Does anyone really believe PM Harper Government doesn’t want a spring election … etc, etc, etc?

Mar 16th, 2011 | By | Category: In Brief

Stephen Harper and friends at Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport, where he announced financial support for the airport’s “long-term expansion and modernization plans,” March 16, 2011.

As Stephen Harper and his party acolytes traipse across the country delivering pre-election goodies to worthy causes and places (see, eg: “PM announces support for Jean-Lesage International Airport,” “Ottawa provides $10 million for health network and hospital planning in Vaughan,” and “PM renews anti-gang funds … Will get $37.5M over five years”), he is also very careful to stress that his Harper (and so far still minority) Government does not actually want an election right now.

On Canada’s Pacific Coast just yesterday, he claimed that the “devastating earthquake in Japan should dissuade federal opposition parties from agitating for a spring election … ‘This should be a wake-up (call) that we cannot afford to take our focus off the economy and get into a bunch of unnecessary political games, or an opportunistic and unnecessary election that nobody is asking for,’ he said.”

Well …  for one thing, on this last point, what does “nobody” mean? The latest update of the Globe and Mail’s current online poll “Do you want a federal election this spring?” shows 59% of more than 14,000 respondents answering Yes! Then this afternoon Susan Delacourt at the Toronto Star (while covering the Commons committee meeting on whether the  Harper Government has shown serious contempt of Parliament, by not fully revealing the costs of its plans to put more Canadians in jail) offered this droll tweet from the front lines: “Has anyone asked PMSH if today’s earthquake in Ottawa means we shouldn’t have an election?

(And yes Virginia, believe it or not: “A 4.7 magnitude earthquake shook the Ottawa region Wednesday afternoon, with tremors reported across the area … According to Natural Resources Canada, the quake occurred at 1:36 p.m. and lasted approximately 10 seconds.”)

* * * *

Stephen Harper announces funding to promote math and science for southern Ontario students, March 11, 2011.

Maybe the craziest aspect of the current Canadian federal election rhetoric is that, on the face of almost all opinion polls extant, the Harper Government Party is the only Ottawa team that has any rational excuse for actually wanting a spring election (this May 2 or 9 etc, etc). Thus: “Ipsos Reid’s latest survey has the Tories up by 13 points, polling at 40% compared to 27%  for the Liberals. The NDP has 16% support compared to 11% for the Bloc and 5% for the Green Party.”

Ipsos Reid chief executive Darrell Bricker has argued that the Conservatives “could form a majority government with these numbers [a majority of seats in Parliament that is], depending where the votes fall. ‘They have a big lead in Ontario … That’s the key. Chrétien won a healthy majority with less than 40 in ’97 mainly because he swept Ontario.’” And Chantal Hébert has at least two columns in circulation at the moment, alluding to a similar majority government prospect — one in the Toronto Star and another in the Halifax Chronicle Herald.

Stephen Harper renews support for national Strategy to fight cancer, March 10, 2011.

My own recent   modest conversations with opposition party activists suggest that, in private, neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats are at all optimistic about their chances in a spring election that they now also seem to believe is almost certain to happen (again May 2 or 9, etc, etc). And their view is that the guy finally driving the bus here (as elsewhere in the 40th Parliament of Canada) is PM Harper Government. Or as Allan Woods of the Toronto Star’s Ottawa Bureau has urged today: “Harper’s earthquake threat a tried and true pre-election ploy.”

Mr. Harper is certainly going to do his best to make it look like it is the “opposition parties” and their “bunch of unnecessary political games” who are pushing the country into “an opportunistic and unnecessary election that nobody is asking for.”

Stephen Harper announces new Canadian Forces helicopter facility near Victoria, February 22, 2011.

Meanwhile, in the midst of other unnecessary political games, the “Conservative government” has now “announced that the Liberals will have to wait until March 25 before they can move a motion of no-confidence that could take the country into an election” (on either a March 22 budget Mr. Harper continues to disingenuously claim will not have an “election trigger,” or on something potentially more threatening like “abuse of power”).

You don’t have to be a political rocket scientist to surmise that the real opportunist in all this current Ottawa plotting is PM Harper Government himself. Assuming he does finally get the election he won’t admit he wants, one fascinating question is just how much longer he will be able to get away with half-cleverly pretending he didn’t want it? (O where o where is William Lyon Mackenzie King, when his party so badly needs him?)

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  1. What is the chance the growing disaster in Japan with delay the next Federal election beyond this spring?

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