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“I’m going to have to make a judgment”


 

The prime minister threatens to call an election, or something.

Note to Liberals: Before you call the nearest reporter and say, “By God, if he wants an election then we’re not going to give him one!”, you should maybe (a) remember that only two months ago, most of you were so desperate for an election you were wondering whether you’d have to dump your leader to get one (b) consider the possibility that you’re being played like fiddles for no other reason than because it’s so easy.


 

“I’m going to have to make a judgment”

  1. The judgment call will probably have to wait until they’re certain how readily available footage of this morning’s ethics committee hearings were. Dysfunction, indeed.

  2. And if anyone knows dysfunctional parliament, it’s Harper. His party wrote a whole handbook on it, afterall.
    If the Liberals are in a corner of their own making, then so is Harper. Of course this wouldn’t be the first law he espoused support for that he’s itching to break…

  3. Let’s be serious. Exactly how much more compliant an Official Opposition could Harper ask for? Dion has rolled over and played dead every time Harper has asked him to.

  4. Wouldn’t surprise me if Harper is simply trying to steer headlines away from the ethics committee

  5. I don’t ever recall a minority government coming to an end to put an opposition leader out of his misery but there’s always a first.

  6. Jarrid, would the be the Opposition leader whose party currently leads the government in popular support?

    – JV

  7. I’m trying to understand Paul’s blog. How are the Libs being played like fiddles here?

    Seems obvious to me that what we have here is a PM who pushed for a legislation calling for an election every four year and found himself boxed in by his own strategy. He can no longer call elections when he pleases and is now at the mercy of the Liberals as it is them who will now decide when we go to the polls.

    Harper, true to form, doesn’t want to appear weak so he engages into some sabre rattling. He has to because he cannot afford to have Stephane Dion appear as though he is about to bring him to account. After all, Dion is supposed to be a weak, cowardly, hapless imbecile, right?

    That whole I-will-make-a-judgement nonsense of his is just posturing to hide the fact that he screwed up. Harper isn’t going to the GG. He’s got nothing but the chaos at the Committee hearings (organized by his own party) to give as a justification for dissolving Parliament.

    What I see here is the CPC trying to play Canadians like fiddles, thinking that we are dumb enough not to see through their charade.

  8. But if he does use the committee hearings as an excuse, what’s he going to say? “I need a majority government so I can make procedural motions to prevent members of my party from being investigated for election money laundering?” that’s gonna fly!

  9. Indeed Mike, which is why we all know that Harper isn’t going to any GG. These words are that of a desperate man.

  10. A cliche to be sure, but since Harper’s operatives appear to be 100% responsible for the dysfunction, one can’t help but be reminded of the boy who murders his parents and throws
    himself on the mercy of the court because he is now an orphan.
    Problem is, the power of modern advertising, a compliant media, a divided, weak opposition, and a willingness to disregard election rules and the usual standards of democratic debate mean it’s a winnable situation.
    Same for Republicans.

  11. “Problem is, the power of modern advertising, a compliant media, a divided, weak opposition, and a willingness to disregard election rules and the usual standards of democratic debate mean it’s a winnable situation.”

    John, apart from this blog, I haven’t seen any news item that didn’t confront Harper’s about-face on triggering an election. Those stories that I read today were all accompanied with another one laying out the CPC antics at yesterday’s hearings.

    What makes you think that the press is being compliant?

  12. “Harper isn’t going to the GG. He’s got nothing but the chaos at the Committee hearings (organized by his own party) to give as a justification for dissolving Parliament…..”

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if PMSH went to the GG and she said “O/K, I will ask the Loyal Opposition if they can get the support of another party(s), form a government until the fixed date of 2009 and then you can all square-off for a fight err election”

  13. It’s hard to read the tea leaves with Harper because there is little leaking from caucus to media so we don’t have a sense of what he’s thinking. I know Harper loves planning strategy and tactics like few others so I am never quite sure what he’s up to but I assume this is all part of a plan to achieve a fall election this year.

  14. I agree with jwl, Harper’s made his decision and it’s going to happen in a hurry. Dion will be on the outside looking in on the timing of the election, after telling everyone that only he had that power. Dion has an unfortunate habit of overstating things, a kiss of death in politics.

    On his blog today Kinsella says he thinks Harper will go – “Is Mr. Harper faking the Big E? I don’t think so. I think he plans to go all the way, this time. (Ottawa does have electoral “dysfunction,” as he suggests.)”

  15. I appear to have been cryptic.

    I don’t believe Harper has the faintest intention of breaking (or repealing or ignoring) his fixed-election-date law. I don’t believe he has the faintest intention of calling a fall election.

    (Incidentally, I believe that if he went to the GG she would accede to his request for dissolution. This Parliament has lasted two and a half years, a considerable period of electoral stability, and the GG would have no basis to turn down a request for dissolution. One of the oddest games Canadian political junkies indulge in is the constant creation of improbable scenarios for recreating King-Byng standoffs. It’s a bit nutty. But as always, hypothetical and beside the point.)

    I think Harper is playing the Grits because every single time the government has engaged in a bit of sabre-rattling, the Liberal response has been to back away from provoking an election as fast as they could scuttle — all the while reassuring themselves that they are merely being clever enough to see through his transparent desire for an immediate election.

    It’s a very, very simple version of the Opposite Game: You don’t want an election? Act like you want an election and the Liberals will hasten to deprive you of one. So far it’s worked at least three times since spring 2007; why stop now?

    —-
    Now, how do the Liberals short-circuit the game? Simple. Make a decision and stick to it. Sadly, apparently that’s asking too much.

  16. I’ll tell you what will be the ultimate kiss of death: Harper going to the GG to complain about a dysfunction that he is responsible for.

    The only way that he could pull this off and appear legitimate in his request would be if Canadians were all stupid enough to buy into his story.

  17. I think you’re right, Boudica. Harper’s problem, if he sought dissolution himself, would be with public opinion (which wouldn’t turn unanimously against him, but it would become a problem he doesn’t need). It wouldn’t be with Michaëlle Jean.

  18. “It’s a very, very simple version of the Opposite Game: You don’t want an election? Act like you want an election and the Liberals will hasten to deprive you of one. So far it’s worked at least three times since spring 2007; why stop now?”

    Because the CPC is as weak as they are likely to get and because the LPC has set the stage for a showdown on the CPC’s achilles heel: the environment.

    Going to the polls prior to this moment would have been pure stupidity. The CPC was ahead in the polls in key regions and the LPC was too far behind financially to be able to sustain an election fight.

    Those conditions have changed and Harper knows it. That’s why he’s changing tactics. He knows the LPC will pull the plug on him. Considering the trouble he has gone to paint Dion as a weakling, he cannot allow this Opp Leader to be in a position of strength when voting down this govt.

    He has to make it seem as though he is the one that forced Dion to do this.

  19. I am afraid for all the Liberals out there that Paul is absolutley correct. Though Boudica has one valid point I doubt Harper will go to the GG as he doesn’t need to as the threat is sufficient unto itself. He has achieved exactly what was needed by the comment to the media. As to Boudica’s assertion that Harper is ‘ Desparate ‘ Dion should be so lucky. I doubt very much my boy Stevie is losing any sleep looking forward to a debate with Dion. I can see it now A sitting PM who is now the longest running PM of a minority gov’t in Canada (I think?)and who is an economist who has achieved almost all of his original platform (and get this without serious amendments)and who has just given well timed tax relief considering economic conditions and stands or Law and Order, Strong Military and Arctic Sovereignity says .. Mr or Ms Moderator my opponent here has bought up the issue of Canada’s finances and this has to be taken seriously by a person who proposes a tax on everything and we promise to give some back and can’t even pay off his own leadership costs in time! (if he can I wonder whether Iggy or Bobby will help him out? -> well Boudica do I really need to go on. Dion’s response – bu but bbbbb it is hard to make priorites!!!!!

  20. If Harper sought the dissolution himself, couldn’t it also look bad on Dion. Harper and Co. could easily taunt the Liberals saying something along the lines of Monsieur Dion being so weak we had to pull the plug for him.

  21. But, Blues Clair, that would bve positively… dishonourable! And Mr. Harper would never do a thing like that, now would he?

  22. “So far it’s worked at least three times since spring 2007; why stop now?”

    Because facts on the ground have since changed. The Liberals have made a faux pas called The Green Shift and the Conservatives have pounced on it. The election will be about the untested leader of the opposition and his scary economic proposal for the country, at least that’s how the Conservatives will want to frame it.

    As to any controversy about who and how an election was precipitated, that has never, as far as I know, been a factor in any electoral outcome. To the extent that there is any controversy about that, it usually dies down within 24 hours.

  23. Hi Paul,
    So you think harper is going to win the next election?
    thanks,
    Lynne

  24. Yes I do, Lynne. But I thought Harper was going to win in 2004, and Martin in 2006, so don’t go making any money bets.

  25. What I suspect will happen this time out is that the Libs will stand on some of the stuff Harper wanted to make confidence motions last time out (wheat board, for example). And I suspect that Harper, seeing that the Libs are a little stronger this season, the CPoC a little weaker, will suddenly make these no longer confidence motions. And we will be together like this until late 2009.

    The Green Plan has worked out fine for the Libs. On the other hand, I would be worried about some of these Tory Arts funding measures being labelled as “city killers”, because that is where the Arts industry tends to be centered. If so, no breakthrough for Harper.

  26. “I don’t believe Harper has the faintest intention of breaking (or repealing or ignoring) his fixed-election-date law. I don’t believe he has the faintest intention of calling a fall election.”

    Paul I am assuming you are the most knowledgeable about this topic here on the thread so will accept your opinion. What I wonder is: to what lengths will Harper go to avoid election this fall?

    I don’t believe Harper will call election himself but I do think he is trying to engineer a situation so the 3 other parties trigger one. Do you think Harper is trying to avoid an election this fall at all costs?

  27. “Though Boudica has one valid point I doubt Harper will go to the GG as he doesn’t need to as the threat is sufficient unto itself.”

    What threat was that, Wayne? Threanening to bring the same election that Dion has been saying all summer?

    “He has achieved exactly what was needed by the comment to the media.”

    And what the media is reporting this morning is an about-face. Here is a PM that implemented four-year terms for govts and then now talks about ignoring his own law by asking the GG to disolve govt.

    Not to mention his previous claim that he wants to govern and doesn’t want an election.

    Seriously Wayne, how dense does the CPC think Canadians are?

  28. It’s actually not that hard to have a minimally complex plan with a couple of contingencies, jwl. I believe Harper has told his staff something like this:

    “We promised fixed election dates and we’ve implemented them. Which means the final decision is out of our hands. So, since we may have to govern until fall 2009, let’s prepare for that eventuality. And since we may be stopped before then, let’s make damned sure we’re ready for an election at any point between now and then — especially since our own preparedness is the surest insurance against an early election.”

    So: prefer to govern, prepare to campaign. Note here that I am not presuming some kind of mystic super-genius on Harper’s part. This is actually the most basic of elementary reasoning, and I don’t think Jean Chrétien would have played this much differently (except Chrétien wouldn’t have promised fixed election dates. But once they were in place, he’d respond to the new strategic enviornment the way Harper has.)

    The only thing that makes this any fun at all is the Liberals trying to game out some super-genius hidden dark Tory strategy and, inevitably and repeatedly, letting themselves get trotted around by the nose.

    I have pleaded with the Liberals to think and act a little more straightforwardly. Harper wants to govern for a long time? Then cut him short. Let an election decide whether that was smart. Or: you’re not ready for an election? Then for the love of God stop threatening one. Anyway, to me this is pretty simple reasoning, but I keep losing the Liberals along the way. Oh well.

  29. Hey Boudica : The CPC by no means think Canadians are dense only the Liberals and this seems to be proven out time and time again.

  30. Paul,
    I recall you saying before that Harper’s prime motivation is “I’m Prime Minister and you’re not” so I would agree that there is no reason he would seek a premature election and thus risk his precccious.

    But why does he have to such a dick about it.

  31. I thought we’d make it to Oct 2009 as well, but now I’m not so sure. I think the CPC senses that more Maritime seats are in play (because of The Green Shift), that they can win in the 418 region of Quebec, and that over a campaign they can take a good share of suburban 905 ridings. They would be banking on voting intentions trending upwards to Harper’s 43% best-leader number, and Lib votes trending downwards to Dion’s 22% figure. 37-38% popular support could lead to majority numbers in a 5-party race like we have now.

    Forget the deadlock in the polls at the moment. That’s what campaigns are for, to break those deadlocks. Harper is certain he can beat Dion in any campaign, whenever it happens, and move those numbers towards a comfortable election win. I’d agree, but anything is possible in politics.

  32. “Hey Boudica : The CPC by no means think Canadians are dense only the Liberals and this seems to be proven out time and time again.”

    This from the party that tied its own hands and gave Dion the right to call an election. Whatever floats your boat, Wayne.

  33. ” I would agree that there is no reason he would seek a premature election and thus risk his precccious.”

    Actually, there is. The longer he stays in a minority situation, the worse his party is doing in the polls. If he wants to keep his job, he needs to go to the polls and fast.

  34. KRB,

    That’s the same logic that’s been getting them nowhere for 2 1/2 years. Frankly, the “Lib weakness in the Maritimes” thing has no evidence behind it at all.

  35. Much as I hate to say it, I think the Libs are pretty strong in the Maritimes. (I think “culture of defeatism” haunts the PM still.)

  36. BCL, since when did you get big on “evidence”? The evidence will come on election night. Overall, Harper has been providing relatively competent government (I know you’d disagree, but I think the average Joe Cdn would agree). It’s not perfection; that’s just not possible. But compared to the daily gong-show that the Martin Liberals became, I think a lot of the “free agent” voters who supported the Liberals in the past will think twice about supporting them again in the next election.

    We just don’t throw governments out for no reason. Hell, Sponsorship wasn’t even enough in 2004! It’s going to take a bit more than In-and-Out (lame stuff), I’m afraid.

  37. “hey would be banking on voting intentions trending upwards to Harper’s 43% best-leader number, and Lib votes trending downwards to Dion’s 22% figure. 37-38% popular support could lead to majority numbers in a 5-party race like we have now.”

    I don’t understand how anyone can rely on leadership numbers to determine election outcomes. Paul Martin was polling in the 50s while Harper was in the teens.

    More to the point, when was the last time that an Opp Leader polled higher than a sitting PM?

  38. How many Tory candidates have bailed out in Atlantic Provinces?

  39. Bill: Cause it works?

  40. Wayne writes: “A sitting PM who is now the longest running PM of a minority gov’t in Canada (I think?)”

    No, that honour belongs to King (1921 to 1925). Of course, he faced a Progressive Party that had no clear idea of what it wanted and was therefore willing to let the government do whatever it wanted. That’s TOTALLY UNLIKE the current situation ;o)

  41. Boudica, the Martin-Harper numbers must be placed in context. There you had a party battling voter fatigue (they were going for their 5th consecutive mandate), battling a bigtime scandal (biggest in Cdn history perhaps?), and a government that never really came to grips with how to govern in a minority setting. It wasn’t a “normal” political environment, if such a thing even exists. One need only look at the desperation of the Martinites to avoid an election at all costs throughout that entire Parliament, and compare it to Harper’s “if you wanna go to the people, we’ll go to the people” approach, to see the difference in perceived outcomes of any election call. But, as always, ANYTHING is possible (i.e. a Dion win), just less likely, imo.

  42. KRB,

    In his tenure as leader of the opposition,can you recall a time when Harper had leadership numbers above 20%? More importantly, when was the last time that a leader of the Opposition polled higher than a sitting PM?

    To suggest that those leadership numbers give us insight on potential election results makes no sense to me.

  43. I have pleaded with the Liberals to think and act a little more straightforwardly. Harper wants to govern for a long time? Then cut him short.

    Before any of the Harper scandals results in enough evidence to condemn them unequivocally? How stupid do you think Liberals (and by this, I mean Liberal voters more than Liberal politicians) are? Without solid evidence to show that the neoconservatives cannot be allowed to govern, the media can spin their deficiencies any way they want (usually by making their viciousness and mendacity sound sophisticated and tactical). That’s what Liberals (and others) are most concerned about.

    If you want the Liberals to trigger an election so badly, you “journalists” might consider reporting the issues with a little more clarity.

  44. Ti-Guy,
    Why do you keep beating the same drum over and over? Macleans has been all over the Conservatives just as much as the Liberals, and if you think they hold any kind of brief for Harper, you haven’t being paying attention.

    The Liberals are the masters of the their own problems and could have brought down this government whenever they chose, and I really don’t think that Paul Well’s views on the matter are the gating factor, do you?

  45. The conspiracy of journalists thing holds just as much water coming from the left as it does from the right, Ti-guy. Neither is worth the price of the tinfoil it takes to make the hat.

    Harper has clearly stated from the outset that what he wants to do is to shift the Canadian mindset to the right. He can’t do that from the opposition benches. His numbers may be dropping now, but there’s a whole year left. Plenty of time for these scandals to cool unless the Liberals get the cajones to take us to the ballot box while they’re hot.

    The last thing he wants is confident liberals, especially while he’s looking weak, so he bluffs, counting on the Liberals to think “Well if *he* wants it, it can’t be good for us, right?”

    Please folks. Haven’t you people figured out by now that if Harper wants something, he doesn’t talk about it, he just goes and does it, regardless of what people might think, or what he’s promised before. It’s when he doesn’t want something that we see him talking about it a lot. Remember, Harper is defined by negatives. “We aren’t the Liberals” “I won’t tax Income Trusts” “You don’t negotiate when you’ve won (softwood lumber disputes)” “I won’t appoint unelected senators” “Dion is not a Leader” “The Green Shift is not good for Canada”, etc, etc.

    When Harper speaks, it’s because he doesn’t want somebody else to actually do.

  46. Shorter ti-guy: blame the media.

    Scandals? Like the so-called Cadman affair? Look, I can kinda see why a guy like Paul Martin would write a preface for a book on that, given that for him politics = nostalgia. But for the current Liberal leadership to drag out this historical non-event to try and score political points is just out and out bizarre. The scandal-mongering is nothing more than an attempt at pay-back for the Ascam affair and as such is also backward-looking nostalgia.

    One of Dion’s major failings as a leader has been his failure to rein in this pointless and negative approach which has gotten him nowhere.

  47. Macleans has been all over the Conservatives just as much as the Liberals, and if you think they hold any kind of brief for Harper, you haven’t being paying attention.

    I’m not accusing Macleans specifically, just condemning those “journalists” who, for reasons I find mystifying, insist the rest of us have to believe political machinations and intrigue are inseparable from issues of good governance and who do so with unconvincing arguments: speculation passed off as assertion, assertion based on evidence provided by anonymous sources or by simply presenting “spin” as evidence.

    Although I’m a Liberal supporter, I am a first and foremost democrat and far more on the side of average Canadians than our media and political elite, who have been serving us very badly over the last while.

  48. “Please folks. Haven’t you people figured out by now that if Harper wants something, he doesn’t talk about it, he just goes and does it, regardless of what people might think, or what he’s promised before. ”

    T.Thwin, and he would have in this case had he not tied his own hands with his 4-year term law. And yes, technically, he could go to the GG and dissolve Parliament but we all know he won’t because the price to pay would be to high. He has no grounds for such a request, even if the GG would surely grant him his wish.

    I’m sorry but no one will make me believe that Harper actually wants to run a minority govt for the full 4-year term. With his numbers tanking further as time passes and his lack of new policies, he needed to go to the polls as far back as Fall 2007.

    That’s why he pushed through as many confidence motions as he had. What he hadn’t counted on is Dion and/or the LPC caucus preferring to look “weak” via abstention than to give him what he desperately needed, which is an election he surely would have one.

    And, if the polls are to be believed, that humiliating stretch of no-shows and abstentions is paying off for the LPC.

    The next election is no longer a sure bet for the CPC to be able to retain power let alone get a majority.

  49. The conspiracy of journalists thing holds just as much water coming from the left as it does from the right, Ti-guy.

    It’s not a conspiracy. It’s a culture, one that is woefully out of touch with the lives of average people. For some journalists, it’s simply a career necessity, for others its mild or flagrant bias, partisanship and influence-mongering, and for others, it’s simply because there’s nothing else to write about on any given day. In any case, as voter turn-out continues to drop and no one else but political junkies or people with a lot time on their hands thinks government and politics are compelling or important enough to follow (and they should be), it’s an issue that demands attention.

    I’m not exactly expressing a marginal opinion here.

  50. Scandals? Like the so-called Cadman affair?

    Why do you call it so-called? If what is alleged is true, it is a very serious, criminal issue. If it isn’t, then yes, there’s no scandal.

    But we don’t know that yet, do we?

  51. Well this sure got no where fast. What ever way you spin it, no one really knows what’s going to happen until 6 hours after the polls close. But…I find it very hard to believe that even the most partisan of supporters honestly thinks that going to Canadians and asking them to support a tax on gas and oil that may or may not reduce GHG emissions, and, that may or may not affect the price of daily goods and services is really the best way to win the next election. All Mr Harper may have to do is pull a McGuinty and stay away from reporters and camera’s for a month and let the good ship Liberal sink all on its own. But then again…no one really knows now do they?

  52. Just one more thing:

    Plenty of time for these scandals to cool unless the Liberals get the cajones to take us to the ballot box while they’re hot.

    The “coolness” and the “hotness” of these scandals are really matters of perception (influenced by what the media decides to focus on) not on based on any real substance, the evidence for which takes time to expose. It’s certainly tactical for politicians to act on public perceptions of scandal (indeed, that’s what they do), but it’s not good for democracy nor good government. Mostly because it ends up coming back to haunt us years later (as in Mulroney/Schreiber).

  53. Boduica: “To suggest that those leadership numbers give us insight on potential election results makes no sense to me.”

    Ok, so they make no sense to you. That’s fine. Somehow I doubt the polling co.’s poll for these numbers just for kicks. There must be some indicative value to glean from them. One could use the same argument with the party horse race numbers. How much value do they really hold outside of election periods?

    I offer up opinions that are plausible, that is all. I don’t derive my opinions out of thin air, or allow hopes to overwhelm reason when forming them. Take them however you want.

  54. “But…I find it very hard to believe that even the most partisan of supporters honestly thinks that going to Canadians and asking them to support a tax on gas and oil that may or may not reduce GHG emissions, and, that may or may not affect the price of daily goods and services is really the best way to win the next election.”

    Not sure why that would be hard given the persistent demand for action on the climate change issue. Even if Canadians are lukewarm to the idea (which I don’t think is the case), Dion is at least addressing the demand while Harper keeps on ignoring it.

    Even the Premiers have clued in on this one and are coming up with policies to please voters.

  55. “I offer up opinions that are plausible, that is all. I don’t derive my opinions out of thin air, or allow hopes to overwhelm reason when forming them. Take them however you want.”

    That’s fine but I still don’t think that it makes sense when election after election clearly show that leadership numbers have no bearing on the results. If anyting, those leadership numbers show you which of the two politician has more exposure to the public and, obviously, the Prime Minister will always win on that front.

    I ask you again, when was the last time that you heard of an Opposition Leader polling higher than a sitting PM? Yet some of them do win elections, yes?

    But you are indeed entitled to you opinion.

  56. Demand for what boudica? Action on climate change?…the Green Shift calls for no action, it calls for a tax and whatever happens after that no one is really sure. If thats the way they want to go then good luck to them, but, an election platform that raises tax’s, puts the cost of living up, and, doesnt even give firm numbers on emission reduction? PET couldnt even sell that bag of beans. The more you think about it and the more you study it…it sure looks like Mr Dion is the new John Turner and is being fed to the Lions.

  57. Boudica – You’ve asked this question a number of times: “I ask you again, when was the last time that you heard of an Opposition Leader polling higher than a sitting PM?”.

    I’ll bite. Holding aside Chretien as a polling anomaly – probably the most consistently popular leader in modern Canada – on the federal side, Broadbent – virtually all throughout his term as NDP leader, he was more popular than Mulroney or Turner.

    Also, a bit more recently, and on the provincial side, heading in to the 2007 election – and I had to look this up because it seems hard to believe now – John Tory did much better in leadership opinion polls than Dalton McGuinty. Angus Reid had him going in with a 10% margin.

  58. Bah. If you Liberals want an election, give us an election. (I love elections. I’d be happy to see one every year.)

    If you don’t want an election, don’t give us an election — we’ll see them ride this out till 2009. (It’ll be what, in the summer of ’09 that this parliament will become the longest-lived minority one?)

    It’s all in your hands. (And has been since September 2007.)

  59. Ah, here we are — August 31, 2009.

    That’s when this could become the longest minority parliament in Canadian political history.

  60. Boudica, it’s not like there’s a handy online database somewhere where I can check leadership numbers over time. I wish there were. I don’t know when such polling would’ve begun in earnest, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Trudeau led Clark in leadership while he was PM, or Chretien over Mulroney in his last days. I’m sure Gordon Campbell was miles ahead on such a score over Glen Clark and Ujjal Dosanjh before BC’s 2001 election. But then there’s the case of John Tory, who had numbers close to McGuinty’s (I think it was 40%-36%, on TVO about a year out from the 2007 election), who then got blown out of the water during the subsequent election.

    Likewise party horse race numbers have been wildly wrong before. The Campbell Tories led the Chretien Liberals going into the 1993 election, and we know how that turned out (2 seats!). So why would you put great stock in those numbers, but not in leadership numbers?

    Over polls I put greater emphasis on historical electoral patterns for our country. Doing that I see that only once in our history have we retired a first-term minority government (Clark in 1980). As I said prior, we don’t throw governments out willy-nilly in Canada. If a government does reasonably well, then we’re averse to throwing them out for a new and unknown government. It’s not a particularly high standard that we’re comfortable with either (e.g. returning the 2004 Liberals with the Sponsorship scandal swirling around them).

    Add in the better financial situation of the Conservatives (in itself doesn’t guarantee victory, but it helps), the better organizational situation for them (likewise), and it should be understandable to all but the most blinded partisans why the smart money is on a Conservative victory (minority or majority) in the next election. ANYTHING can happen, but the odds are in favour of the CPC, and it’s silly to deny that.

  61. Ben: “Ah, here we are — August 31, 2009. That’s when this could become the longest minority parliament in Canadian political history.”

    Except that it can’t (the Wiki entry is wrong, or more clarification is needed). The dates considered are from the return of the writs after the previous election – which happened on Feb. 13th, 2006 for the 2006 election, and the date of dissolution, which given a fixed election date of Oct. 19th, 2009, would mean a dissolution date of Sep. 13th, 2009 at the latest (for a 36 day campaign).

    So the longest this Parliament could possibly last is 3 years and 7 months, missing out on the longest every minority Parliament by 20 days.

    Still, King’s 14th Parliament was not a minority Parliament for the whole term, and at that time affiliations were not as precise as now (many Liberal-Progressives, etc.). The Wiki entry actually lists the 16th Parliament as a minority, which Parliament’s site lists as a majority Parliament. Strange.

  62. Well said KRB and to the point. If only there were a database ‘ Bingo ! if only then I wouldn’t have to waste so much time and energy satisfying my political junkeeism.

  63. KRB and Crackpot, you are both wrong. Trudeau polled lower than Clark and Broadbent never surpassed the sitting PM he opposed in the polls.

  64. “Although I’m a Liberal supporter, I am a first and foremost democrat and far more on the side of average Canadians than our media and political elite, who have been serving us very badly over the last while.”

    I can’t help but laugh at this statement. A Liberal supporter is upset at the way the media has conducted itself “over the last while”. The “last while” being the period of time since the Liberals stopped being the dominant force in Canadian politics. Just a coincidence, I’m sure. Before that, plenty of conservatives would have made the same complaint. Because if your party isn’t in power, it’s because somebody else isn’t doing their job right.

  65. “Be it resolved that this house recognizes this government has the confidence of Canadians.”

  66. Ti-Guy: Uh.. and? What was your point? I mean of course coolness and hotness were about public perception. I certainly wasn’t talking about a busted air-conditioner in the committee room.

    However, given that we aren’t yet lead by Plato’s philosopher kings, and that while it’d sure be nice if people read policy documents and perused Hansard to see what their MPs were doing, out here in the real world public perception is what wins and loses elections. Whether that’s good for the country or not is rather irrelevant to the topic at hand — is Harper bluffing or not and what is the proper course for Liberals in either event?

  67. billg, you still don’t get it, do you?

    When are you Tories going to understand that you are no longer in the Opposition and are now in charge in Canada? Canadians are looking to YOU for leadership on the climate change file but you have produced what exactly?

    Oily the friggin’ Splot.

    And then they wonder why they are tanking in the polls…

  68. “And then they wonder why they are tanking in the polls…”

    One recent poll out of I don’t know how many give the Liberals a one point lead (compared to two other recent ones that have the Conservatives up 4 or 5 points) and libloggers are in a frenzy. Earth to libloggers:the polls haven’t materially changed since the last election when the Conservatives came out ahead by a 36-30 margin.

    That’s why talk of dumping Mr. Dion, as Mr. Wells points out in his post, is a periodic topic of discussion within Liberal circles.

    Meanwhile Mr. Harper has emerged as the most capable leader on the national scene since Jean Chretien started taking care of business in 1993. He has done so in circumstances which would have easily did in lesser men. He acts on events as opposed to reacting to them.

    The Libs meanwhile mostly react, and mostly badly.

  69. Boudica: “KRB and Crackpot, you are both wrong. Trudeau polled lower than Clark and Broadbent never surpassed the sitting PM he opposed in the polls.”

    Actually Boudica, it’s you who is wrong. I know for sure that Broadbent was higher than Mulroney before the 1988 election. There were a few articles about him at that time highlighting that fact; I remember one with him riding a bicycle by Parliament Hill.

    Do I have to do all the work for ya?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Broadbent

    In the 4th paragraph:

    “Several polls afterwards showed that Broadbent was the most popular party leader in Canada. Broadbent was the only leader ever to take the NDP to first place in public opinion polling and some pundits felt that the NDP could supplant Turner’s Liberals as the primary opposition to Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives.”

    Did you even look? Ok, now you’ve been proven wrong.

    At any rate, polling (be it party, leader, or country-right-direction polling) is only one piece to consider when gauging how the next election will unfold. I seriously don’t get what your crusade (I think we can elevate it to that now) against leadership number polling is about.

  70. Boudica: “Canadians are looking to YOU for leadership on the climate change file but you have produced what exactly?”

    Boudica, could you please answer the following question?

    Q. Which Canadian government was the first to introduce regulations aimed at curbing GHG emissions?

    Says it all, doesn’t it?

  71. Somebody needs to sit the Liberals all down in one room and give them a message like this one about the election date — “Pick one! Just for the love of God, please freakin’ pick one!”

    Now or next year — it’s all the same to me. :p

  72. KRB, that wiki statement was written by an NDP staffer and you know it. Broadbent did NOT poll higher than the sitting PM and you will not find news articles to that effect because it never happened.

    There is only ONE Opp Leader in the history of this country to have ever achieved this and it was not Broadbent. You need to go further back for this.

  73. Looking at this poll (NDP 37, Libs 36, PCs 25), I can’t imagine that Mulroney topped the leadership numbers…

  74. Ben

    this is just an impression from news reports but it appears the Lib caucus, at least the heavy weights, are messing with Dion. The reports last fall were Dion was itching to bring the government down but caucus wasn’t. In the spring, reports were claiming caucus wanted an election in early summer while Dion wanted to spend the summer touring Canada explaining Green Shift. They are like a bunch of cats in a sack so good luck trying to get them to agree what day it is, never mind picking an election date.

  75. Here’s another

    But the Prime Minister’s confidence is not widely shared. To begin with, polls show strong antipathy toward Mr. Mulroney personally. Only 13 percent of those surveyed in the October poll considered him to be best qualified to be Prime Minister, compared with 39 percent for Mr. Broadbent. And Conservative Party organizers say the New Democrats’ strongest election card may be Mr. Mulroney, rather than any popular shift toward left-wing policies.

    Would like to see the underlying poll data…

  76. JWL — Pity.

    I like elections. I’d enjoy having two big ones to watch this fall — McCain/Obama and Harper/Dion.

  77. So I lied, it isn’t all the same to me — I’m not with the PM, I enjoy watching a good fight, and so I’d like it to be sooner.

  78. Ben

    I was watching Question Period a few weeks and Rosemary Thompson was one of the guest hosts. She suggested, in all seriousness, that there won’t be an election this fall in Canada because no one would be paying attention because everyone is watching Obama. I thought what she was suggesting was absurd but provided an insight about Rosemary. I too would like an election this fall, I am convinced Dion will finally decide to bring down the government and there will be an election before December.

  79. Ben, 9:20 post. Amen to that.

    Indecisiveitis has plagued the Liberal leadership since Paul Martin took over the helm nearly 5 years ago. If there was one thing that characterized him and did him in was his indeciveness. The Econmist called him Mr. Dithers and the name stuck because it fit him like a glove. (The Oxford defines dither as “be indecisive).

    Meanwhile, the guy the Liberals picked to replace him 3 years later, pressured for an answer about inaction on his environment portfolio in the leadership debates, bleats out “Do you think it’s easy to make priorities?” Again going to the Oxford, prioritize means “decide the importance of (items or tasks)”.

    So when Mr. Wells gives rather obvious advice, (comment 10:44 a.m.)” Now, how do the Liberals short-circuit the game? Simple. Make a decision and stick to it. Sadly, apparently that’s asking too much.”, considering the leadership capabilities of Mr. Dion it really is asking too much.

    That’s why I think Mr. Harper has decided, mercifully, to make the difficult decision for Mr. Dion and the Liberals will be reacting to events to their detriment.

  80. Interesting discussion but misses the esssential point. Harper is not running against Dion, he is running against Duceppe.

    Dion’s biggest failure as Liberal leader has been his inability to engineer a Liberal come-back in Quebec against the Bloc. Harper has placed CPC as the federalist default option in Quebec. Roberval and St-Hyacinthe-Bagot byelections showed the trend, St-Lambert byelection should confirm the trend in the ridings surrounding Montreal.

    Politically, Harper needs more time to build up his organization in Quebec before he takes on the Bloc. Over time the Bloc seems to be weakening (is it me or does it seem that the Bloc isn’t making much of an effort in St-Lambert?) while the CPC gets stronger. By October 2009 election, CPC will be in a strong position versus the Bloc and will be competitive all across the province, including the francophone parts of the island of Montreal if the Liberal decline among francophones in la metropole continues.

    As to an early election, I don’t see how this would serve CPC interests in Quebec. Nor do I see why the Bloc would support the Liberals in defeating the CPC when the result will be the loss of many Bloc seats to the Conservatives.

    I believe that Bloc will prop up Harper government if the Liberals regain their courage and seek to defeat the government on non-confidence. The election will be in October 2009, just as PM Harper planned it.

    The Canadian (Toronto) MSM should temper a little their obsession with Dion and the Liberals and report more on the Bloc and what is happening Quebec. Quebec is the only place right now where the politics is actually interesting (and shifting).

  81. The Montreal Gazette
    Wednesday, May 13, 1987, p. A1

    NDP snatches lead from Liberals in poll

    LES WHITTINGTON
    SOUTHAM NEWS

    OTTAWA – The New Democrats have made political history, edging ahead of the Liberals into first place in a national poll conducted by Angus Reid Associates.

    In its best showing since the party was created in 1961, the NDP received the support of 37 per cent of decided voters across Canada, marginally better than the Liberals, who slipped six percentage points since March to 36 per cent.

    The Conservatives, at 25 per cent, continue to trail both opposition parties, but were up slightly from their record-low 23-per-cent showing in February and March.

    Nationally, voters’ opinions about the three party leaders have remained stable since March. Broadbent continues to lead, with 67 per cent of respondents saying they approve of how he has handled himself.

    Turner is second, with a 43-per-cent approval rating. Third is Mulroney, although his 28-per-cent rating is up four points since March.

  82. RE: Scandals – I don’t know about the posters on this site, but outside of Ottawa and more specifically the political groupies, few, if anyone, cares about what the ethics committee is or is not doing. All most people see is rude politicans from all sides trying to score points when they really should be enjoying the summer holidays. Will they heat up in the fall, probably not because people see them as partisan actions and unless you are deep into every policical move of every politican, most people could care less. I know none of my friends, neighbours, work colleagues, family members etc care one bit about the ‘scandals’. A fall election? only if the opposition parties work together to bring down the governmnt and while the Liberals may (or may not) be keen, not sure if the Bloc is or the NDP. Once the US election starts to move into full gear (mid-September) I doubt any party will want to go to an election; maybe the winter? – that didn’t work out so well for the Liberals last time since you need a great ground machine to counter Xmas and winter conditions; spring is next – maybe but by that time we are too close to a scheduled election anyway so what would be the point.

  83. Well the consensus seems to be on PW’s side: Harper’s bluffing.

    I beleive that consensus to be wrong.

    Whether he’s bluffing or not Dion’s taking the bait: “Leader Stephane Dion criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday for threatening to call a general election.” (CP Headline)

    There’s something surreal about that headline.

  84. If an election is called and Dion wins, will he have to excuse himself from any bilateral negotiations with France because of conflict of interest?
    He is a French citizen and holds a dual passport. Let’s see, a Quebecer and citizen of France negotiating for Canada, with France. Vive le Québec libre! Ala President Degaulle. Funny how the MSM sees no problem with this. If Harper had a cat born in the US they would be screaming that Harper was negotiating with the US and his Bush buddy in bad faith.
    I swear the MSM would be thrilled with the destruction of Canada, as it is, if it would allow them to sell more advertising through more blaring headlines.

  85. One of the misconceptions that keeps popping up on this thread is this whole “scandal” thing. There is a huge difference between a Liberal “scandal” and a Conservative “scandal”. The Conservative scandal revolves around the “laundering” (legitimate term in this context) of their own legitimately raised funds, which belonged solely to the Conservative Party of Canada. The Liberal scandal, on the other hand, involved the outright theft of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money in an elaborate racketeering and fraud scheme which reached right into the PMO. There is a modest difference between the two forms of scandal, akin to the difference between being set upon by a furry woodland creature such as a squirrel, and a furry woodland creature such as a grizzly bear. Was the Conservative money shuffle wholly ethical? Maybe, maybe not. Was it unethical? No. But, the antics of the Liberals on the Ethics Committee reveal their contempt for the intelligence of the Canadian public, and they had best be prepared for the day when the federal government can have unfettered access to the financial records of their own party. I will bet anyone in this country $100 that the skeletons in that closet are some smelly and ugly.

  86. Doowleb-
    That goes beyond cynical into borderline paranoid. Dion has proven himself to be an ardent federalist. Just because someone is a francophone or a Quebecer doesn’t automatically equal a separatist.

  87. Mr. Greenwood,the Conservatives did a bit more than shuffle their own money. They did that. And then they applied for reimbursement on the funds that had been shuffled. There’s the rub.
    Of course,there’s always the possibility that Elections Canada is a totally-owned subsidiary of The Liberal Party of Canada. But nobody I know is buying that line.

  88. Bill Greenwood, I am confident that fellow commenters will not accuse me of being an enemy to Harper or the Tories. With that preamble, I must correct you on your main point that the Tories were just accounting for their own money.

    I wish that were so.

    Among the many poisonous things the Liberals have done to honest taxpayers over the years, the recurrent per vote funding formula, and the reimbursement of campaign expenses, ranks right up there. If you as a candidate get a certain minimum percentage of the vote, the Canadian taxpayer refunds an insane proportion of your expenses, subject to legislated limits. National parties also get refunds for national-wide campaign expenses.

    Last election, the Tories wanted to exercise their right to free speech by advertising, but they would be overspending their limits to qualify for funding. Some riding candidancies were not at the limits, so a little creative accounting allegedly took place. A “regional” advertisement would run with the fine print “authorized by the official agent so-and-so for Candidate X” rather than “authorized by the official agent for the Conservative Party.” So regional ad buys could have expenses split up among various participating candidates’ expense budgets. The expenses appear to have been twinned with transfers of identical or near-identical amounts of funds from the national war-chest (hence the derisive label “in-and-out”).

    How did Elections Canada come to learn that the Tories might be pinning not-so-local expenses to local riding campaigns? The Tories told them, because the parties and the candidates submit receipts and are entitled to our money according to the legislated limits. Elections Canada refused to reimburse local candidates for those expenses, saying those national expenses were padding the local budgets that had the room for it, and otherwise would have pushed national party spending over the allowed limit. The Tories are suing Elections Canada to get that ruling reversed and to get their hands on our money (the campaign expenses rebate), just like all parties have applied for rebates for their expenses.

    So it’s not true that we are dealing with “their own legitimately raised funds.” If that’s all the parties could get their hands on, the Liberals would have already thrown in the towel, declared bankruptcy, stiffed their creditors, and tried to register as a different party to run for office claiming responsible management of the taxpayers’ trust.

    We are, in fact, dealing with how much the federal treasury should be refunding a political party for its advertising expenses for the last campaign.

    Take away that stupid reimbursement program, and we have none of this nonsense to begin with.

  89. “national-wide campaign expenses”
    I sheepishly confess I even proofread that long-winded blurb before posting. Sorry about that.

  90. Which somewhat reinforces my point- If the Tory “money laundering” (which it seems to have been) was wholly unethical, why in God’s name did the Tories tell Elections Canada that was what they had done? I honestly think that the law is probably poorly written- too much grey legalese- and that some of the shuffle was an intentional challenge in order to make the whole thing more transparent. The best solution- eliminate tax funding of political parties. Keep the current finance laws but eliminate the public subsidy portion. I also maintain my position that this is a long, long ways from the kind of wholesale corruption that is the heart and soul of the Libranos.

  91. “Tories were just accounting for their own money.” — From my perspective, this is essentially correct. Yes, I know about the reimbursement thing. If their spending was not legitimate, they will NOT get the reimbursement (that’s what the court case is about). If the courts decide that their in-out thing was legal, then they deserve the reimbursements. One way or the other, the taxpayer is NOT being shafted. The other issue here is that the Elections Canada regulations in this regard are somewhat misleading/inconsistent. That also is why there is a court case around this. Maybe the Conservatives will be found in violation, but it is totally legitimate for them to at least seek clarification/resolution through the courts. Libs also recently took Elections Canada to court, so nothing unusual here.

  92. Another interpretation is that the Tory brain trust thinks that they are smarter than the rest of the world.
    There’s been a like-minded group in Washington with the same problem.

  93. LindaL, I would argue that the taxpayer is getting shafted by the whole reimbursement program in the first place. The court case boils down to the degree of shaft to be suffered by the taxpayer: Less (because the shifty Conservatives sharpened their pencils and found ways to just make it under the limit across ridings, but a quasi-independent arm of the federal government is standing up to them) or More (because the law does not forbid what happened, all the parties did it anyways, and the Tories will prevail in their suit against Elections Canada for wrongful misapplication of the law). The Court will decide.

    I agree with Bill & madeyoulook above: get rid of this theft of the honest taxpayer to begin with, and let individual contributions from interested supporters fall where they may.

  94. What I would find hilarious to watch: Vulcan chess boy musing about calling an election, turning out to be the biggest federal political head-fake of the 21st century so far.

    Make noises about calling an election. Try to look good by meeting all the other leaders. Other leaders refuse to agree to cooperate but also lambaste you for making noises. Then: DON’T cross the street to advise dissolution, rather, go and re-open Parliament and get to work. October 2009, after all. Opposition parties, spooked into preparing for a nation-wide election, thoroughly unprepared for a return to work, collapse the House into non-confidence at the first opportunity, creating the election Harper wanted in the first place, but now without the hypocrisy charge, thereby permitting his heretofore dozen critics at Macleans.ca to swoon in adoration for having respected his stated intent in the fixed-date legislation.

    “You see, Canada? I tried. These boobs said we shouldn’t have an election right away, and look what they just did, only now several weeks later so that the weather can suck for polling day. I did my best to respect the fixed-date law, really I did. It even looked like I would have to ask the GG to dissolve early, in spite of the good intentions of the law. Well, it looks like my instinct was correct. The opposition just achieved what they so forcefully whined they did not want. And THEY expect the privilege of your confidence on election day?”

  95. That fantasy isn’t going to happen. Not with the way the Cons are cramming as much ad spending as possible into the pre-writ period so as to avoid any more in-and-out election fraud.

    Also, is anyone going to call the Conservatives on this charade that is just a delay tactic so give time for pre-writ ad spending?

  96. Wait.. you agree with yourself? Are there multiple people posting under your moniker, or did you intend to sock-puppet and forgot to change your name?

    And to be honest, because that scenario doesn’t break any laws or promises (the opposition parties never said that Harper’s law meant anything, in fact, they voiced that as a concerna bout it) it’ll receive practically nothing for a bounce.

    Really, the only reason the election date is a bit of a bug-a-boo is because of the lengths the conservatives went to proclaim how their legislation was a triumph for democracy by preventing a PM from going to the GG whenever convenient. It’s not the calling of the election that’s the problem, it’s the hypocrisy in doing so after all the crowing.

  97. Wouldn’t an election just help the Liberals? The Conservatives are not likely going to win a majority, unless there is a miracle, and the Liberals will then get a chance to elect a real LEADER to fight the next election. I think Harper’s crazy if he calls an election now…

  98. I have been the only person I know floating this idea so far, but i also think it helps the Liberals because they can say that harper has explicitly admitted he can’t competently run a minority government, but expects only to return a minority in the next election. I don’t get that.

  99. TT, no sock puppetry, no multiple posting, just a little (attempt at) humour, so that anyone who caught it would chuckle about somebody agreeing with himself.

  100. “TT, no sock puppetry, no multiple posting, just a little (attempt at) humour, so that anyone who caught it would chuckle about somebody agreeing with himself.”

    Frankly, I don’t believe you. Smacks of the radio phone-in show ads from ‘ordinary Canadians’.

  101. kontrol: In a world where financing wasn’t an issue, you may well be right. Unfortunately, it is, and a leadership convention now would seriously hurt the Liberal’s chances of being able to mount an effective opposition for a good long time — meaning we’d be stuck with exactly like we have now, the Lib’s being afraid to pull the plug not because they think the other side has winning policies, but just because they can’t afford to, and the other side making every vote one where no compromise is allowed. That doesn’t benefit anyone.

    You want to know why I’m pissed? Because the Conservatives made some good promises. If they’d have lived up to them there’d be no question in my mind that they’d be approaching majority territory, even though I don’t like a lot of what they stand for. Instead, they pissed it away by being afraid to admit any mistakes, and being unwilling to countenance any sort of compromise or consultation.

    It’s that sort of pathetic ineptitude that makes me angry at them, and because of that doesn’t want them forming the next government, even if that means we get stuck with Liberals.

  102. Sorry Andrew, I cannot be responsible for your incorrect beliefs.

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