Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Stephen Harper Desperate For Another Election

Timing is everything, nowhere is that more true than in the arena that is Canadian politics. Had Stephen Harper and the Conservatives stuck to their fixed election date law they'd have been facing the electorate during what most are predicting to be a tsunami of a recession. The Tories however were able to escape any wrath from disgruntled voters by spinning the last parliament as 'unworkable'. This in spite of the fact that the Liberal Party under Stephane Dion had basically sat on its collective hands, allowing Harper to rule with little tangible opposition.

Now it appears Harper is itching for yet another kick at the majority can, his posturing indicating he favours a quick election. In fairness I can't truly say that I blame him. He is being allowed to govern for the moment, "on probation" as Ignatieff has framed it, with tepid support from the opposition parties...primarily the Liberals.

Obviously the opposition parties will look to topple the government at a time when their prospects for electoral success are best, and Conservative fortunes are at their worst. That is the sword of Damacles hanging over Harper's head and he knows it. The challenge for the Tories is in forcing an election while escaping blame for the writ being dropped, not an easy trick to manage. Canadians are anxious to see our government working at protecting us from the recession now wreaking havoc all over the world. Whichever party is deemed responsible for forcing an election can expect to be punished.
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And this is where things start to get fun. The Conservatives have about 3 billion dollars lying around, money Ignatieff says is left over from unspent infrastructure funds in the last budget. He is insisting that the Conservatives spell out exactly how this money will be spent. Harper on the other hand is categorizing this as a political ploy, saying the government needs to get the money out there post haste...basically accusing the Liberals of delaying stimulus spending. Itemizing can be done later according to the Tories, in the meantime they suggest an urgent need to get the $$$ flowing.

The Liberals are set to introduce a motion next week which would require the government to identify exactly how the money will be spent. Harper is framing this as a matter of confidence, which leads us directly to the prospect of a snap election. The central question, if an election does indeed come to pass, is who would be to blame? Would it be Conservative arrogance forcing us to mark an X once again, or rather would it be the fault of power hungry Liberals, more concerned with seizing power than with the state of the Canadian economy?

The stakes are high, and Harper has the 'big stack' when it comes to owning the airwaves in the media campaign that is sure to follow. That's an advantage that will slowly diminish as the Liberals rebuild their own war chest. Obviously it is in Harper's best interests to have an election sooner rather than later, provided he can successfully pin the blame for it on the opposition Liberals.

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