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.