Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A snap election: Folly or brilliance?

I read with interest a piece in the Toronto Star the other day saying that the Liberals were planning in case Stephen Harper calls or arranges a snap election this fall, before the new leader in place.

There's no mention of counterfeiting to give the cash-strapped party a few dollars to spend in such a campaign, but the talk of virtual balloting to elect a new leader is interesting. And if that whole donation limit thing isn't sorted-out, it may be necessary even without an early election.

Logistics aside though, I wonder, would Harper be able to get away with arranging an election this fall, just nine months after the last election? (Pop quiz: What was the last minority government to last 9 months?)

He would need help from the BQ or the NDP to do it (assuming the Liberals don't play along), and it would be interesting to see which one would cooperate. There's always the possibility the GG would ask the other parties if they want to test the House

But let's assume that doesn't happen and Harper gets his October election. Will it be a brilliant strategy that leads to a huge majority, or crass political opportunism that gets punished by the voters?

I tend to lead more toward the latter than the former. A lot will depend on how the government brings itself down. There's always game playing and spin here, but I find it difficult to see how Harper could frame it in such a way to convince the public another election is necessary after just nine months, while the opposition is leaderless, and it's not just striking when the iron is hot and he thinks he can get his majority.

As a blogger, I'd enjoy posting quotes from just last month when he brought in his fixed election date legislation to stop governments from timing elections for political gain. I think it would be a fun campaign.

So, what would the result be? I think it would backfire on Harper, big-time. It would not get him his majority; rather, I think he'd be punished for his blatant opportunism and hypocrisy. How will it all shake-out though? It depends.

The Liberals are poor but a newly-minted leader would have some sheen. However, will voters be willing to go back to them? The NDP made gains in January and has potential for growth in the West, but will people lend Jack their votes again? The BQ has been fighting tooth and nail with the Tories in Quebec: Flaherty's fiscal imbalance comments help them, the PQ being linked to adscam hurts them.

What will be telling is how the votes of those pissed at Harper's early call divide amongst the opposition parties. Harper already has a pretty slim minority, so I don't think he'd be able to maintain it. At best for him, I'd see a weakened Tory minority, with the balance of power shifted to the NDP. A more likely scenario in my view would be a Liberal minority government, possibly with the NDP in the driver's seat.

What do you think? Take the poll on the left, if I managed to set it up correctly.

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Cerberus said...

I don't think he'll go in the fall. He won't go until he thinks he is assured of a majority or he sees bad news coming several months hence. By the fall, he will possibly have convinced Canadians that he has not hidden agenda and that he is competent, but he won't have gained enough in Quebec or Ontario to give him confidence that a majority is certain and I don't think he'll want to call an election if another minority is likely. Even if it hurts the Liberals.

bigcitylib said...

I think you're right but its a slim "minority", nor majority, that he has right now.

A BCer in Toronto said...

That would be another poll question, but I agree I don't think he'll go in the fall either. Early next spring, after a budget and before the new Lib leader has a chance to do to much seems more likely. I don't think the winning conditions are there for him yet, but with Big Daddy who knows. Bigcity I think it was a freudian slip :) he as governed like he has a majority, and the Libs have been content to let him.

Psychols said...

I had to vote for a larger Conservative minority and it felt like sucking lemons.

If your scenario of an accelerated leadership vote plays out and Stephane Dion wins, I might be more optimistic.

Demosthenes said...

It's certainly possible. The only reason he's been able to present himself as being "effective" is because he knows that he can play chicken with a leaderless Liberal party and win; once the Liberals get their leader, he faces the possibility of an election fought over an issue that he doesn't like.

On the other hand, it'd be exactly as stupid to provoke it as you suggested. Unless he was able to make the "I want a majority to do all sorts of crazy stuff" argument sound convincing, he'd just look like an opportunist.

Manitoba Liberal said...

I think we would end up pretty close to the status quo of what we have now if Harper forced an election, he might be able to pick up a few more seats, but enough for a majority. What would happen is that the NDP would make gains on the Liberals in B.C and Toronto and maybe one or two seats in the Maritimes. Giving them maybe 30-35 seats and allowing them to be firmly in control of a miniority government

I still say that Harper causes the House to fall in March 2007 and no matter who the Liberals have a leader he wins government, with only our choice deciding if it's a minority or a majority.

Robert said...

Ok, I'll be the one to go out on a limb and say it can only get better for the Liberals, and that Harper and the CPC are only going to see their fortunes ebb from here on out.

The new leader will give the Libs a bounce in the polls.

Meanwhile, this was the CPC's "honeymoon" period in government; hope they enjoyed it. Canadian's don't appear to be to enthusiastic about Afghanistan, the CPC excuse for Childcare or the abolishing of the long gun registry... and these were supposed to be selling points.

They've even abandoned their "base" with the forestalling of the vote on same-sex marriage that was supposed to be held "sooner rather than later."

The best they can do lately is buying votes from Chinese Canadians and announcing lots of military funding. Is that they best they have?

Robert said...

Egads, my spelling and grammar really suffer when I rush.