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What’s scared Harper into suddenly wanting an election?

Let’s recap how sudden a change this has been from Harper the last couple of weeks. Danielle Takacs had a blogpost on this, and she recalls the timeline:

So on August 13th he’s taunting Dion saying he doesn’t have the guts to bring him down – basically daring him to do so. Then Harper calls a by-election he didn’t need to in Don Valley West for September 22nd…Then just days later when absolutely nothing has changed, and after being so sure there would be no fall election, Harper decides to throw up his hands and say “Parliament is dysfunctional!” This is when he knows full well nothing has changed and any “dysfunction” is due to Harper and the 200 page Conservative chaos manual all his MPs have on how to disrupt Parliament themselves.

I will add that during the same time frame, we had a Hill Times article which quoted an anonymous Conservative strategist as predicting Dion would not take the government down, but even if he did want to, the Bloc wouldn’t, in this guys opinion. He predicted they’d still be governing into the spring. Again, quite a 360 from these folks who were expecting to govern into 2009.

So what is Harper afraid of all of a sudden? Is he afraid of heading back to Parliament to answer tough questions? Is he afraid the economy is going south and only getting worse, and perhaps his fiscal numbers are headed for red ink? Is he afraid of more embarrassing revelations of former conservative candidates opposed to the Conservatives “in and out” scheme at the Ethics Committee? Maybe the Bernier hearings? Is he afraid of the by-election results giving the Liberals some momentum headed into the fall session? Is he afraid that Dion’s Green Shift plan is resonating more then the Conservatives are willing to publicly concede – as evidenced by the overflow crowd that came to hear Dion in Halton last week?

My guesses:

1) Harper knows the economy is going to tank in a few months, or he’s going to be in the red with his next Budget, so he prefers to go now then later, when he and his government and Mr Flaherty would take more heat over mismanaging a Liberal surplus into a deficit situation in less then 3 years.

2) The Committees looking at the in-and out scandal will be highly embarrassing for him, as perhaps will the actual court case result against Elections Canada.

3) He knows he’s faring crappy in the 4 byelections, knows he wont win any of them, and doesn’t want Liberal momentum going into the House this Fall.

4) A combination of some or all of the above.

In short, this election call is based on fear and of him wanting to control the situation. Another example of the control freak Stephen Harper is, tinged with fear. A “quitter”, as Jack Layton has called him. As I have said however, I don’t mind going to an election, and I welcome it. In my opinion, the sooner we remove this right-wing Conservative government from power, the better. It’s now time to convince Canadians of that as well. I believe we will.

UPDATE: This is going to be one issue that Harper and company can’t run away from:

..the federal agency responsible for food safety this year began to let the industry conduct its own food testing, The Globe and Mail has learned. A leaked cabinet document that outlined plans for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to give the food industry a greater role in the inspection process raised the ire of opposition politicians last week. However, some of the plans have been in place since March 31, according to a CFIA manager and an official from the union that represents the federal inspectors.

My colleague Pogge is correct: Those of us in Ontario remember Walkerton all too well, and remember that a lot of the federal cabinet ministers in Harper’s cabinet from Ontario were in Mike Harris’s Ontario government at the time and responsible for that fiasco/tragedy. We should be all over them for attempting to implement “The Walkerton Model” (H/T Greg for that phrase) and transferring it to the food inspection agency, with tragically predictable results. They need to be hammered on this over and over. Public safety has been sacrificed either in the name of saving a few bucks due to the worsening budgetary numbers, or the Conservatives ideology, or both.

The Cons. back down; claim no political interference will happen with independent agencies.

Well, there was a bit of an uproar after Sheila Fraser, the Auditor-General, casually remarked in committee hearings yesterday that she had no intention of vetting her communications through the Privy Council Office. That led to this news story in the Star, and which led to a few bloggers and media types expressing justified shock at this. This was another example of more control freak tendencies of Harper going to the extreme.

Today, the Conservative government in Question Period, probably sensing the can of worms that had been opened, attempted to put the lid back on:

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan moved quickly during Question Period Thursday to shut down opposition attacks over a new policy first brought to light earlier this week during a committee appearance by Auditor-General Sheila Fraser. “The policy in question applies to government departments, not to the independent agents of Parliament, regardless of what those independent agents may conclude,” Mr. Van Loan told the House of Commons. “This government has no intentions of requiring those independent agents to vet their communications through the government in any way.”

So, it appears they’ve backed down on this attempt, but certainly something to keep an eye on.

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