At a time in the political life cycle when most governments are peaking in public opinion, Stephen Harper's is back about where it was on election day in January 2006 and keeps bumping up against the trust ceiling.
How to explain such a situation when Conservatives have by and large provided competent, honest government that has been surprisingly non-ideological? And all this against the backdrop of a robust Canadian economy and an absence of public sector scandal.
Party organizers are sensing there's a problem out there. Which could be why the Conservative website features photos of the big guy taking son Ben to hockey practice and cuddling kittens.
Even more troublesome for the Conservatives, as outlined in this piece, the Tories don't have much left to offer:
Yet insiders say that, after 18 months of governing, many staff are exhausted and out of good ideas. "It's not directionless but there's nothing new in the pipeline," said one source.
But it is a pretty skimpy legislative agenda. Cabinet meetings are done in an hour; chiefs of staff meet for around 20 minutes.
The problem with "getting it done" is that you have to have a constant flow of new ideas or you end up becoming a victim of your own proficiency
If Travers is correct, that Harper enjoys the historic "peak" presently, then the future might not be so kind. If peak is a minority, then Conservatives should be concerned about future prospects, given the corresponding lack of new initiatives. In other words, the Conservatives have attempted to bombard us with legislation, all in the name of expanding support, but this effort hasn't translated at the polls. One has to wonder, if there is anything on the legislative horizon that can turn around Tory fortunes.
If we don't have an election, we can probably expect a mini-budget in the fall, with a whole new series of voter friendly payoffs. Other than that opportunity, there is nothing looming that has the power to boost Harper's fortunes. In fact, I would argue the calendar is the Conservatives enemy, because this government now has enough of a track record for themes to gel, some of which aren't flattering. If Canadians haven't "warmed" to this government, it's hard to see that changing anytime soon.
This reality may explain the negative attacks on all things Liberal. Having failed to expand support with legislation, the only option is to go negative and hope that pays dividends. The problem with that strategy, and it is starting to manifest itself in the media meme, the more they attack and don't get a bounce, the more it solidifies the "hard cap" theory.
It is true that Harper should be "peaking" in his political life cycle. What is interesting, it is also true that opposition leaders generally start off slow and become more effective, and popular, over time. Realistically, Harper is at the apex, while Dion has the potential, hardly a recipe for Tory confidence moving forward. With a lack of new initiatives in the offing, the Tories will take a more natural, defensive posture, another potential negative moving forward. Harper, the control freak, may be more spectator as the government reacts more and more, to events which they can't control.
It is possible, that we look back on the spring of 2007 as Harper's last, best chance to get what he craved most. The future looks far more uncertain.