is more likely to respect prov. areas of responsibility they'll keep him around. Remember, the Bloc doesn't care if they have 40 seats or 60 seats because they can never form government. THey care about influencing policy, and right now they have as much power as they'll ever have.

Miles Lunn said...

I think he will go in the spring, which certainly has some good things for us Liberals. I think Quebec is a real wild card, since Charest will also be facing an election no much later so I suspect Harper is hoping that Charest will claim the fiscal imbalance is solved to cover for himself, although how that will play out is anybody's guess.

As for the US election, I think the Tories probably realize that the Republicans make it more difficult not easier to win as the Republicans remind Canadians why the Tories shouldn't be in power.

Considering how much polls change, I think it is very difficult to guess the outcome of the next election. Our ultimate goal should be to get a majority government, but at the absolute minimum hold Harper to another minority.

Steve V said...


I think Harper would call an election now if he thought he could get away with it. The budget affords the best opportunity to frame the debate. I doubt Harper will wait another year, nor do I think the opposition will give it to him.

Steve V said...


I really believe that Harper has a minority ceiling, so long as their is a viable opposition. The Conservative Party simply doesn't reflect the majority view. Canada isn't Bush country.

Scotian said...

Steve V:

I can see Harper going this Spring no problem at all. Given the trends of this government from it's first day if he waits much longer than that he is likely to kill any chance of a majority next time out. Consider for the moment that to date Harper has had his honeymoon period after a 13 year old government was voted out of office. That party becomes the Official Opposition without too many MPs with experience in Opposition because of that long government, no leader since the election ended with Martin's resignation, yet the CPC and Harper have been unable to make more than marginal gains of less that five-seven points at their most and have since then fallen back to election night numbers despite the lack of an OO with a single leader shaping/voicing policy.

When you combine that with the elements you mentioned such as a pay-off budget of some type, a quiet period (relatively speaking) in Afghanistan thanks to the winter de facto cease-fires we have seen each year, a new OO leader still getting his legs under him as LOO and gaining profile nationally, it would seem almost inevitable for Harper to go then. Especially if he does it by as one Senator put it running on the back of the Senate obstructing him and he needing a majority to deal with this unelected failed mockery of government obstructing the Will Of The People in his person as Prime Minister.

Personally I think the sooner we can be rid of Harper and his fellow Strauusians in the leadership of this country AND the CPC the better off this country will be. For him to cast insults and denigrate the peacekeeping work Canada did throughout the Cold War and the reality that we were front and center more than any others in the world in these missions was truly disgusting above and beyond any personal dislike I have for this man and his party.

I think Harper has made repeated mistakes because of his belief that Canadian society/culture and American society/culture are inherently nearly identical in nature. He fails to recognize the subtle yet profound differences between the two societies from military issues to foreign policy to economic to especially social. Take this idiocy of trying to repeal SSM because the last vote was not a full free vote because the Lib Cabinet was whipped. What he forgets to mention was so was the NDP, and there is zero basis to believe that will be any different the next time around especially with the same leader in place. So this is clear pandering to an element of his core base and not in the interests of the country as a whole, yet he and his party/supporters paint this as some sort of noble necessity in the service of true democracy.

Harper can only win a majority if he scares the public sufficiently. Yet his ammo to do so with the Libs has been greatly reduced since the last election, in no small party thanks to his own actions in his first months as PM from Emerson to Fortier to increased secrecy and media controls. His main reason for winning last time out was purely on ethical government and the Libs not being so and the CPC promising something different. Since they clearly have not practiced what they preached in some really noticeable ways this weapon has been severely blunted. When you factor in the clear new foreign policy approach and belief Afghanistan and Lebanon showed Canadians, the Softwood Sellout he has claimed as the only deal possible and that industry must accept or received no help from this government his vulnerability on the same tools he used to dethrone the Libs is significant indeed.

This will only get worse given his my way or the highway approach to governing, and his clear preference of being the face of government (almost as if he was a President and not a Prime Minister with a Cabinet) means he wears this more than any others. So he has to go soon, because the longer the Libs have their leader the more probable that the vote that brings his government down will be chosen by the opposition and not him, which I'd say he cannot afford given the other negatives he has working against him. So for all of these reasons I have to agree that Harper's probability for calling a 2007 election, especially in the spring is nearly a certainty IMHO.

Steve V said...


Well said, per usual :)

Miles Lunn said...

I would say the Conservatives are definitely in the minority and therefore I see a majority as unlikely, however I never thought Harper could even win a minority. A lot also depends to on the opposition. If the Liberals go too far to the left, then he could win a majority as the lesser of two evils, but as long as the Liberals have a decent leader and are close to the centre, he cannot.