Out of the pool, kids!
Look, I’m sorry to be a party pooper and all that, but I just don’t see this spring election thing. In fact, I’m not even sure there will be one this year.
I know, I know, the Parliamentary Press Gallery are all frolicking in the pool, dreams of overtime dancing in their heads — and the politicians are all warily eyeing the horizon, fretting about bad weather, wondering when they should head back into the House to start packing. When Official Ottawa decides something, it’s decided, right?
Well, actually, no.
First off, the partygoers who are now insisting a spring election is imminent are the selfsame folks who said that, er, last year. The Globe and Mail, for example, has been down in the deep end for weeks, splashing away, shrieking about how an election is coming. That sounded familiar to me, so I did about five minutes of research. Here’s what I found:
Globe news story, Jan. 1, 2010: “The best prediction now is for a trip to the polls in the autumn.” Globe news story, next day: “Sooner or later in 2010, an election is likely.” Another Globe news story, Jan. 4: “There might even be an election (in 2010).” Editorial, Jan. 11: Canada is “on the brink of an election in 2010.”
Getting cramps, yet? Me too. Heck, and that’s just one newspaper, in one month. The commentariat have knocked back one too many frothy drinks on this election-prediction stuff, if you ask me.
Secondly, despite what the kids are saying poolside, the existential reality of Canadian political life is this: When you are prime minister, you are prime minister. The minute you drop the writ, you are immediately a minimum of 36 days away from possibly no longer being prime minister. That is — in a democracy like we are purported to be — you can sometimes, well, lose. Ask Paul Martin, who was supposed to capture 105% of the seats in the House of Commons in 2004. In politics, “sure things” aren’t so sure anymore. Bellyflops can, and do, happen.
As he surveys the frivolity — calmly sprawled in a folding chair, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sipping (alcohol-free) Kool-Aid — Prime Minister Stephen Harper is probably silently recalling one of Pierre Trudeau’s favourite aphorisms: To wit, the only entertainment a prime minister gets is watching the press gallery wrongly predict cabinet shuffles and election timing. It’s better than Marco Polo!
Third thing: Election-like advertising doesn’t always mean an actual election is imminent. The Conservatives, for example, blew a few million bucks in the spring of 2009 attempting to convince Canadians that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was a space alien — unfit to be a pool boy, let alone prime minister. The sun-stroked punditocracy all predicted an election then too, as I recall. Um, er.
Why advertise, then? Well, for starters, the Conservative Party has more money than God. They enjoy tormenting Liberals. To the Cons, it’s more fun than positioning an Oh Henry! bar near their rivals and hollering “floater!”
The Grits, meanwhile, are advertising only because the Conservatives are. Among other things, it tells the lifeguard that they have a pulse. The Dippers, however, have no money for ads, so they give the media tours of their war room, which cost nothing. It might be better to just let them beat each other senseless with swim noodles; it’d certainly be more fun to watch.
The final party-pooping observation is this: The water-logged Tories and Grits aren’t where they need to be in the polls. Harper is still far from a majority — and Ignatieff is still far from a minority. So they’ll keep flicking wet towels at each other.
The rest of us? Pass the sunscreen and turn up the tunes. Those Ottawa kids are getting noisy again.
— Kinsella is a lawyer, blogs at warrenkinsella.com and will appear regularly on Sun News Network