I've already read that the NDP and Bloc are both rejecting an election call over the Green Plan. However, there are efforts underway to introduce the opposition's revised Clean Air Act and have a vote, as well as the Rodriguez motion that is set for passage in the Senate. These two looming realities mean that the environment will remain front and center in the coming weeks, with the potential for a climatic showdown.
We are already seeing a theme develop in the media that has the potential to backfire on the aggressive opposition. Yesterday, two separate columns, two mentions on newscasts, that all present the same question- if the situation is so dire, as the opposition argues, then can they afford not to have an election? Andrew Coyne jumps on theme today:
"If they are truly as committed to stopping global warming as they claim, and if the Tory plan is as much of a betrayal of that aim as they will say, then they have no choice: They must defeat the government, as soon as possible. If they do not, then they will have admitted, we are every bit as hypocritical as they are."
The opposition has the upper hand on this file, but if they continue to avoid election talk, then they run the risk of losing the "high ground". The media is almost challenging the opposition to put their money where there rhetoric is, and this potential negative connotation might make an election the politically prudent counter.
When you look at the Liberal leader, the man awash in green at the convention, who has made the environment his central thesis, articulated in the recent television ads, you have to conclude- if not this issue then what? A red hot debate on the environment is Dion's best opportunity. You can debate the pros and cons of Dion's legacy, but there is no question that he has made this argument his make or break issue, so tactically now might be the time, while we are guaranteed a high profile debate. What issue best plays to Dion's supposed strengths?
From the NDP perspective, the rallying cry of "getting things done" is no better illustrated than Layton and others working to revise the Clean Air Act. Layton can accurately take some credit, and use the revised bill to demonstrate why the NDP needs substantial representation in parliament. I can't think of any other issue where the NDP has distinguished itself in this parliament, why wouldn't they welcome an election that highlights their "achievement".
The NDP also has some potential as it relates to Afghanistan. The only party that advocates immediate withdrawal, there is an audience for that perspective. The lines of distinction could work in the NDP's favor.
As for the Bloc, you can make concrete arguments why an election might have an attraction. Afghanistan is a killer in Quebec, particularly during the busy insurgent season. Quebecers are also reject Harper's environmental policies, which creates a favorable landscape to take it to the Conservatives.
The harsh reality, we can expect more casualties in Afghanistan as the Taliban become seasonally active. The best way to gauge if an election call is politically smart is to look at it from the Conservative perspective. I doubt many in the PMO see the merit in going to the polls with Afghanistan a big unknown and a united opposition on the environment. I'm sure the Tories would prefer an election fought on say, a mini-budget, crime, record of achievement etc. If you accept the premise that the Tories would rather avoid any election with Afghanistan and the environment as the two main talking points, it tells you all you need to know about what the opposition should do. Let's not forget, Tory insiders freely admitted that their hope with environmental initiatives was to "neutralize" the issue. I would hardly characterize the present situation as neutered, more like hot button.
There are many arguments why the opposition should delay an election, and most of them are valid. Having said that, I don't think people should dismiss a quick election call out of hand, because the landscape is starting to look favorable, never mind those pesky principles.