Well. People familiar with the thinking of Stephen Harper convened reporters from all the big Ottawa bureaus this afternoon to the place where people familiar with the thinking of Stephen Harper work, and they told the dozen of us what one of the people familiar with the thinking of Stephen Harper told me yesterday: it’s looking like an election is coming, and it’s looking like Stephen Harper will call it.
The final decision will come after meetings between Harper and each of the three opposition leaders. Timing is a bit of a challenge. (Stéphane Dion has spent the week wowing ’em in Ontario, and Harper leaves Tuesday for a three-day Arctic trip, so the window for the two of them to sit down, at least, would seem to be Monday.)
If Harper doesn’t get an assurance from one opposition leader — he needs only one — that his legislative agenda will receive support through the fall session, he’ll call an election. We were left with the impression that this will happen very soon after the meetings with opposition leaders.
I can’t imagine an opposition leader giving Harper a blank cheque for the next several weeks, ahead of the fact. Because he only needs one, Harper will not decide what to do until he has met all three.
“An election would clear the air and give a government — ours or a Liberal government — some open water to manoeuvre in,” said one, um, person. Why had they gathered us all to lay out this plot line? “If you have to guess, you may guess wrong. So I’m telling you so you’ll guess right.”
The mechanism for kicking off an election would, we were told, be a visit to the Governor General, not a contrived defeat in the Commons on a confidence motion. Could that happen before by-elections? “We’re not ruling anything out; we’re not ruling anything in.”
UPDATE: I thought I saw other reporters in the room. It must be serious: Jean-Pierre Blackburn is staying in Ottawa. But what’s this? Gilles Duceppe, who’s wanted an election since a week after the last one, now says it would be “disrespectful” to have one now. Offhand, this looks like an attempt to frame an election call, not to avoid one.