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Canadian political thoughts.

Jeff caught this point made by Stephane Dion yesterday at his after-meeting press conference describing his meeting with Harper. It was a very good point he raised; one that our media friends haven’t asked one of Harper’s spokespersons yet – at least not that I’ve seen: What exactly precipitated the rush to an election in one night?

Sunday he called a fourth (by-election) in Don Valley West, and then on Monday he started talking about a general election. I asked him what happened during that night to ask supporters to work a whole summer, to use the taxpayers’ money, for nothing. But I didn’t get an answer.

Jeff speculates it […]

Bad (pre)election optics for Harper and the Conservatives.

Let’s list those bad optics as I see them:

– Two polls come out yesterday from Decima and the election guru, Nanos, showing the Liberals leading within the margin of error. Both breakdowns in regional vote would lead to a Liberal minority government if they were to translate to Election Day.

– You have the tainted meat scandal; “Deli-Gate”, as some are calling it. Up to 15 people possibly dead, with the Health Minister Tony Clement in Denver not bothering to return to address the crisis, all while cracking food jokes and meeting with American Big Oil over the Alberta tar-sands. Plus, a document revealed to show that the Conservatives […]

On destruction of parties, Listeriosis, and Tony Clement.

– Tom Flanagan came out yesterday and claimed that Harper really isn’t aiming for a majority, but a result that would weaken the Liberals further; part of what Flanagan called a war of attrition aimed at eventually destroying the Liberal Party of Canada and removing it from the political scene. Nice reason to spend 400 million $ for an election, eh? I’m not particularly surprised if that’s what he’s aiming to do. Quite honestly, the feeling is mutual; I’d love for this election to destroy Stephen Harper’s political career if he loses and send him scurrying back to the University of Calgary, where he and Flanagan and the rest of […]

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.

A little history lesson.

As Harper carries on with his threats and bluster about how Parliament isn’t working anymore and how a fixed date law won’t stop him from dissolving the House in order to force an election on his terms, shall we go back to Sept 2004 for a minute and look at how things were a tad different then? Back then, before there was a fixed date election law, then opposition leader Stephen Harper was writing a joint letter with Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton to then Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson admonishing her not to let Prime Minister Paul Martin dissolve the Parliament on a whim:

The leaders have also written a letter […]

A rather obvious ploy

I don’t think it should be any big mystery why Harper all of a sudden wants immediate meetings with all opposition leaders. His actions suggest he knows he’s not going to do well in any of the 3 byelections taking place on Sept 8, and he wants to dissolve the House before that happens. That’s why I like the “what’s the rush, Steve?” strategy the Liberals are taking to the press:

Agreeing to Dion’s proposal to meet on Sept. 9 would preclude the Conservatives from forcing a general election call before three Sept. 8 by-elections in Ontario and Quebec – a timetable the Tories are believed to favour…the Liberals said they wouldn’t be pressured into the Tories’ timetable. “What’s the rush? The meeting is to be about the fall sitting of Parliament. (The) House doesn’t return till Sept. 15,” Dion spokesperson Mark Dunn said. “There is no crisis except the one being manufactured by Harper. We’ve never been told there was a time limit for this meeting, other than it was to happen before the House reconvened,” he said.

I believe Harper has no desire to allow the opposition parties – and the Liberals in particular – to have any momentum going into a Fall election. Otherwise, why would he and his spokespersons reject a meeting that Dion has proposed for Sept 9th as too late, when as the Liberals say the House isn’t even scheduled to resume until Sept 15? It’s very transparent on Harper and the Conservatives part. It also shows off Harper’s control freak tendencies of trying to get his way on this.

Harper too clever by half?

I get what is being said over here by Woman at Mile 0, and I understand Steve’s suspicion, and I know Harper gets credited with being a Machiavellian master strategist, whether he deserves the label or not, but sometimes you can outsmart yourselves, and I think Harper has potentially done so here, if he goes ahead and pulls the plug.

You’ve got a Prime Minister who can be presented to the public as breaking the spirit, if not the letter, of his own fixed term election law. Regardless that the law has a loophole in it, he’s going to come across pretty badly trying to explain to the public […]

Chretien advises Dion to bring the Conservatives down now.

I’m not surprised to hear this news today. According to Jean Lapeirre on CTV, Jean Chretien has advised Dion the time to bring down the Conservative government and initiate an election campaign is now:

“We hear now that … Chretien and Jean Pelletier, his former chief of staff, are telling him it’s a matter of credibility, that he can’t support the government any more and that the timing would be right,” Jean Lapierre told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.

Now, Jean Lapierre wasn’t my most favourite politician ever, but he is right on the money about what he thinks Chretien would do in this situation:

“I’m sure if Mr. […]

Liberals take lead in Nanos Research Poll (formerly SES)

For those who didn’t know, SES Research changed their name to Nanos Research – which kind of makes sense, considering it’s Nik Nanos who runs the firm. At any rate, his firm released a new poll, and it confirms the Decima poll from a week ago that shows the Cons. have slumped into 2nd place:

Canada (N=841, MoE ± 3.4%, 19 times out of 20)

Liberal Party 33% (-1)
Conservative Party 31% (-4)
NDP 19% (+2)
BQ 10% (+1)
Green Party 8% (+2)

Interesting comment from Nik here on the Cons attempted portrayal on Stephane Dion as a weak leader:

Even though the Harper Tories have been merciless in their attacks on Stephane Dion, these attacks have not, over the past year yielded any political dividends in public opinion for the Tories. The reality is that the Tories are not fighting Dion…they are fighting the Liberal brand. In vote rich Ontario and also in Atlantic Canada, the Conservatives have never been able to surpass the Liberals in popular support over the past two years.

More evidence to the Liberal Nervous Nellies that there’s no reason to fear an election (I do believe from what I’ve been reading at Garth Turner’s blog that the attitude is hardening in the Liberal caucus  toward the Cons. and that more then less of the caucus want to go… but that may be just me).

Bring it on, Harper (and let’s go, Liberal caucus)

Funny, I was just hearing in the news last week that Harper didn’t want to fall on Afghanistan or go to an election on it. Now all of a sudden, he’s threatening to turn this (a non-money, non-supply motion, if true) into a motion of confidence and telling Dion he will cause an election over it?

I see Dion is repeating his stance tonight to the media after his meeting with Harper that the combat mission must end in 2009, and that isn’t changing. I say bravo to him, and I also urge him to call Harper’s bluff – if he wants an election over this, I say bring it […]

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