A mild case of summer-election fever is gripping the Liberal caucus, with some MPs convinced conditions are ripe to bring down Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.
But Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion is so far resisting the calls, sticking with the rough plan to provoke a fall election instead.
Sources say the Liberal caucus meeting yesterday was punctuated with discussion about whether to pull the plug on Harper's government and plunge the country into an election campaign, with voters going to the polls around mid-July.
The election-now debate was reportedly pointed earlier this week when Dion met with the inner circle of caucus, known as the "priorities and planning" group of MPs. It's said that the major contenders in the Liberal leadership race, including deputy leader Michael Ignatieff and foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, were forcefully presenting the case to trigger an election sooner rather than later.
Debate at Liberal caucus yesterday centred on whether the party should seize this moment – when Conservatives are looking weak and besieged – to spring an election on Harper
Earlier in the year, when we heard talk of an election, Dion was apparently in the "hawk" camp, but had deferred to those in his inner circle that argued patience. This story tends to suggest that Dion is now committed to waiting, which is disappointing.
The article mentions one point, which mirrors my own concerns about waiting:
There's a sense in Liberal strategy circles that the government is in trouble and transition – that giving the government a few more months will just help Conservatives consolidate and do damage control.
It is fine to argue that the Liberals can use the summer to sell their policy ideas, allow Dion time to make his case, improve fundraising and election readiness. I have little doubt, that should Dion release an ambitious environmental plan, it will allow him to stay on the front page, always a challenge for an opposition leader in the quiet summer months. There is an opportunity for improving Liberal fortunes, especially if one considers events outside of their control, namely the economy.
The real problem with this plan, the Liberals don't act in isolation. It isn't as though the Conservatives stand still during this time, they do are also provided time to retool, regroup and develop a clear strategy for the fall. Couple that reality, with the clear understanding that the government tends to do better when Parliament isn't sitting, has the luxury of scripted announcements, and you see a counter balance to the idea of rising Liberal fortunes. In one sense, this summer allows Harper to reassert the "control" he has clearly lost at present. If the rumors are true, Parliament may not reconvene until as late as November, providing ample time to get the Conservative message back on track.
Speaking of November, it just so happens that the Liberals will have a convention the following month, which means, should Harper delay the return of MP's, there is a very small window to force an election, prior to that convention. I don't know about anybody else, but I see potential "issues" arising at that convention, as the media scours Liberal circles looking for a juicy leadership quote. The convention isn't supposed to be about Dion, but it doesn't take much imagination to see how a few mischievous discontents could change the theme. Yesterday, I heard mention of Liberals trashing their leader at an Ottawa garden party, true or not, no one is naive enough to think that Dion has a firm hold. Do we risk the prospects of waiting so long, that we enter another phase of discontent? Does anyone put it past Harper to delay Parliament, so it forces that convention before an election?
What I'm saying, there is risk moving forward, in a way by waiting, we lose control. It is hard to imagine another time in the future where the government is so off its game, in transition, bereft of ideas, basically in damage control mode, trying to play out the clock until the summer break. If you ask Conservatives if they will be glad when this session is over, their obvious answer tells us a great deal about whether it is wise to go now or wait.
Nobody can predict the future, Liberal prospects may improve, but just as likely, any "gains" will be offset by Conservative positives, meaning, at best, the electoral map will look much the same, with the negative current government predicaments a distant memory. I prefer the known, to the theoreticals of the future. Time will tell...