When we discuss election timing, I've argued there are three chief considerations for the Liberals. One revolves around the issue of "propping up" the government and the potential fallout. Another digests the impact of the looming Conservative attack barrage against Ignatieff. The third, how the economic circumstance will help/hinder our prospects.
I would argue, that only one consideration remains, in any substantive way. With the new dynamics in Ottawa, any danger of the Liberals appearing weak, as they avoid confrontation with the government, has pretty much evaporated. We've already seen evidence of a more robust Liberal opposition, it is clear that we have more strategic latitude, which should neuter any sense of culpability or weakness.
In terms of the Conservative smear machine, we have clear evidence that there will be no Dion redux. The encouraging fundraising total for the first quarter, paying off party debt, and signs that the second quarter will bring even better numbers, the Liberals at least have the capacity for counter. Couple some semblance of improved fiscal health, with the dynamic of going negative actually reinforcing the unattractive characteristics of the government, and I'm less concerned that unleashing the Conservative gutter machine will be devastating to the Liberals.
The one remaining "concern" revolves around the relative health of the economy. Recent days have shown that the longer the Liberals wait, the more risk involved. Moving forward, if a situation develops, wherein Harper can claim partial turnaround, past "bottom", it allows for a more convincing argument. Today, Harper is already seizing on "green shoots":
“We may not be in a recovery, but I think we might be in a position where it’s not getting worse, where it’s truly plateauing,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in an interview, adding he’d like another “month or two” of data before coming to that conclusion.
It's a strange world, when 500000 job losses for April in the U.S. is considered "good news". However, everything now is viewed through the relative lens, not as horrific, is the new "encouraging". Two years ago, if the U.S. reported those job figures the DOW would have fallen 400 points, today it's up 100. In other words, the new frame doesn't require robust recovery, only a sense that we've seen bottom, which then allows everyone to look for those "green shoots". Within that reality, Harper doesn't need to see a return to real growth, only the sense that it's around the corner, we've weathered the storm. Then, the arguments against the government are somewhat weakened, because they can then point to their policies to support this notion of good managers, ably navigating us to the other side. Why turf the government, when things are looking up?
I've contended since the budget, that Harper is merely trying to ride out the economy. Earlier bluster from the government was mostly laughable, because the true strategy is to make it to the break, see a no threat summer and then reaccess come fall, always hoping that the worst would be behind us. You can't say anything definitive at this point, but come fall, Harper might just have enough patchy ammunition to somewhat counter his chief current liability. Liberals should proceed with this knowledge, entertain the possibilities and don't assume our historic "trump" card will be as effective as it seems today.