Canadian taxpayers could be in for what one Conservative insider predicts will be "the biggest single tax cut in the country's history."
By rough calculation, that would leave enough leftover cash in the till to cut the personal income taxes of every Canadian by more than 10%, or an average of something like $700 a year.
Alternatively, the same amount would buy a 50% increase in old age pensions; a 75% hike in federal health spending; cutting the GST in half to 3%; or a hefty combination of all of the above.
Well, you get the point. By federal budget time, roughly six months from now, the Harper government will have enough money in its spare-change drawer to buy every swing voter in the country several times over.
The government will move before the next budget:
In past, governments teetering on the brink of a federal election have often turned the fall report card on the country's finances into an early mini-budget.
Conservative insiders tell us with some authority that's exactly what Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is considering, using his update in late October or early November to announce at least some tax goodies.
Last time, Harper attempted to buy votes with big spending and he failed. However, tax cuts, substantial ones, probably come with a different acceptance. If the Conservatives can argue they gave every person another $500 dollars in their pocket, that is pretty powerful to overcome.
I'm on the record for wanting the Liberals to reject the throne speech on principle, but the above scenario also makes the strategic point. Whatever weakness the Liberals have at present is offset by the looming realities, that make an immediate election just as attractive as a postponement. If the Liberals wait until one of Harper's many "confidence" votes, there is the advantage of timing, but there is also the prospect of Flaherty delivering something substantial, with more to come.
Strike immediately, and you don't give the Conservatives anything beyond promises. You also make the government stand on its last budget, which is a big spending, little tax relief approach. The Conservatives can promise, but so too can the Liberals, and the voter has the knowledge that the Conservatives under-estimated the surplus, and didn't find it necessary to compensate Canadians.
I don't see how the landscape improves in the next few months, and I can't stand the prospects of waiting until 2009. The hard reality, whatever problems the Liberal Party has will not be overcome quickly, so delay doesn't necessarily improve the situation, particularly when you add in the government's financial situation.
Weston concludes the reality is a win/win for Harper. His analysis omits one important caveat, the Liberals pull the plug, now, right now. Food for thought.