05.15.2014 09:14 PM

In tomorrow’s Sun: going sooner than later

If you sometimes get the impression that 80% of political journalism is preoccupied with when an election is going to take place, you’d be wrong.

The correct figure is around 110%. Nineteen times out of 19, with a margin of error of 0%.

OK, OK. That’s silly, of course, but so too is most of what passes for political debate in Canada. We typically prefer the silly stuff to the serious stuff. Thus, our preoccupation with election timing.

Journalists love writing about election timing because it’s more fun than writing about boring old policy. Politicians are fixated on election timing, too, because elections are the crucible in which political dreams are given life, or meet an untimely end.

The public? They don’t care so much about election timing. But what they think – as is well known – is mostly irrelevant to journalists and politicians.

Thus, here we go again: When will Prime Minister Stephen Harper decide to have an election?

He doesn’t really need to seek the judgment of the people until Oct. 19, 2015, but he doesn’t have to wait until the fixed election date.

The tradition was to have an election in or around the four-year mark. Which means we could be trooping back to the polls in May 2015, right?

Wrong. So say the Ottawa soothsayers, who are paid to pay attention to, and write endlessly about, such things. In the august pages of the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen and the like, a consensus is emerging that Harper will go earlier than May 2015.

We are not making this up, as much as we wish that we were. Election season might soon be upon us.

“A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.”

So sayeth the greatest-ever Canadian politician, my former boss Jean Chretien. And he would know, he called early elections all the time.

Thus, the proof. The Conservatives have quietly nominated around 100 of their candidates already. That places them ahead of the Liberals, and far ahead of the New Democrats, who have nominated none. Thus, the conjecture about the PM pulling the plug sooner than later.

The arguments for doing so are compelling.

One, the bloom has seemingly gone off the Trudeau Rose. A series of verbal mishaps – along with the necessary end to an overly long honeymoon – have persuaded many voters that the sun does not shine out of Justin Trudeau’s hindquarters.

Trudeau is human, it turns out, and not as popular as he once was. Why would Harper not wish to capitalize on that? Better a less-popular opponent than a popular one.

Two, at this very moment, auditors are poring through the expenses of every senator. Most of those senators are Conservative. And, in many cases, the Tory senators have been visited by teams of auditors many more times than once.

Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau aren’t the end of a sordid scandal – they are probably the start of one. Harper, therefore, would be wise to get re-elected before the scandal headlines begin anew.

Thirdly and finally, Harper’s Conservatives have economic glad tidings to pass along – and it is something that the Grits and the Dippers cannot ever hope to match: a balanced budget.

Many economists believe the budget is balanced already. But none of them expect that happy news to be announced until just before the next federal election is called. Among other things, it is an effective answer to virtually every fiscal criticism Messrs. Trudeau and Mulcair can muster on the hustings.

So, at the end of this admittedly proof-free speculation, will Harper do it? Will he have his election sooner than he is required to?

No one knows. But he’d be probably nuts not to be thinking about it.

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21 Comments

  1. Kev says:

    Harper is getting ready to pull the plug. On himself.

  2. smelter rat says:

    Well, it’s true that all he promised was to “fix” election laws, so…mission accomplished, I guess.

    • Steve T says:

      Yep. As others have said below, calling an early election would be a colossal mistake. The MSM will, rightly, jump all over Harper for breaking a promise – and, arguably, breaking a law.

      The election calls during the minority government were different (for the reasons Harper articulated at the time). An early election call during a majority government has no excuse, other than opportunism.

      If I were the Libs and the NDP, and an election was called before the fixed date, I would run ads continually saying “How can you ever trust anything the Conservatives say again?”

      I hated it when Chretien called early elections, but at least he was playing by the same (twisted) rules as everyone else in those days. Harper decided to re-write the rules, so he’d better stick to them.

  3. Al in Cranbrook says:

    I think he’ll wait, if for no other reason than there’s no good reason…like, f’rinstance, a minority government bunged up with political gamesmanship.

    To pull the plug now ahead of his own set election date would have the the MSM peeing themselves in righteous indignation…more than usual, that is…causing an overindulgence in such adjectives as “crass”, “opportunistic”, and “hypocritical”.

    Then again, the PM never has given much of a damn what they thought in any regard…much to the horror of their self important egos.

    I’d say that, the longer they can hold off, the greater the opportunities for J.T. to continue to be the author of his own demise.

    Unless some terribly serious crisis evolves, I can’t see it happening ahead of Oct. 2015.

    IMHO

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      Not to mention that by then all the numbers will be in, the balanced budget will be officially on the books, and thus he will have the opportunity to lay out an economic road map that will assuredly and sharply contrast with the Liberals and NDP, and then ask for a mandate.

      Which he will get.

    • Michael Bluth says:

      Well said.

      There is one big guaranteed negative with going early. There are no guaranteed gains by going early.

      Harper is too shrewd for that.

  4. Rob W says:

    So what was the point of his fixed election date law? I suppose nobody will care about that, just like nobody batted an eye about proroguing parliament, contempt of parliament, etc.

    • Michael Bluth says:

      Actually people will care a lot of he breaks the fixed election law. That’s a big part of the reason why it won’t happen.

  5. Matt says:

    Isn’t it just as likely the reason the CPC have nominated more candidates is because their riding associations are better organized?

    Wouldn’t you want your candidates to get out there, especially in ridings you don’t currently hold, introducing themselves to the residents as early as possible before an election?

  6. e.a.f. says:

    If Hudak wins, he may call an election sooner than later. The other parties will have spent a bomb on Ontario and not have a lot of money in the bank. Harper can always get more from his corporate friends, or his friends in China.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      “Harper can always get more from his corporate friends, or his friends in China.”

      Please explain.

      …keeping in mind that the LPC hierarchy had far more ties to Bay Street and corporate Canada than Harper could even imagine.

      • Bobby says:

        I too think that if Hudak wins Harper will go sooner rather than later. He doesn’t need his corporate or Chinese friends though. The CPC seem to do well on grass root and base donation support. Given Trudeau’s love of China, that’s more up his alley.

        Not only do I think he’ll go early and win. I also believe Harper will retire mid-way through is next term.

        • Al in Cranbrook says:

          “I also believe Harper will retire mid-way through is next term.”

          Yep.

          I hope Brad Wall is already making plans for the future.

          • Jon Adams says:

            Brad Wall is very shrewd and very smart; better to cement a legacy as a 3-term premier in an emerging economic powerhouse rather than roll the dice on rebuilding the Stephen Harper Party.

  7. !o! says:

    Harper’s team is certainly trying to make him look friendly this past month or so…

  8. Mandrin says:

    Harper is a great admirer of Chretien and has learned many political lessons from the lil’ guy from Shawinigan. Jean shafted Stephen by calling early elections to catch the opposition at it’s weakest. Perhaps Harper will spring an after the next Budget in September-October 2014 asking Canadians for a renewed mandate to get the economic job completed but only with a strong stable majority Conservative government. Who can resist that sensible logic?!

    Personally, I would like to see the Conservatives trash the opposition parties thus forcing them to seek a merger to unite the Left. This would give simplistic Canadians a clear choice for their government…. Left or Right, and those in the mushy Centre get flushed down the crapper!

    • Jon Adams says:

      Welcome to the 21st century: compromise and bridge building is for wimps.

      • Kevin says:

        Do you call the hatred being heaped on Harper “compromise and bridge building”, or do you think all is fair in politics because your position is that of a loser?

        I have never seen so much hatred and demonization against a Canadian PM, and it’s been maintained for the last 10 years! No wonder PM Harper’s RCMP security detail is costing so much; it’s to protect him from some loony who believes all the hatemongering and attempts the unthinkable.

        I sometimes wonder what will happen to all the desperate Lib and Dip losers when the Harper Cons sweep to another majority in 2015. Will the Left resort to terrorist attacks in their desperation? Or will you be urging “compromise and bridge building” with a democratically elected government?

  9. Kev says:

    Federal parties are spending nothing on the Ontario provincial election.

  10. Arnold Murphy says:

    Harper doesn’t have the balls to call an election right now, he doesn’t know grace upon entry or exit. Canadians will define his administration as a failed experiment.

  11. Well one of the big advantages of incumbency is to control the timing of the next election. Running the nominations early has zero downside. There are bound to be some controversies during nomination contests, so getting them out of the way well in advance is smart politics. Having them done early makes a snap election call far less risky. Now with regards to actually calling an early vote, I would have to say that the outcome of Ontario Provincial and Municipal elections will be a huge factor. The CPC could end up with some powerful allies, and maybe they can capitalize on election fatigue to lower turnout in the critical Ontario ridings. There are really too many variables, so delaying the decision until after the October municipal elections is probable. Unless it isn’t, lol.

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