The big gamble -

The big gamble

Will Stephen Harper’s majority-or-bust strategy pay off?


The big gambleBy the unofficial rules of Tory campaign etiquette, as set down in recent elections, it should have been a disaster. Caught in an amateur video clip, apparently believing he was speaking only to loyalists behind closed doors in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., a grimly determined Stephen Harper exhorted campaign troops to go out and win him a majority. The Prime Minister seemed to be ignoring lessons he learned the hard way­—about avoiding the M-word, lest he sound power-hungry and scare off swing voters.

In the 2004 campaign, his remark that Conservatives were “edging closer” to majority was enough to drive skittish centrists back into the arms of the Liberals. In 2006, he tried to reassure voters fearful a Tory majority would be a hard-right regime by saying that Liberal-appointed civil servants and judges would hold him in check. By 2008, he was taking a more direct approach: no sooner had he called the election than he predicted a tight race resulting in a nice, safe minority.

After all that, for Harper to be taped talking so unguardedly about a majority suggested a game-changing strategic shift. The alternative theory that he was merely caught out in the Soo by a camera-toting spy—or, if you prefer the current lexicon, a public journalist—doesn’t wash. He sounded categorical rather than careless. “Let me be clear about this,” he said. “We need to win a majority in the next election campaign.” And Harper didn’t frame his remarks as shoot-for-the-moon, best-case-scenario cheerleading—he said a Tory majority was “in reach.”

In fact, his new majority language wasn’t entirely new, just more emphatic. Last fall, after he suspended Parliament to avoid being defeated by a coalition of Liberals and NDP, supported by the Bloc Québécois, Harper told Maclean’s he felt that “if we had an election today somebody will have a majority because it will be either Canada’s Conservative government or the coalition.” Over the past summer, several Tory MPs and cabinet ministers on the barbeque circuit were reported musing about the limitations of minority government and the attractions of a majority. “There is much less tendency within the ranks to run away from the word ‘majority,’ ” confirms Conservative strategist Tim Powers, adding that’s a marked change from recent campaign seasons, when merely whispering it resulted in “your mouth being sewn shut and then firmly duct-taped.”

Harper’s history of meaning what he says in his public utterances strongly suggests there’s nothing accidental or improvised about the frank talk about running for outright control of the House. Pollsters, government insiders, partisan opponents, and experts on Canadian elections all see a combination of factors—some short-term developments, others more deep-seated—driving the new messaging. If it’s the change in rhetoric that draws attention to Harper’s gamble in openly pleading for a majority, a more fundamental shift in strategy appears to underpin the pitch—a bid that could even amount to a permanent change in the Canadian political landscape.

The most obvious factor driving Harper’s majority talk is the worn-thin patience of voters repeatedly called to the polls. A tiresome string of elections has reversed the previously sunny view of minorities. Once widely seen as a way to compel parties to co-operate for the good of the country, they are now regarded as a prescription for endless electioneering that settles nothing. A second clear game-changer was last fall’s coalition experiment between the Liberals and NDP, backed by Bloc Québécois support that was deeply resented outside Quebec.

Taken together, these two developments give Harper his opening to cast a drive for majority in terms that don’t necessarily smack of a crass partisan power grab. It’s not so much that Conservatives deserve unfettered power, it’s that the people should be spared needless elections, and the country needs protecting from “the separatists and socialists.” It’s a plea for stability, not Tory hegemony. His parliamentary adversaries are acutely aware that he might be onto something. “After all these repeated elections, some Canadians are saying, ‘It’s time for a majority government,’ ” says Liberal MP John McCallum. “Whether it’s Liberal or Conservative is another matter.”

Last fall’s dramatic coalition episode in Parliament made it possible for Harper to sharply contrast his sort of stability with the rival version. Not only does a Tory majority offer a respite from a string of short-lived minorities, he contends, it’s the only way middle-of-the-road federalist voters can be sure they won’t end up with a Liberal-led government that affords the NDP and Bloc back-door access to real clout. The potency of this warning is often underestimated inside the Parliament Hill bubble, where the NDP looks far from threatening and even the Bloc is a ho-hum fact of political life. But beyond official Ottawa, the separatists remain deeply loathed outside their Quebec strongholds, and the NDP, according to recent polls, is flirting with electoral disaster.

So the Tories would gain a major edge if they could force Michael Ignatieff to toil throughout a campaign to distance himself from Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton. In Sault Ste. Marie, Harper said Ignatieff would, if he’s allowed to win, head a coalition “propped up by the socialists and the separatists.” Even though Ignatieff has categorically vowed not to reconstitute last fall’s coalition, Tory pre-campaign literature accuses him of hiding: “his real plan is to reunite the Liberal-Bloc Québécois-NDP coalition.”

Harper’s aim is clearly to taint the centre-straddling Liberal brand by association with those more alarming labels—socialist and separatist. In essence, he’s attempting a role reversal: where he has had to battle the scare factor in the past, he wants to force Ignatieff to defend himself against charges that he’s beholden to extremist elements. But this entails a double gamble for Harper. Firstly, he must keep vilifying the Bloc, which risks further undermining his appeal in much of francophone Quebec, where the sovereigntists are mainstream. Secondly, it means he must attack Layton unstintingly, possibly driving down NDP support, with the strong chance of those votes migrating to the Liberals.

He hasn’t always been nearly so tough on the New Democrats. Back in 2007, when asked about how he hoped to keep his first minority afloat, Harper cordially singled out Layton as the opposition leader he talked with “more regularly than the others.” (Layton disputed that claim.) In last fall’s campaign, during the French-language leaders’ debate, the Prime Minister praised the NDP leader for his work on issues like crafting a government apology for residential First Nations schools. “You’re honest,” Harper said to Layton, “and I do appreciate that.”

But the coalition threat that emerged so soon after those kind words were spoken clearly made New Democrats more dangerous than useful to the Tories. “It’s a party of hard-core left-wing ideologues,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, a key Harper campaigner, in a recent radio interview. “It’s not like a moderate, centre-left party.” So much for Layton as an honest interlocutor.

One reason Harper’s team might be eager to see the NDP marginalized is that some of them have watched it happen before—in provincial politics. The rise of Mike Harris’s Conservatives in Ontario after 1995 coincided with a plunge in the fortunes of the previously competitive NDP. Harris’s chief of staff happened to be Guy Giorno, who now does the same job for Harper. While the provincial Tories have lost the last two Ontario elections to the Liberals, the NDP remains relegated to the sidelines. Power in Ontario, long a three-way affair, has become a two-party game.

Even when Layton offered possible support this week to keep the Tory minority alive, on a key Employment Insurance reform vote, Harper and his aides treated the NDP with a certain disdain. The NDP complained that an email from Layton to Giorno went un­answered. A Conservative official said Harper’s stance is consistent: welcome opposition votes in the House, but don’t engage in talks that might be construed as backroom deal-making.

But the immediate factors driving Harper’s new majority push can’t be the only considerations behind his gamble. The Prime Minister prides himself on being not a short-term tactician, but a long-view strategist. Back when Harper was running for the leadership of the newly reunited Conservative party in 2004, he said his ultimate goal was nothing less than to assemble, for the first time since Sir John A. Macdonald, a Tory base that could consistently win majorities. He aimed to replace the boom-and-bust cycle for Conservatives in Quebec with a reliable machine. “If we’re going to win in Quebec only by renting or borrowing other people’s organizations, we will never, in the longer term, have a Conservative majority,” he said back then. “We have to be able to get our share in Quebec.”

But that bedrock premise of Harper’s original long game has been, if not demolished, then at least put on hold. After a significant 2006 breakthrough in Quebec, the Tories stalled in the province in 2008, and recent polls suggest no gains are likely there in a possible fall 2009 campaign. In fact, holding their current 10 seats will be a huge challenge. It would be difficult to overstate the degree to which taking Quebec out of the majority-building equation upends not only Harper’s plan, but also historical verities in Canadian democracy.

Few know that history better than University of British Columbia political science professor Richard Johnston, director of UBC’s Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions. “Without fail down to 1993, Quebec was the linchpin of parliamentary majorities,” Johnston says. He points to landmarks like Wilfrid Laurier’s 1896 election win, which established the template for future Liberal dominance, and Brian Mulroney’s breakthrough 1984 Conservative victory.

The emergence of the Bloc in 1993 changed all that. Before the separatist party’s rise, Johnston says Liberals could typically seek to win half of the seats they needed for a House majority in Quebec alone. The Conservatives could reasonably hope Quebec might supply a third of a majority. But the Bloc’s sustained electoral strength puts perhaps 15 per cent of all the seats in the House beyond the realistic reach of federalist parties. “Unless the Bloc goes into a tailspin,” Johnston says, “the maximum that a party with a federalist orientation can extract out of Quebec is the equivalent of at most 10 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.”

Of course that doesn’t make winning majorities impossible: Jean Chrétien proved it can still be done three elections in a row. His formula for Liberal dominance relied on a new linchpin: Ontario. Harper’s plan when he took over the new Conservative party was to put Quebec back at the centre of a majority-building effort. Now, he has little choice but to try something more like Chrétien’s Ontario-centric approach. His Tories now hold 51 of Ontario’s 106 seats, to the Liberals’ 38 and the NDP’s 17. The latest polls suggest an Ontario bounce for the Conservatives, though not a Chrétien-like sweep, is far from out of the question.

This week, the Ipsos Reid polling firm put Conservative support in the most populous province at 46 per cent, up from 39 per cent in last fall’s election, compared with 36 per cent for the Liberals, up from 34 per cent in the 2008 election. The NDP was down to a dismal 10 per cent from 18 per cent on election day. That’s against a national background of 39 per cent of decided voters for the Tories, well ahead of the Liberals at 30 per cent, with the NDP trailing at a weak 12 per cent. “The more we get talking about an election campaign, the more the Conservative numbers move up,” said John Wright, senior vice-president of Ipsos Reid Public Affairs. “And where they’re moving is in Ontario.”

Wright added that the recent talk of a Conservative majority hasn’t noticeably spooked Ontario voters. “It was brought into the open,” he said, “and watching the numbers move this week and last week, Ontario is getting more comfortable with it. People are fed up with a continuous dance of minority government.”

Still, there’s something unorthodox about the notion that the present trends in party support really benefit the Tories. The key variable is that tepid support for the NDP. Back in the 1990s, the divided right helped mightily in delivering Chrétien his majorities. Since the right reunited, division on the left of the spectrum has benefited Harper. If the NDP sinks, rudimentary number-crunching suggests the Liberals should pick up votes and win closely contested seats. Indeed, UBC’s Johnston argues this is by far the most likely scenario. “If there’s any implosion on the NDP side, it’s not going to be to secure Harper’s majority, it’s going to be to shore up the Liberals,” he says. “So where is Harper going to get the additional support he needs for his majority?”

That’s a powerful observation. It makes the Tories’ recent shift to more hard-hitting attacks on the NDP appear to go against their own interests. However, there is another way of looking at the party dynamics. Instead of accepting the old view of a splintered opposition, Harper now casts them as a single coalition-in-waiting. In other words, voters in English Canada are asked not to think of a spectrum—Conservatives on the right, Liberals in the centre, NDP on the left—but a starkly either-or choice: the status quo centre-right Tories against all the chaotic, left-leaning others. In this world of Conservative dreams, the familiar, easy-to-swallow Liberal moderate-middle formula is diluted and adulterated until it’s unpalatable. “You make it about Tories vs. this coalition cabal,” Powers sums up.

The allure for Conservatives in permanently turning Canadian elections into more of a two-choice affair is obvious to experts in international election history. And Harper’s brain trust is famous for its attention to politics in Australia, Britain and the United States. “The record in our sort of system elsewhere,” Johnston says, “is that when it’s a straight left-right fight, the Tories’ centre-right equivalents—Liberal in Australia, National in New Zealand, Conservative in England—won approximately 65 per cent of the time in the 20th century.” In Canada, of course, the Liberals held power most of the time by far in the last century.

So if Harper persuades Canadians, at least outside Quebec, to start thinking about voting as if they really have only two alternatives, international experience suggests Conservatives will benefit over the long haul. But it requires a transformation in the psychology of Canadian campaigning. And if the party leaps en masse into a new majority-seeking, us-against-all-the-others mindset, the question remains of when is the best time to ask voters to leap along.

This fall must be looking promising for the Tories, with recent polls giving them a solid lead, although at levels below the 40 per cent or better they’d need to capture the 12 more seats they require to form a majority government. Their challenge would be to gain those last few points after the writ is dropped. With Harper’s seasoned team from the past two winning campaigns all but intact, they might reasonably expect to outperform Ignatieff’s crew on their first time out. Running counter to Tory hopes of gaining ground during the race, however, is the consistent track record in elections past of the front-running party at the outset losing ground, or at best clinging to its pre-campaign support.

Another reason Tories might want to postpone an election is if they feel that time and a nascent economic recovery are on their side. Even though the recession of 2009 was punishing to some sectors, especially manufacturing, it didn’t live up to the direst warnings of an impending depression. “Ontario was the worst hit during the recession,” Ipsos Reid’s Wright says, “and it’s just starting to come back. The Conservatives might just want to nurture this a little.” And he points out that Harper scores twice as well as Ignatieff when voters are asked which leader they trust on economic management.

If Conservatives see reason to be patient, Liberals have grounds for wanting to turf Harper as quickly as possible. Engineered for office, not opposition, the Liberal party tends to succeed through success. “Their appeal is their ability to manage the files, particularly on national unity and immigrant incorporation,” Johnston says. “But you have to be in power to manage those files. The longer you’re out, the weaker the management argument becomes—people just haven’t seen you do it.”

Meanwhile, Harper’s lengthening tenure in 24 Sussex Dr. seems to be making him a less divisive figure. This week the polling firm Nanos Research released a survey in which he was rated the most trustworthy leader, at 31 per cent, with Ignatieff and Layton far behind, tied at 14 per cent. “People don’t love Harper but they don’t have the same disdain for him that Liberals think the public possesses,” Powers says. “He has had everything thrown at him and yet there is consistency to his leadership numbers.”

When you’re ahead, consistency sounds good. But merely holding his own is no longer enough for Harper. He has run three national elections now, losing one and then winning two minorities. After watching the Liberals triumph for so long, Tories were content with power in any form, even if, on any given day in the House, they needed at least one opposition party’s support to hold it.

Next time, though, a minority might not be enough to satisfy Conservatives. They’ve had the whiff of majority in their nostrils more than once. In last fall’s election, the widely watched Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy’s model for converting polling results into seat counts projected a Tory majority just two weeks before election day. Another campaign letdown of that sort might not be forgiven. “Some will argue if Harper doesn’t win a majority, he’s done,” said one Tory insider, asking, for obvious reasons, not to be named. “So why be tentative?” If Harper really does have only one more chance, then his new majority-or-bust approach looks like a strategy born of necessity.

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The big gamble

  1. Well thought out and for the most part accurate analysis of the present situation. The Liberal Party has failed dramatically as an opposition party the last few years and more than likely the reason is as stated above. The Party has so becomed used to governing that it has lost that grassroots connection to it's members and this has resulted in Harper being able to carve out support and move to the center. This infuriates the left which is so evident to anyone who is neutral it that it causes the left to foam and froth literally losing all sense of reason at the thought. Harper is no longer evil meanie hitler reincarnated on earth folks and the left keep on using that tack causing almost everone's eyes to glaze over when they start on that track and as long as they do this they are doomed becuase they fall right into the trap. Much like Muhammed Ali (early years cassisus clay) who used to taunt and deride and generally cause complete and utter mayhem in his opponents camps resulting in his opponents losing their focus and making terrible mistakes ..

  2. Harper's history of meaning what he says in his public utterances strongly suggests that the Secret Agenda ™ never existed? Is it right and proper to think in those terms?

  3. Well written. It seems Liberal supporters and pundits alike are beginning to see what Warren Kinsella saw back in 2004: "…Mr. Harper is smart, strategic, and moderate". A majority government with Harper at the helm is not a scary suggestion. So far he has been fairly competent with one or both hands tied behind his back. I'd like to see what he could do without the limitation of hitting the lowest common denominator.

  4. Harper is his own wrost enemy., History has shown many times he takes 1 step forward and 2 backwards

    • Yet somehow he took a ragtag team of rednecks from ~10% in the polls, reduced the invincible Paul Martin to a minority government, then won government, then an expanded mandate, thwarted the loss of power to a coalition by proroguing parliament and then again managed to avoid an election by capitalizing on the weakness of the NDP. Gee with all those steps forward, he must have had a lot of steps backward.

  5. “Some will argue if Harper doesn't win a majority, he's done,”
    I doubt it – that's complete fantasy talk. First of all, he has complete control over the party so he is not leaving unless it's voluntary (He's not going to voluntarily stop being PM). Any dissenters in the party are too fragmented to mount a serious challenge to his leadership. The Conservative MPs, including the Cabinet, know that their chances are better keeping the PM in a minority parliament than sacking him and trying to replace him.

    As for Reality's comment above, I think history shows he takes 2 steps forward, one step back, hence the being elected leader of the conservative party, and increasing conservative seats in each election that he has run as leader.

  6. "Even though Ignatieff has categorically vowed not to reconstitute last fall's coalition…"

    When has he done that?

      • Saying "not necessarily a Coalition" and being lukewarm about it is a far cry from categorically vowing not to reconstitute one.

    • The fact remains that unless the Liberals win government they will never be happy to sit in opposition. So they will do anything in their power to destablize a Conservative minority. The electorate will be subjected to the false bravado of forcing an election as has been the case since the short lived days of Dion. So the threat of a coalition government will be there despite what the Czarist leader of the Liberal party says. The phrase coalition if necessary but not necessarily a coalition wil be heard loud and clear during the next campaign. Ignegative can deny it as Harper says until he is blue in the face but it is a reality that reared its ugly once before and as we all know in politics it can happen again. We all remember Pierre Trudeau, the Godfather of the Liberal party, campaigning against wage and price controls way back when. What did we get as soon as Trudeau was elected….wait for it….wage and price controls.

      • Doesn't anybody feel the slightest bit stupid to use Trudeau as ammunition against the Liberals? And why stop there, when there's so much material from that b*stard Laurier we could use?

  7. Is this really a "big gamble"? If the Conservative want to be taken seriously as a party of government over the long-term then they have to run on the expectation that they will win a majority.

  8. I guess the only comfort to the idea of a Tory majority is that the party will likely destroy itself in those four years. There are many interest groups to be repaid, and Harper will not have the excuse of opposition obstruction. This is a critical time for Canada, and I’m concerned that some files may not get the attention they deserve, and beyond that, I expect all manner of dumb policies to be implemented, surely all designed to be difficult to dismantle or reverse. Moreso because the Tories won’t expect to win another majority after a first, so may as well pay all the interests their due.

    • hilarious. name some of the above `interests' please

      • Evangelicals, nursing home residents, would be candidates for the post of dominion executioner and just about anyone slightly to the right of Attila the Hun.

  9. It’s a lucky thing for Canadians that only one of our current Federal leaders is a demagogue. While i’m no fan of Ignatieffs it is to his credit that he refused to wear the tarnished coalition crown that Dion unwisely tried to stuff on his head – be it constitutional or not. At least Ignatieff made some nod to national unity when he belatedly took his decision: “It”ll split the country”, he said; there’s no reason to believe he didn’t mean what he said, however self-serving it may be. Had Ignatieff chosen the easy way of the demagogue a la Harper we could be looking at a very ugly scenario in this country. Personally i have a little more faith in my fellow Canadians. I’d say weariness with the constant bickering of parliament and a perception that Harper is the only real option when you consider the alternatives, has more to do with majority talk than any serious consideration of Harper’s twisted take on the coalition fiasco.

    • So you believe that Dion was going to disappear from the scene even when the coalition was being negotiated with the NDP and the Bloc do you? There was no guarantee that Iggy would become leader was there? I think Iggy knew there was going to be a leadership campaign and he had no idea that he would be appointed leader. Or did he?

      If the GG had approved the coalition Dion would be PM and there is no way the party or the country could have gotten rid of him until the next election.

      • Look i was perfectly clear on this issue. [ i really must stop listening to Harper speeches ] If Dion had become PM it would have been perfectly legit, but it would obviously have created enormous problems in the country.

  10. Harper has a good chance, most people want stability.Not this guy that was parachuted into Canada to become the PM.It doesnt work that way.

  11. Good Geddes piece. He brings up the historic importance of Quebec to Liberal fortunes. Hard to believe that Quebec was 40% of the seats in the House once upon a time, given what's happened to national demographics since. Has anyone studied how much easier the math gets for Harper in 2014 when the new Ontario, BC and Alberta seats come online? 20 new seats of which more than half should go Tory even when they lose elections. I bet Harper sees himself as running down the clock until that day.
    Under-covered in this story and many others is Tory strength in the Maritimes, given how recent polls have gone. With the Danny Williams and Bill Casey anger of 2008 dissipating, Tories are well placed to retake traditional Nova Scotia and Newfoundland territory and add 5 more seats nobody's looking at. Crucial in a tight election.

    • Actually, Conservative support in the Martimes is very soft and fragile. Maritimers have longer memories than the Tories think – and they don't forget Harper's disparaging remarks and "betrayals" toward them over the last 4 years. Danny Williams' ability to galvanize his province to deny Harper those 12 seats can be just as effective now as it was last year, and make no mistake: the man at the heart of Newfoundland politics can and will make a Harper Majority a very scary prospect to Maritimers who fear that they will be left behind while Alberta returns to boom times.

  12. The one advantage Harper has is that the talent pool in the conservative party is very shallow. As untalented as he is he leads a party of talentless nobodies. Before they turf him out conservatives would be well advised to look around at their fellow party members. What they will see is both sobering and depressing: a relatively poorly educated membership (the average liberal is much better educated) with relatively narrow life experience who make a virtue out of vice by denigrating anyone who has achieved some measure of success on the international stage (This includes Harper whose educational and employment credentials are modest to put it mildly).

    • As opposed to such proven Liberal "stars" like Dion, Rae, Fry, Volpe, Coderre, Trudeau, Dahla…et al…backing up Iggy?

      Lack of "depth" is an affliction of all our federal parties (IMO) resultant from the increased power centralization in the PMO and/or party leaders. The majority of MP's sitting in the house are little more than seat warming, party-line voting drones.

      It's a sad situation and one which does not bode well for Canadian democracy.

  13. You know, this was a really good column until you started using Ipsos Reid as your background evidence. What a shame, because after that I couldn't take you seriously anymore.

    • It's a completely reasonable piece by Geddes, dismissing it entirely because of his choice of polling firms (indeed, one which leans Tory ) seems foolish. Besides that, one thing Liberals can always count on, Harper mid-campaign, sticking his foot in his mouth… unfortunately for Liberals, a trait Ignatieff possess as well.

      I hear unemployment will reach double digits up north… something to consider I suppose.

  14. I think I know the answer but for the record why do you place so little faith in Ipsos?

  15. I think Steve V, Liberal partisan blogger, doth protest too much.

    • Stones and glass houses Jarrid…stones and…whatever!

  16. It is a well thought out article and accurate if it wasn't for the fact that the entire premise is shaky. The uproar wasn't about the fact that Harper is seeking a majority. Everyone is. It's the fact that his "centre-right" (ahahaha) ideology came out. He had to stock the benches and the bureaucracy with "his people" lest the lefty liberals get their hands on these important institutions and destroy the country, which is a laugh because the Liberals have been around for how long and the country hasn't yet imploded. In fact, at least the Liberal Party hasn't caused a constitutional crisis and national unity crisis. The Liberals never suspsended parliament and played up the seperatist card just to hold onto power unlike their hate filled spite loving counterparts currently in government. Actually, that really isn't a fair assessment. The entire party doesn't think the way Harper does. I would've voted Conservative if it wasn't for Harper. Anybody who actually trusts this guy as a centre-right should be sent back to school.

    • hollinm continued
      The Liberals until recently have always played to the Separatist card. They kept campaigning on the fact that they were the only ones who could keep Canada together. Have you lived outside the country with Iggy for the past 34 years?

      There is no hate filled people occupying the government benches. However, there is a group who believes they have something to offer Canada that is not the Liberal vision that we were stuck with for 13 years. However, go ahead an malign the government and all those that support them. It is typical Liberal. If you can beat them you criticize and ridicule them

    • Geddes is pretty well on target in this article. Harper has now had almost 4 years to assess the quality and the political leanings of the civil service. I suspect he knows what he is talking about. It only makes sense the Libs have been in power most of the last century. They are naturally going to fill government positions with those who are like minded including their friends and cronies. If you want evidence of it just look at the make up of the Senate. So Harper is now PM and he is going to do the same thing. That's how our system works. Would you want him to appoint Liberals? He will assess those he intends to pick within his Conservative group and pick those.

      Constitutional crisis? Come on get real. The opposition tried to steal power. However, the offensive part was including the Bloc who would have virtual veto power over the federal government. He did what he needed to do to protect the country. The GG agreed. Shut down parliament? It was adjourned a week early for the Xmas break. Kind of dramatic I think,


    • hollinm continued
      The Liberals until recently have always played to the Separatist card. They kept campaigning on the fact that they were the only ones who could keep Canada together. Have you lived outside the country with Iggy for the past 34 years?

      There is no hate filled people occupying the government benches. However, there is a group who believes they have something to offer Canada that is not the Liberal vision that we were stuck with for 13 years. However, go ahead an malign the government and all those that support them. It is typical Liberal. If you can't beat them you criticize and ridicule them.

      • The liberal vision: competent management of the finances (remember all those liberal surpluses and the national debt decreasing), paying your own way rather than arbitrarily and stupidly reducing taxes (what the hell our kids can eventually pay for the debts we run up to pay for our profligate ways) respect for individual rights (not just those of angry old white men) etc. etc.. By all means let us all party on to our hearts content and leave the bill for our children as Harper and his thugs would have us do.

  17. I think it's true that Harper is going all-in because if he fails to win a majority on this 4th kick at the can, he's done.

    The other good point is that the LPC is engineered to run on power; they lose traction the longer they're in opposition. It's hard to bill yourself as "Canada's Natural Governing Party" when you've been consistently voted out of power for a long time.

    The CPC is less dependent on being in office to hold credibility, although they do rely on not being seen as upstart rabble-rousers so holding power helps their image too.

    All of which has put the Liberals in a tough place since 2006. The longer they left Harper in office, the stronger he got. But they were entirely unprepared for another election. Ignatieff has apparently decided that LPC fortunes have improved to the point where he can win before it's too late. I think this will depend largely on how the economy does in the next 6 months and whether the public feels that an election is necessary or just opportunistic.