Massive election-timing-speculation tip!!!


Oooh these next few weeks are going to be SO exciting.

We have all just received a news release from the Bloc Québécois (official slogan: “It’s Taking a While. Stop Giggling”) which reveals that Mr. Gilles Duceppe will be pleased to meet Mr. Stephen Harper on the 5th, 6th, or 7th of September.

But not before. Too busy. So sorry.

This is huge. Why is it huge? It just is. Huge. It is huge because it means that, since the prime minister cannot call an election until he has met with all the opposition leaders in search of The One with whom he can continue to govern in peace and hard-negotiated legislative agenda, then he cannot call an election until after a Sept. 5 meeting, at the earliest. So an election is at least 11 days away. You could almost call it a “fixed election date,” although that would guarantee it would mean nothing, wouldn’t it?

UPDATE: in the comments, Inkless Irregular Boudica speculates, persuasively, that a busy schedule may not be M. Duceppe’s only consideration.


Massive election-timing-speculation tip!!!

  1. Sounds like Gilles’ going fishing. But if this separatist leader can’t find the time in his “busy” schedule to meet the Prime Minister maybe the Prime Minister already has his answer.

  2. You could almost call it a “fixed election date,”

    You mean as in “Illegally prearranged as to outcome”?

    Yeah, I suppose…

  3. Indeed, Jarrid. It would not be too much of a stretch for PMSH to meet with all the other party leaders and snub Duceppe entirely (Harper, the true nationalist, is a builder, blah, blah), especially if PMSH has every intention of calling an election now. Pros vs. cons in Quebec: outrage at snubbing the separatists vs. further highlighting the impotence of the perpetual-motion-but-going-nowhere BQ on Parliament Hill. Might just have more political gain than pain for the Tories in QC, almost cetainly would be a winner in the ROC.

  4. This is all so lame. If the PM wants an election, why doesn’t he stop this consultation charade and just call one?

    The guy never consults any of the oppo leaders on anything. He hardly ever speaks to the press.

    He calls himself a leader, a decider, and everyone else a loser.

    Why doesn’t he just start carpet-bombing Dion with negative attack ads, and on Sep 5 or whenever, march across the street to drop the writ?

    Boom. It’s over.

  5. ROFL LMAO – brilliant! As they say timing is everything – I can’t believe the play this issue is getting it is perfect. The best part will be ” OppositionLeaders lining up for a conference call! By the way ANON why on earth would anyone spend money on advertising when you get the media to do it for you for free.

  6. That Harper will look for a way to pull the plug before anyone else is a given here.

    What Duceppe has done is force Harper to do this AFTER the by-elections and THAT is what Harper clearly wanted to avoid.

    Now, on top of having to deal with bad press at the beginning of a writ period for doing an about-face on his fixed election promise, he will also have to contend with a possible boost for the LPC if they win in three of the four by-elections.

    Exciting times indeed!

  7. boudica:

    If Harper meets Duceppe on the 5, 6 or 7, he can still walk across the street and request a dissolution before the 8th. He could even go straight from his meeting with Duceppe to the GG’s.

  8. No he can’t because the GG leaves on the 6th for The Paralympic Games in Beijing. She’s gone until the 10th.

  9. Correction:

    The GG will be in Beijing on the 6th until the 10th. Since Beijing is 13 hours away by plane, the GG will actually be leaving on the 5th.

    That’s why Duceppe listed her departure date as his earliest availability.

    Harper just got set up… or should I say put in a “check” position?

  10. For all the opposition’s huffing and puffing about bringing about an election they sure are a timid bunch when push comes to shove. Dion’s been doing it for a while now, all talk, no action.

    Now it looks like Duceppe’s caught the same bug. Yesterday he said he’ll bring a non-confidence motion on his first opposition day. Today he’s busy filling his summer calendar so he can avoid having a little fireside chat with the Prime Minister. Dion avoided votes in the House, Duceppe is trying to duck a meeting which may result in the dissolutio of the House.

    I don’t know about a dsyfunctional Parliament but we certainly have a dsyfunctional opposition. I have never seen an opposition in a minority context wanting to avoid going to the polls and being so transparent about it.

  11. Jarrid, do you honestly think that anyone is going to buy this?

    Face it. Harper just got played by Duceppe. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harper is the one to now climb down from a dissolution of Parliament now that he is forced to wait until after the by-elections.

    Harper’s only saving grace would be a schedule change in the GG’s plans. If Michaelle has any sense, she’ll be leaving for Beijing on schedule and thank her lucky stars for Gilles Duceppe.

  12. Duceppe has already said he’ll bring a non-confidence motion at the first opportunity. So I think Harper already knows Duceppe’s position, thereby making a meeting with him pointless.

    Duceppe was setting up with his rook, but took his eyes off his queen.

  13. This is so cool. The first hearing in the Cadman tape case is scheduled for September 22. Zytaruk has been subpoenaed to attend sometime in September. Release date for Julie Couillard’s book is October 14. In-and-Out continues. And where is Karlheinz? Maybe if Dion and Layton line up behind Duceppe to take Steve up on his ‘consultations’ we’ll find out why he’s in such a hurry.

  14. Tradition aside, is there any reason the PM has to meet the GG in person? Or at Rideau Hall? Can the advice to dissolve not be made by telephone or videoconference, with Harper in Ottawa (or wherever) and Jean in Beijing?

    Or if not could Harper go to the extreme of following Jean to China to have the writ dropped from there? (Politically this would look awful, of course, since she’s back in a few days, but it saves part of the expense of the by-elections…)

  15. boudica:

    Travel plans can be changed. If Jean is led to believe that she will be receiving a visit from the Prime Minister, I suspect her travel plans will be cancelled or cut short.

    And as for Duceppes NC motion…goody for him. Let Dion and Layton vote with him and get tarred with the brush of letting the separatists call the next election.

  16. Don Smith, you are not making sense. You expect the Prime Minister of Canada to meet with the GG, claim dysfunction in Parliament and demand the dissolution of the said Parliament, all this without having met with the leader of every party?

    Oh how I wish Harper could be this insane but he clearly isn’t.

    He’s been played. Duceppe set him up good. Harper has no choice now. He either has to proceed with his request for dissolution and possibly enter the election campaign weakened by a strong showing in the by-elections by the LPC and Bloc…


    … He climbs down from his sabre rattling and allows Dion or Layton or Duceppe to take him down, in which case, he STILL loses his position of strength at the onset of the election.

    With the numbers so close, Harper cannot afford to give an inch to the LPC but again… Duceppe set him up good.

    Let’s see what happens next.

  17. “Travel plans can be changed. If Jean is led to believe that she will be receiving a visit from the Prime Minister, I suspect her travel plans will be cancelled or cut short.”

    Sure her plans can be changed but why would she pass on an opportunity to NOT be involved in this tug of war? She’s have to be crazy not to jump on this opportunity. She doesn’t even have to do anything but just stick to her original schedule.

    I can see it now, Michaelle all smiles telling Harper that he surely doesn’t expect her to stick it to the Paralympians, now would he?


  18. “but why would she pass on an opportunity to NOT be involved in this tug of war?”

    Because that’s her job. She’s supposed to be non-partisan. And if there is a possibility that the PM will visit to call an election, she pretty well needs to be there; her official duties override a feel-good junket to China.

  19. boudica:

    I must disagree with you. Her presence is not required in order to dissolve Parliament. The Letters Patent Constituting the Office of the Governor General allow her to exercise her powers as if she were present in the country provided she is absent for less than 30 days, and in all cases of the GG’s absence from the country the Chief Justice can exercise all powers as the Administrator.

    It may not be something the PM wants to do, but there is certainly nothing constitutionally preventing him from requesting the dissolution at any time. For better or worse, the PM’s political plans are not hostage to the travel schedule of the Governor General.

  20. “Because that’s her job. She’s supposed to be non-partisan. And if there is a possibility that the PM will visit to call an election, she pretty well needs to be there; her official duties override a feel-good junket to China.”

    john g, no amount of stomping of your feet is going to change the timeline. In order for the GG to change her plans, Harper would have to tell her in advance that he’s going to need to meet her?

    Now why would the Prime Minister do this when he hasn’t spoken to the other leaders yet?

    I mean, Harper needs to at least make it look like he hasn’t yet decided what he’s gonna do, yes?

  21. Harper has to at least make it look like he’s going to follow through with the ‘consultations’ or he’ll look as hypocritical as he already does about the ‘fixed’ election date. He wants an election. So don’t give him one. Then you find out why he’s jonesing so bad for it.

    john g, it’s not about Dion and Layton joining Duceppe and “letting the separatists call the next election,” it’s about joining Duceppe in calling Harper’s bluff, slowing things down, and delaying one.

  22. “For better or worse, the PM’s political plans are not hostage to the travel schedule of the Governor General.”

    This is politics, Ottawa Guy. It’s one thing for Harper to defy his own fixed date law but it is quite the other for him to do is such an aggresive way and get away with it at the polls.

    I most certainly hope that Harper is this desperate and this reckless but I doubt it.

  23. Chrétien shuffled his cabinet once with the Chief Justice officiating. I don’t recall massive public blowback. Actually, I don’t recall anyone in Canada noticing.

  24. boudica,

    You obviously did not read Ottawa Guy’s post.

    As Administrator, the Chief Justice is perfectly capable of acting on the GG’s behalf in her absence. The GG’s travel plans are not an issue here.

  25. Boudica, WTF? If Duceppe doesn’t make himself available, practically hiding from the PM, and he has already bellowed out that he plans to introduce non-confidence, what makes you think Harper needs to meet with him? That is exactly the sort of political shenanigans Harper is talking about.

    Duceppe is a separatist, and irrelevant. Harper can meet with Dion and Layton and call an election if need be. Or, if they run and hide too, he can still call an election.

    Harper doesn’t have to react to the opposition if they want to be obstructionist, and he certainly doesn’t have to play by the rules insisted upon by a Liberal blog commenter.

  26. Wait a minute…

    Let me see if I got this straight.


    You are telling me that, after doing such a volte-face on his own election promise, after calling 5 sets of by-elections which would then be set aside, after being told by Duceppe’s scheduler that he would essentially not have the GG in town for his dissolution request, after pursuing nonetheless a dissolution of Parliament and calling an election without the GG because he couldn’t wait until she returned from a 4-day trip, after blatantly orchestrating chaos at the Ethics committee…

    After all of this…You are saying that Harper does NOT run the risk of taking a hit at the polls?!?!

  27. Ha ha. Nicely played Gilles. But if Harper’s hell bent on going, he’ll find a way, meeting or not.

  28. I would certainly never try to tell you anything, Boudica.

  29. This is all very inside baseball. No one cares about the timing or process of the election call.

    At most, it’ll be an issue for about 10 minutes before something more interesting comes up.

    For example, what do you think matters more to Canadians, the the chance of their heating bills going up or some highly academic constitutional debate.

    Self-interest trumps ITQ BS. Plan and simple.

  30. *Plain

  31. I wonder what the PM and GG talk about when they get together. I’m under the impression they confer on a regular basis.

    Presumably he may tell her before she leaves that the outcome of his meeting with Duceppe could “force” him to ask for an election. In that case, she may appoint a deputy to act on her behalf while she is away. I would be happy to offer my services as deputy.

    I don’t think the GG has the authority to decide not to go to China unless it’s on the advice of the PM. Also, Harper loves staged announcements/photo ops. So with the GG gone and this being a very wet summer, he won’t have to worry about making the announcement on the steps of Rideau Hall.

    On a side note. I’m not a supporter of Stephen Harper but I wanted to point out that he isn’t really as sneaky as everyone suggests.

  32. “You obviously did not read Ottawa Guy’s post. ”

    And you didn’t read mine. What will Harper say to Canadians? What was the urgency here that he couldn’t wait for the GG to return? What was so urgent that he couldn’t wait for the outcome of the by-elections he himself called for?

    Of course, he technically doesn’t need the GG but POLITICALLY?? How will he explain himself?

    And nevermind the explanation, do you understand that this would be like christmas for the LPC is Harper did this?

    Remember, that whole “dysfunction” bit is complete spin and that is oh so easy to demonstrate. No one is buying Harper’s line, not even you.

  33. “I would certainly never try to tell you anything, Boudica.”

    (eye roll)

  34. Boudica, if anyone’s been had it’s Stephane “I have the power” Dion. It doesn’t look like it’s sunk in that the Prime Minister also “had the power” and that he’s decided to use it.

    I guess the opposition leaders can try to avoid the inevitable by refusing to take calls from the Prime Minister but the jig will be up on those little games quickly enough – and then we’re likely to find out why the opposition had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the polls.

    As I say, I don’t think there is a historical precedent for the type of squeamish opposition as we’re presently witnessing in this 39th Parliament.

  35. but POLITICALLY??

    No one would care. You really think Harper is going to lose the election because of the way he called the election?

    Step away from the Cherniak flavoured kool-aid..

  36. Peter, I’m given to understand the PM and the GG have a decent social relationship — they’re walking-distance neighbours with children of comparable age, after all — but I’d be amazed if they talked business in anything but a formal setting. That may be naive of me — I’ve learned lately, not for the first time, that I can be naive about this guy — but there it is.

  37. The GPC will be soon to announce that Elizabeth May is available to meet Stephen Harper Aug 25,26,27,28,29,30,31 and Sept 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 but will be unavailable after the 7th as she will be baking bread for the upcoming GPC convention, sometime, elections permitting.

  38. Harper is not going to call ane election while the Maple Leaf foods thing is still unravelling. He can’t possibly be that reckless. I don’t think they have thought this thing through.

  39. “No one would care. You really think Harper is going to lose the election because of the way he called the election?”

    Yes. Why? Because if I’m Stephane Dion, every time Harper makes a promise during the election, I only have to remind voters how he cannot be trusted to keep his promise as he will have demonstrated to all Canadians by dissolving Parliament. If he actually does it without the GG, that would be the cherry on the sundae for Dion.

  40. “Yes. Why? Because if I’m Stephane Dion, every time Harper makes a promise during the election, I only have to remind voters how he cannot be trusted to keep his promise as he will have demonstrated to all Canadians by dissolving Parliament. If he actually does it without the GG, that would be the cherry on the sundae for Dion.”

    Well I sincerely hope you work as a Liberal strategist. Good luck!

  41. Boudica, you’re full of wishful thinking.

    Chretien ran a campaign on cutting GST (an actual pocketbook issue for Canadians)…tell me, how’d he do in the 1997 election?

    Oh ya, and how’d that Dalton guy do last September in Ontario?

    You’re giving Cherniak a run for his money.

  42. Boudica, I don’t think he needs to put much energy into explaining anything to Canadians with regard to asking for the dissolution while the GG is away.

    Most Canadians don’t understand the role of the GG and most probably don’t even know about the fixed election law. I think most Canadians find out about elections when they see the signs pop up on the road.

  43. Hey Dot : sorry Ms May will not be able to fill in the slot as she will be here in Victoria trying to hustle up some votes!

  44. If the Liberals run a campaign on “Stephen Harper called an election while the GG was out of the country”, it might not resonate that well with Canadians. If the Conservatives run a campaign on “Stephane Dion is not a leader and he wants to put a tax on everything so he can spend more money on criminals and day care centres for rich people”, it will be obnoxious but effective.

  45. Wayne, I believe the GPC was thinking more in terms of providing advice to Harper on a legislative agenda she could support, but yeah, I could see your interpretation as being also plausible.

  46. PW, I believe Harper also had the Chief Justice officiate at one of his cabinet shuffles – I think January 2007, but I could be wrong.

    Also,it is normal practice for the PM to meet with all opposition leaders before the start of a session. I doubt they are particularly productive meetings, but they do take place.

    In any case, Duceppe has now made it clear that a) he can’t find the time to meet with the PM, and
    b) he will bring a no confidence vote asap

    so I would conclude that the PM has his answer without the bother of a meeting.

  47. if indeed chess was going on here, Harper has been ?!ing for the past few days, while Duceppe just !!’d.

  48. boudica:

    I know this is Paul’s blog, and not Kady’s, but whether a parliament is dissolved by the GG or the CJ is something that no one cares about outside the Queensway. Liberals may wail about broken promises, but with something as mundane as that, no one will care. If it is going to have an impact it would be because the call came “early”, not because of who did the deed.

    Broken promises don’t always lead to electoral problems. Chretien managed two more majorities despite the fact I still pay GST.

    And just to clarify something for Peter, the GG doesn’t need to appoint a deputy since she already has 9. All judges of the Supreme Court are designated as deputies on their appointment.

  49. And I suppose I should revise what I said — she already has 8 deputies, given the present vacancy on the Court.

  50. I find it quite amusing that until recently the opposition and the media were wailing that nothing was getting done and Harper had no direction other than his 5 promises.

    Now when Harper agrees and reiterates that parliament is dysfunctional then all of a sudden the pundits are proclaiming all of the bills passed and totally reversing themselves.

    I’m a little rusty on my Psychiatric terminology but there is definitely a mental illness for that kind of disillusional behavior. Either that or they are the actions of a two year old. Cheers.

  51. They’re not that contradictory. Nothing is getting done, and Harper is passing his bills. The problem is, as we see with the fixed election law, his bills mean nothing.

  52. Now Dion refuses to talk to Harper until September 8th. Not even a phone call..the opposition has gone AWOL!

    Isn’t that a defacto vote of non-confidence?

    Election for sure, and the opposition is going to wear it for refusing to communicate with the government.

  53. the opposition is going to wear it for refusing to communicate with the government.

    not that it really matters that much.

  54. Has anybody remembered that it’s summer? Parliament is out of session. Besides, if witnesses can refuse to show up for a Parliamentary summons until the day they feel available, I’m not sure why on earth a party leader must turn up immediately for the PM.

  55. What a bunch of hooey on these commentaries.
    The Opposition will not meet with the PM — Duceppe gives dates after the 5th, and Dion’s spokesthing says no meeting until the 15th — so, the PMSH doesn’t need a meet. He’s got the answer. Parliament is indeed dysfunctional. It is time to blow up this session of Parliament and have an election…

    BTW, I put a lot of the blame on Dion for opening his trap a few weeks ago and saying that, Canadians are telling me that they think they are ready for an election. BIG MISTAKE, it gave Harper the opening he needed to take down carbon tax man.

    Plus, Jack Layton is a hypocrite, saying for months it is time for an election and now saying, What harper is doing is undemocratic. You either want an election, Jack, or not. Which is it?

  56. I keep coming in here and seeing people who are unable to get their minds around more than one shiny thing at a time.

    It’s both. It is time for an election, AND what Harper is doing is undemocratic. Why? Because the House passed a law. If Harper wants an election, the democratic way to do it is to put forward a vote of non-confidence in the House and either not vote, thus allowing the Bloc and NDP to carry the day, or to vote for it. Only this way do we have proper and legal affirmation that the entire House wants the election. Heck, if he does the former, he can even say “We chose not to vote, as we are obviously biased in thinking we’re doing a fine job. We’re relying on the rest of the House to either affirm that or send us to an election.”

    madeyoulook’s examination of previous minority government elections is interesting, and I’m quite surprised at how many have been called by the minority leader. Personally, I’m a bit bothered by that. Why should a minority party have the ability to terminate the government, against the wishes of the majority? That’s not democracy, in my eyes.

  57. Because the House passed a law.

    There’s a shiny little intro to that law you should read.

  58. T, thanks, I too was surprised to learn that 4 out of 9 completed minority-government Parliaments ended because the PM “advised” the GG to pull the plug (anyone who is down this far in the comments, and still interested, will find more — excrutiating? — detail in the “She can say no” post chez Coyne), after durations of as short as 3.5 months (Dief’s snap call in response to Pearson’s suggestion that the Liberals should retain power despite winning fewer seats).

    And, for any parliamentary democracy ner-, uh, experts, out there, I left hanging a few Q’s about the Governer General’s legal and “convention” powers and duties when a minority-govt PM come calling to dissolve. Help wanted!


  59. Personally, I’m a bit bothered by that. Why should a minority party have the ability to terminate the government, against the wishes of the majority? That’s not democracy, in my eyes.

    I see your point only partially, on that one, T. In such an instance, there was no vote held in the House, so it cannot be concluded that a majority voted to maintain the government. I do see that you object that the House would not even be given that opportunity, however…

    Government House Leader:
    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to submit for first reading Bill C-double-oh, An Act to Call on Her Excellency the Governor General to Dissolve the Current Parliament and to Proceed Forthwith with a General Election. Let it be known by all Honourable Members that every vote on this Bill shall be treated as an expression of confidence in this government: Failure to pass this Bill as exactly worded (stretches out to hand a single page to the Page) shall immediately provoke the fall of this government.

    Some Honourable Members:
    What the —

    Speaker of the House:
    We shall proceed to the vote on the First Reading of Act C-Zero, uh, Zero, An Act to Call on Her Excellency the Governor General…

    Some Honourable Members:
    Hey wait a minute, those buggers just…

    Speaker of the House:
    …to Dissolve the Current Parliament and to Proceed Forthwith…

    Some Honourable Members:
    Boss, is it curtains time again? What the hell are we supposed…

    Speaker of the House:
    …with a General Election.

    (The bells ring. Some Honourable Members cry. Vulcan chess-boy cracks a — very small — smile).

  60. I’m dying to see what kind of campaign Dion runs, and how he performs on the campaign trail.

    I suspect he is woefully unprepared in many areas, and will be just as mediocre at campaigning as he’s been at everything else.

  61. heh Don’t piss off the EMP-ERROR !!!! Firing squad is arranged….lololol

  62. madeyoulook: Except I don’t think that can happen. You can’t forestall the possibility of amendment by saying “If you amend, it’s against confidence”, all you can do is try to keep the amendments out, and if they get in anyway, vote against it yourself. Even the budget has these opportunities for amendments.

    That said, even if it did go down exactly that way, to me it’s far preferable to the Governor General deciding to go against the wishes of the majority as previously expressed in C-16 without any formal indication that the majority has changed its’ mind.

    One thing I keep coming back to is that the Government of Canada, in my eyes, is not just the party in power, but the entire House of Commons. I wish all the occupants thereof would actually act that way, but the “dirty tricks book” of the conservatives suggests that no matter what happens, it’s not going to.

  63. Followup, of course another reason that that wouldn’t happen is that Mr. Harper himself has said: “There seems to be an attitude in the Liberal government – that they can go in, be deliberately defeated and call an election – that’s not how our constitutional system works. The government has a minority – it has an obligation to demonstrate to Canadians that it can govern. That it can form a majority in the House of Commons. If it can’t form a majority, we look at other options, we don’t just concede to the government’s request to make it dysfunctional,” and he wouldn’t go back on his word.. would he?

  64. T, thank you for offering a serious analysis to my whimsical flight of fancy from Hansard-in-Wonderland last night. You offered that fictional scenario a legitimacy it did not deserve.

    The GG can do as she pleases with or without the (non-)fixed date law, AFAIK no law could constrain her anyways, and subsection 1 says so. Most of us would see that subsection as recognizing and allowing the fall of a minority government to lead to a surprise election, no more. Harper wants us to believe it renders everything else in the law moot, at least for minority Parliaments, but for the fact that October 2009 was fixed right there in the text itself. Hypocrisy score goes up indeed.

    What, if anything, by law or convention, would stop GG from saying: “Françoise, Mr. Harper doesn’t want to play anymore, please get M. Dion on the line,” rather than reflexively drop the writ.

    And I wonder if Stéphane would be a little less rude and answer the bloody phone for that call…

  65. Re-reading that, I suppose I should clarify that “fall of a minority government” implied “by loss of confidence in the House.”

  66. If the GG picked up the phone and called the other party leaders, that works just fine for me as well. Basically, so long as she’s ensured that she has the backing of the majority of the House when she calls for the dissolution of Parliament, I think democracy, and the legitimacy of the GG, has been properly served.

    Of course, if it takes a while to reach them, then it takes a while. If conservative MPs can’t answer a parliamentary summons at the time requested, I really don’t see why the leader of any party has to jump at a time requested by the PMO.

  67. Looks like ol’ Gilles found some time in his sched after all.

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