03.21.2011 12:31 PM


As expected, the Opposition found the Harper regime in contempt of Parliament.

Now what?

It’s a big decision.  If the historic (and unprecedented) contempt finding is to mean anything, and if they are to avoid looking like rank hypocrites, the Opposition now must move non-confidence in the government.  They have no choice.  And, if everyone shows up to vote, the minority government will fall.

But is it a good idea, politically?  From my secure position in an armchair, pretty much everyone has a good reason to avoid an election right now:

  • The Conservatives aren’t likely to get a majority – they’d likely only get what they have now.  And, with the sleaze and scandal now emanating regularly from their cabinet and backrooms, they might even lose some seats. They’ve got a leader many trust to be PM, but few like as a person.
  • The NDP have recently taken a pounding in public opinion, and Jack Layton is still courageously fighting some serious health issues.  They’ve got a leader many like as a person, but who they don’t trust to be PM.
  • The Liberals are likely to lose seats, based on recent polls – and they lack a ballot question, and have a dearth of nominated candidates.  Meanwhile, they’ve got a leader who is neither liked nor trusted.
  • The Bloc?  They can’t be seen to be holding up some big federal transfer payments heading to Quebec – and terminating this Parliament would do just that.  They’ve got a leader, and they don’t give a rat’s ass if you like him or trust him.

My guess? Someone will get a case of Parliamentary flu.  No election.

Unless a bunch of them have gone batshit crazy, that is, which – it being Ottawa and all – you can never really eliminate as a factor.


  1. hugger says:

    More friggin’ polls;

    Six in Ten (63%) Say It?s More Important to Elect a Leader that Will Provide an Honest, Open and Trustworthy Government, While Four in Ten (37%) Say Electing a Party That Will Ensure the Economic Recovery Continues is More Important

    Canadians view of Harper dropping on many indicators;

    • Namesake says:

      And even with the semi-still-good-newsy-for the CPC new Nanos poll (field dates March 12-15, 2011), it’s really not so good for them:

      First, the overall pt. gap b/w the CPC & LPC has dropped by two points (to 11, from 13) for the whole of Canada, since last month (38.6% v. 27.6%).

      Second, re: that unauthorized ‘don’t try this at home’ rejigging of the data to exclude the QC results & compute a ‘Rest of Canada’ gap w/o proper regard for weighting the region, age & education of the respondents you were so spooked by lately, WK:
      – it’s dropped 3 points (from 19.4% in mid Feb, to a 16.6% diff for the ROC, now: 41.3% v. 30.0%)


      Third, on the issues, the public isn’t really buying what the CPC are trying to sell it & don’t really trust it so much on the economy, anymore:

      – the bugaboo issues of jobs/economy & the debt/deficit the Cons. keep saying we dare not jeopardize with something as frivolous as an election aren’t nearly as paramount to the electorate as they’re presuming / insisting:

      they’re only the most important national concern to 18.8 and 3.8%, respectively; … it’s their Health Care (29.2%) & Education (8.8%), stupid; and,

      – fully two-thirds of the electorate, and even 56% of Cons., don’t think this is a good time to be spending up to $30 billion on the F-35 jets; and,

      – even though currently more Canadians do still indicate they trust the CPC the most of all the federal parties on economic issues (about 43% more than the LPC: with 29.8% vs. 20.9% of all respondents picking them as the party they”trust the most in terms of economic policy,” respectively),

      well, as Nanos himself notes, it’s a surprisingly fluid situation / soft support for the CPC, since 25% aren’t sure or didn’t answer.

      …and they were counted alongside the above, so if they were informed / persuaded about the way the Cons have been racking up the deficit & spitballing cost estimates & projections & offloading prison costs onto the provinces & concealing information, etc. etc., most of that undecided ‘trust most on the economy’ support could end up back with the Libs, where it belongs.

      Globe & Mail article: “Canadians don’t share Harper’s zest for fighter jets, debt reduction, poll shows” http://urlm.in/hjpz

      Detailed Nanos tables on ‘Healthcare top issue, F-35s timing questioned and trust on economic policy’: http://www.nanosresearch.com/library/polls/POLNAT-W11-T461E.pdf

      • Namesake says:

        oops, cut & paste from the wrong column for the latest unofficial ROC Nanos results: they’re 45.2% CPC v. 28.6% LPC, excl. QC (the ones above are for the 3 more volatile BC-ON-Maritimes regions combined, excl. both QC & the Prairies).

      • hugger says:

        There’s that F35 issue again, and it’s very interesting that even a majority of CPC supporters feel it’s unwise to proceed.

        I see too many CPC targets across the board to put much stock in the chicken little view, and think a minority government is within reach for the Liberals if they campaign and advertise smart.

  2. ERNEST LUSTIG says:

    Warren I think you and I are the only two saying no election.

    • Warren says:

      And as I always say: listen to Lustig. He’s been around, and he knows!

      But I think you are right, my friend.

      • I would disagree you two are the only canaries in the coalmine: The opposition have already crossed the Rubicon with the sideshow on Ethics-accountability. It was a mistake to allow the Conservatives to re-introduce Adscam accountability from the Chretien-Martin record against the Ignatieff Liberals.

        The leadership from each party will get a reminder by returning to the polls a year earlier than necessary. At least three leaders possibly four will be retiring as a result if we go in May 2010.

        • Ted says:

          If any one of these leaders has the power to cause an election in May 2010, I say we should elect them leader for life.

          • Thanks for pointing out my typo of 2010 vs 2011 as it reinforces how Liberals focus on the small things while ignoring the bigger issues.

          • Jamie Rothwell says:

            Looks like someone forgot their sense of humour this morning. You must be a barn burner at parties CS.

      • Brian says:

        I told some potential clients that there wouldn’t be an election, all of three days ago.

        There’d better not be one, if only to make me look good.

    • Thor says:

      I’m nonpartisan, having voted for every major party or for a particular candidate. Usually I vote to throw the bums out. I’m also a timmy’s guy. PC’s have to be careful but I’m not ready to throw them out, yet. Has to be compelling and I don’t feel compelled. Matter of fact, dear chattering classes, outside the bubble, we generally try to ignore all of the Fake outrage and keep hoping that the people elected to work on our behalf do so.

      Warren’s analysis is very good. better be damned good reason to force me to choose. status quo looks fine to me.

      Also, hockey playlists just around the corner. 🙂

  3. Ted says:

    They will be bringing he contempt motion forward right after QP today. Seems they are keen to get this on the record and define the ballot question. The contempt motion may apparently even include a non-confidence motion.

    But does someone know the procedural rules on this better than me?

    If the report is introduced today, isn’t it a matter of privilege and matters of privilege are voted on immediately in priority to all other business on the order paper? or at least all other votes or motions?

    So wouldn’t that mean either a vote on the contempt motion tonight or tomorrow morning (and a finding of contempt), prior to the budget?

    • MH says:

      The Conservatives are leaking the budget goodies in the event that should happen. The Libs do not want the public to hear about a budget that will show a vastly reduced deficit.

  4. MontrealElite says:

    Well I for one want an election. The LPC won’t win and the situation will probably end up status quo. But at least on the campaign trail, Canadians will get to ask the questions of this government that the media have failed to do. And those questions need to be asked..not in a spin forum but directly from the candidates.

    Election? Bring it on!

    • hugger says:

      Yes but the Cons don’t think they have to answer questions. That’s what got them into this fix, mostly, and if you remember the Fantino campaign, they don’t feel obliged to show up for all candidate debates either.

  5. Harith says:

    Well, it looks like the tories are going to give in to the dippers’ budget change demands….


  6. billg says:

    Ernest Lustig…what a great name!!…and for that, I’m going with what Ernest said.
    No election, now, bring on the golf season and the NHL playoffs.

  7. WesternGrit says:

    Ted… Good point. I’m not sure if that is the case, but if it is, then we’ll see an election for sure. If it doesn’t occur, then the budget airs, and things may be different.

    As far as the Bloc case Warren, wouldn’t they gain more with a Liberal gov’t in Ottawa? Wouldn’t Quebecers gain more from a gov’t in Ottawa that they can actually sympathize with?

    Canadiansense… I don’t think “the Rubicon’s been crossed”. Media uselessness is at an all-time high in Canada right now. In any other Canada, a finding of contempt – never (NEVER) found against a sitting gov’t MP in our history – would be constant front-page news. The privately owned so-called “free media” in Canada will continue to play it according to their whims and needs… Conservatives run lots of ads on your airspace? Maybe give them the kid-glove treatment over such a fundamental Parliamentary crime. Right now the Conservatives are advertising more than Proctor & Gamble… that should say a lot about where the so-called “journalist’s” interests lie. Journo’s may try to write the unspun truth, as they learned in school, but editors and owners will continue to spin, bury, and spike news stories as they see fit…

    We’ll see if they wake up and find some principles before this election… Or if the buck will continue to be mightier than the pen…

    • WG,

      It would take the motion for contempt by the Liberals to be defeated. The Liberals are forcing the Bloc/NDP to join them on their ethical CPC can’t be trusted wedge issue.

      The opposition would confirm their paralysis if they could not follow through on the findings of their inquisition style hearings.

      I have no worries what the voters will do. I am in favour of going in May 2011 because I believe more can get done with the retirement of several leaders. My concern is the Ontario voters will have the stamina to remove both the Federal and Provincial Liberals. I prefer the Feds to go now to maximize the rout.

      Campaigns matter, anything could happen. I don’t have confidence in the Liberals holding off the experienced leaders as they pick off his vulnerable seats. I have already called for a double digit seat loss with another 1-2% pop drop from 2008. ( 24-23%)

  8. nic coivert says:

    There is no doubt everyone is in tough on this one. If there is an election it will be epic, a wrestling for the soul of Canada. We have a Prime Minister who is so unlikable that seven years and a hundred million dollars haven’t been able to make him so; and while he has desperately clung to power using every means, legal or not, he has also constantly tried to make the other guy look like a creep by using, again, millions of dollars. The CPC has been campaigning for a long time, maybe people are at the saturation point. My sense is that people are no longer listening to Harper and his government’s crowing about themselves. The drums of Nationalism are beating in a new way, they signal a call for ethical and honest government. For Harper this could be a nightmare. And most people understand that an opposition coalition would be more ethical and accountable than a Conservative minority.

    But what of the scenario that Harper brings down his own government before an ethics vote on Friday and after the budget? What a spin that would be.

    • Dr.J says:

      A few things, I do not think that the public needs or rather wants ethic lessons given to them from the Liberals. As for this “opposition coalition” is concerned, well if the BLOC is calling the shots or involved in anyway I do not think that english speaking Canada would be too happy being the BLOC’s bitch. If the coaliton of the Libs/NDP were the majority without the BLOC’s involvement of any kind then you may have something the public would not object too! I do need to ask this question though is this the mighty Liberals only hope of any power whatsoever, a coalition with the BLOC?

      • nic coivert says:

        Harper was quite prepared to join forces with the Bloc to defeat Martin’s Liberals if you’ll recall.

        Of course a minority coalition is on a vote by vote basis.

        When the Bloc support Conservative measures is Harper then Duceppe’s bitch? Just wondering. And if the Bloc support the budget at what cost will it be to the rest of Canadians? Harper talks out of both sides of mouth on Quebec.

      • Philip says:

        What if going to Quebec with over $2,500,000,000 in HST implementation money was mighty Harper’s way of a avoiding an election? You are probably quite happy for Harper to spend taxpayer’s money to bribe the Bloc and cling to power. Conservatives, always willing to spend other people’s money.

        • Tim says:

          My personal sense is there will be NO deal at least in the short term. The deal the feds have with Ontario on HST was pretty extensively negotiated and there is a feeling in the Dept of Finance that any other province should be willing to live with what Dalton and Dwight Duncan agreed too(BC’s in fact had no real opportunity to neogotiate anything Campbell essentially had to go along with Dalton and Dwight’s deal). Quebec though has not yet come to this conclusion and while there might be some wiggle room and I don’t think there is enough yet from either side.

          If Quebec though doesn’t get the money by summer I suspect Harper will have big problems in Quebec and will have to lean on Dalton even more as an ally which I am sure will go over really well with the Hudak supporting Reformatory base.

        • Yes, two scenarios where the Liberals win this battle –

          Harper Government + Bloc = status quo

          Harper Government + NDP = status quo

          Now who’s running a coalition?

  9. Bryan Peeler says:

    There is also the possibility that the PM will pick up his marbles and go see the GG

  10. DL says:

    Can you elaborate on what “pounding” the NDP has taken recently in public opinion. I opened my morning paper today to see them at 20% which would be 2% up from the last election and close to an all-time high. Anything can happen in a campaign, but the NDP is doing better in the last round of polls than they were in the days leading up to the writ being dropped in the 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections!

  11. Cow says:

    Either the NDP or the Bloc get what they want — all of a sudden, this weekend, it sounds like they’re both being approached. But that gets them past the budget.

    I’m not sure how they wriggle out of the non-confidence motion. Can the Liberals really be weak enough to phone in sick again? Can the NDP or Bloc vote confidence in this government without losing basically everyone?

    I still don’t see an election this spring. It’ll just be interesting to see who caves first.

  12. Michael Slavitch says:

    Via Paul Wells: “Just overheard a former Tory cabinet minister (and sitting MP) say “Jack Layton will save us” from an election … Interesting”

  13. Ottlib says:

    Mr. Kinsella,

    Regarding the current polls it seems to me that Jean Chretien was sitting pretty high in the polls just before the writ was dropped in 1997. Indeed, that was one of the reasons why he decided to go to the polls less than 4 years after his first election. I think you might remember that one because I believe you worked on that election.

    Based on the polls everybody in the chattering classes expected the Liberals to be returned with another comfortable majority, maybe even picking up a few extra seats.

    Of course when the ballots were counted it was much closer than those pre-writ polls indicated, a 20+ seat majority reduced to 5.

    All this to say that polls move during the course of a campaign and they often move significantly. Where they move during the upcoming campaign is anybody’s guess but I am pretty certain that what we are seeing right now will not be the final results.

    On a related note we Liberals better hope that we see some movement in Ontario in the next little while or Mr. McGuinty’s days as Premier of this province could be numbered.

  14. DL says:

    If the Tories feel they need to be “saved” from an election, then the opposition parties will all feel that now is the perfect time to go to the polls. Maybe the Tory ex-cabinet minister is either engaging in some wishful thinking or thinks he or can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think the train has left the station for this election and there is no turning back.

  15. Namesake says:

    So, as I’ve, ahem, been saying, I think Graves full (n of 3,000) polls are right, and the others wrong, about it still being Groundhog Territory with a 5-7 point gap;

    and here’s the new Harris-Decima survey in support of that:

    “The poll pegged the Conservatives at 34 per cent, the Liberals 28 per cent, the NDP 17 per cent and the Greens nine.”*

    Which is down two points for the CPC, and up for the NDP, from the end of last month, when,

    “The Conservatives st[oo]d at 36%, to 28% for the Liberals, 15% for the NDP, 9% for the BQ and 9% for the Greens.”

    And a 7 point gap CAN be made up in a campaign, with so many scandals and active police investigations and court cases afoot, and the LPC ads yet to air.

    * “The telephone poll of 2,001 Canadians was taken between March 10-20, and has a margin of error of 2.2 per cent 19 times out of 20.”

    ** “The most recent data were gathered between February 17 and February 27, 2011 for just over 2,000 completes. A sample of the same size has a margin of error of 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.”

    • Dave Roberts says:

      Either way still a Conservative minority. It’ll take at least one other party to support Conservative legislation as is the case now. Basically nothing will change except maybe LPC leadership.

      • Namesake says:

        “either way” – um, no:

        as I was at some pains to show in a previous post, the results of a poll BEFORE the campaign shouldn’t be assumed to be the same as the end result OF the campaign, as if campaigns don’t matter.

        Because if we look at that happened in the 2005/2006 election, there was a 7 point LOSS in popular support on the part of the scandal-plagued government, and an 8 point GAIN by their finger-wagging critics, with a subsequent CHANGE in which Party formed the minority govt.


        That’s what could — and should — very well happen, this election… a reversal of the last two, wherein a million Lib. voters will return to the fold, and a million CPC voters will stay home in disgust.

        • Dave Roberts says:

          In any election with a large electoral swing like 1984, 1993 or 2006 there is a unique set of circumstances that changes things. None of those conditions currently exist or are likely to exist in the next six weeks.

          • Namesake says:

            well, since that’s a tautology — i.e., true by def. (if they truly were unique conditions, then, yup, they’re not present now) — that really doesn’t add anything to the discussion, then, does it?

            but thanks for playing; parking is validated

          • Dave Roberts says:

            No need to be so condescending. Perhaps you can think of an event that will occur in the next six weeks that will be a game changer.

          • Namesake says:

            you mean something like the Minister of Finance being investigated by the RCMP for a budget leak, in the middle of a campaign?

            not too hard to imagine, really, since it just happened, last night, during the political shows, to change the channel on the Contempt report


            And if you haven’t been paying attention, there are scads of active investigations and court cases and more chickens coming home to roost over the next couple months…. we ain’t seen nothin’, yet.

            And, again, it’s pretty foolish to pretend that campaigns don’t matter, or that the Libs. won’t make substantial gains once they finally open the purse strings and start running their ads.

            Out with The Harper Government! Back in with The Government of Canada! Vive le Canada Libre!

  16. DL says:

    Let’s not forget that all that needs to happen is for Harper to fall short of a majority – and then watch the dominoes fall after the election. Tory throne speech gets defeated instantly, GG invites leader of the opposition to try to form a government, NDP and BQ decide to “give Ignatieff a chance” and away we go with a few years of Liberal minority government.

    • Namesake says:

      concessions like $3-B that the CPC just bribed them with in the space of a week ? I hope not… we can’t afford it.

  17. Namesake says:

    BTW, another shoe dropped today:

    The Information Commissioner released her report concluding that Christian Paradis’s overzealous political staffer did indeed violate the Access to Information Act when he directed the civil service to “unrelease” already cleared documents a CP journalist had requested.

    And now, presumably, that will proceed to criminal charges.

    So I wonder if the grinning baboon John Baird will take his place in court and go to the ‘show’ in his place, a la “Hair,” like he did when he appeared before the Committee in his place, last year?

    Doubt it, somehow, ‘cuz the sentence for this is either:

    “(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding $10,000, or to both; or

    (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding $5,000, or to both. ”

    Special Report Number 1: Interference with Access to Information: http://urlm.in/hjpd

  18. Sean says:

    I think the best method by both Ignatieff and Jack Layton will be that they will never support Harper again in Parliament.

    Therefore either give him a majority, or hope he is supported by the separatists if he has the most seats.

    Ignatieff and Layton don’t need to ‘win’. They just need to hold him from getting a majority.

    • The Doctor says:

      I understand where you’re coming from (I think), but it concerns me that apparent supporters of the Liberal cause these days are thinking so defensively. It’s not about winning, it’s just about keeping Harper from getting a majority? If that’s the case, well, Harper doesn’t have a majority right now, does he? So why have an election at all, then?

      Is that all that Liberal supporters can realistically hope for these days? Blocking Harper from getting a majority? If so, it seems kind of grim and small beer, compared to the good old days. But that’s my take on what the LPC braintrust seems to be thinking, strategically — it’s like the election campaign as one giant, glorified blocking maneuver. It has me scratching my head, wondering why.

      • nic coivert says:

        Part of it is the realization that Harper will be done if he doesn’t get a majority, yet again. The CPC then need to replace their leader and Ignatieff is a seasoned campaigner. The CPC has long been running a war of attrition against the LPC, but those tables can be turned.

        I don’t think there will be an election though. Layton will fall on his sword, twice.

        • The Doctor says:

          Yes, I guess that’s one plausible explanation. I don’t know, though. The LPC these days remind me of the Calgary Flames. The problem with the Flames is that they have taken the defensive approach to hockey to an absurd end point, so much so that they’ve forgotten about the fact that the objective of a hockey game is not just to prevent the other side from scoring; you actually have to win the game yourself, by, you know, scoring goals and all that. As a result, the Flames have become absolute masters of losing games by razor-thin margins (last night’s game being a textbook example).

          I find the current LPC mentality to be similar. The LPC braintrust seems convinced that the sole mission of the LPC should be to slag Harper, without much thought at all given over to what the LPC would propose to actually do if elected. It’s almost like the LPC doesn’t bother with that because they don’t see getting elected as a realistic possibility.

          Some of these points were touched on by Lawrence Martin today in his Globe piece, which I thought was one of LM’s better efforts:


  19. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of contempt of parliament … guess which Conservative candidate said this in a recently deleted blog post:

    ?False arguments about sovereignty and jurisdictional purview, helps the criminal element. These threats have learned how to manipulate the na

    • Namesake says:

      Anon: the xeno- / typo-phobic WordPress filter cuts off posts with abnormal characters like that double-dotted ‘i’ in naive.

      I take it the passage you were flagging in this long-time Reform / Alliance MP and current candidates’ post about why the Opp. should quit complaining about the perimeter security agreement and let Big Brothers Stephen & Barack get on with their job of protecting us, was where he adds that the main role of Parliament is just to auto-pen things:

      “Such working agreements are well within the normal purview of the government of Canada, to negotiate and operate without the interference of Parliament. Parliament is not the government, and is not the Executive that administers Canada?s affairs. Parliament is the separate special place where among other things, the government goes to have legislative proposals passed into law, have the approval of budgets, and to give account. Parliament does not administer the country, the government does, even though Opposition MPs try to pretend to the public that they do.”

      well, not to worry, there’s still a google cache of Paul Forseth’s Feb. 6 2011 post at http://urlm.in/hjty and even a google-cache-pdf of it at http://urlm.in/hjtv

  20. fritz says:

    I don’t know if there will be an election but we certainly need one, if only to put an end to this particularly dysfunctional parliament.
    With all the serious problems the country has at the moment, it is sad all the parties seem only really interested in acting like of a bunch of college frats on frosh week.
    I agree that we are likely to return with exactly the same government we have now but an election breaks the leadership logjam and allows for new, hopefully better, leaders to appear in all four parties. We can then go again in 18-24 months with renewed parties and a hope for a better future.
    I know this is pollyannaish but we can’t go on like this for another 18 months.

    • JenS says:

      I tend to agree. And as I’ve said before, opposition parties can only cry “Contempt!” and “Corrupt!” so often, when they have the means at their disposal to attempt to alter it, before it starts to sound a whole lot like “Wolf.”

  21. Andrew says:

    Most people don’t understand what “contempt of parliament” means, so hanging a party’s election prospects on this and all the other scandals are not things that will resonate with the general electorate. People vote with their wallets and to use an old adage, “it’s the economy, stupid”.

    • Namesake says:

      oh, don’t worry your patronizing little head about that; I’m sure Rick Mercer will be able to illustrate it for everyone very easily:

      “Honey, I’m going to buy us a new speed boat and trailer for the lake, this summer.”

      “What? How much is that going to cost?! We’ve got Jr.’s university tuition coming up, and mother’s home care, and we’re still paying off that silly sports car you bought!”

      “Aw, don’t worry your pretty little head about that — have I ever steered you wrong before?”

    • Namesake says:

      oh, and it’s NOT the economy, stupid, that’s people’s top of mind national concern:

      even according to the latest Nanos poll (which CPC supporters like to cling to as the gold standard), the COMBINATION of jobs/economy is only the most important national concern to less than a fifth of people (18.8%).

      … it’s their Health Care (29.2%) & Education (8.8%), stupid.


  22. fritz says:

    The Tories have requested a last minute meeting with the NDP to discuss the budget. Very interesting.
    There are three reasons; possibly more; for asking for such a last minute meeting.
    1) They are getting new internal polls that tell them they are in political danger and want to offer the NDP whatever it takes to get the budget passed.
    2) They want to give the illusion that they have pulled out al the stops to prevent an election.
    3) This is a stunt to provide talking points for the post budget debate.
    I really can’t decide between the three.

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