By-election blues — probably not déja vu all over again, but … ?

Oct 5th, 2009 | By | Category: In Brief
Conservative, Liberal, NDP, and BQ signs in the Westmount—Ville-Marie by-election, originally scheduled for September 8, 2008 — but finally pre-empted  by the October 14, 2008 general election, called on September 7.

Conservative, Liberal, NDP, and BQ signs in the Westmount—Ville-Marie by-election, originally scheduled for September 8, 2008 — but finally pre-empted by the October 14, 2008 general election, called on September 7.

[UPDATED OCTOBER 6, 9]. Does history repeat itself? Well, probably not. Or at least not exactly. But it is still sometimes interesting in any case.

Yesterday Stephen Harper’s Conservative minority government officially called four Canadian federal by-elections for November 9 — for two ridings in Quebec (Hochelaga and Montmagny–L’Islet–Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup), and one each in British Columbia (New Westminster–Coquitlam) and Nova Scotia (Cumberland–Colchester–Musquodoboit Valley).

This is being widely interpreted as “the clearest signal yet that the federal Conservatives don’t want — or expect —  a general election this fall.” And John Ibbitson, among others, is speculating that the government in Ottawa “will probably survive into the new year, giving it an opportunity to bring down a new budget … And that budget will arrive at about the same time as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.”

To help corroborate such thoughts, federal finance minister Jim Flaherty has said “he is prepared to do more to help the jobless if the problem becomes worse than he currently foresees.” This could be a signal that the Harper minority government is prepared to give the New Democrats who are currently propping it up in Parliament a few further reasons to continue their good work.

Meanwhile, Chantal Hébert reports that if Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff “polled his Quebec ranks, he would find that …  there is no eagerness to test the current leader in an election anytime soon … The prospect of four by-elections next month is unlikely to raise Liberal morale anywhere … In none of the four did the Liberals place better than a distant third last year.”

New Democrat Dawn Black (left), whose resignation of her federal seat to run in the recent BC provincial election has prompted the upcoming November 9 by-election in New Westminster–Coquitlam. With her here (right) is Amanda Reaume of  Antigone Magazine — a “blog about women, politics, women in politics and the politics of being a woman ... I think that women from the conservative and progressive sides will always have differences but there are ways to work together and cross the ideological divide.”

New Democrat Dawn Black (left), whose resignation of her federal seat to run in the recent BC provincial election has prompted the upcoming November 9 by-election in New Westminster–Coquitlam. With her here (right) is Amanda Reaume of Antigone Magazine — a “blog about women, politics, women in politics and the politics of being a woman ... I think that women from the conservative and progressive sides will always have differences but there are ways to work together and cross the ideological divide.”

And yet last year as well, on July 25, Prime Minister Harper also called three federal by-elections for September 8 — two in Quebec and one in Ontario. As late as August 17 he called a fourth, in Ontario, for September 22.  But all four were finally pre-empted, on September 7, when Harper called a general election for October 14 — despite his own earlier fixed election date legislation!

So … could what happened in 2008 actually happen all over again in 2009? Will the planned November 9 by-elections ultimately be pre-empted on November 8, by another call by Prime Minister Harper for a general election on, say, December 15?

A poll of the office here comes up with a very definite probably not. But who really knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, and women too, when they have lived in Ottawa long enough? If we all fall asleep on federal politics now, we may miss the most interesting tunes Mr. Harper has yet to sing, for the amusement at least of those still susceptible to his charms.  (Today Yahoo Canada is asking: “Are you more likely to vote for Stephen Harper after his hit rendition of a Beatles classic” at the National Arts Centre last Saturday night? And 68% are saying “No.”)

UPDATE OCTOBER 6: Some might urge that the latest opinion poll out today does increase the chances that there will finally not be any by-elections in November 2009, just like in September 2008. See, e.g.: “Conservative lead over Liberals widens to 13 points, poll finds” ; “Tories flirt with majority support … Strategic Counsel poll puts Harper’s Conservatives at 41 per cent across Canada, with Ignatieff’s Liberals slipping to 28 per cent.”

UPDATE OCTOBER 9: For further ruminations on the theme that there may still be a Canadian federal election before the end of this year, see Chantal Hébert’s column in today’s Toronto Star: “Don’t pop no-election cork just yet.” And for this week’s EKOS-CBC poll, which reports broadly similar results to the Strategic Counsel poll immediately above, see “Tories edge into majority territory … Liberals at lowest ebb since Ignatieff became leader.”

For a still further update on the November 9 by-elections that finally are taking place on November 9, see our “Waiting progressively for the next federal by-elections in Canada : Donolo, Byers, and Iggy republic.”

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