Alright, it’s looking like I’m going to have to admit that my earlier analysis of the likelihood of a Canadian election this spring may have been wrong. Technically, I have until May 5 – but check out this story to see what I’m talking about.
Earlier, I predicted that whether or not Harper would engineer an election would have mostly to do with how the Tories stood in Quebec. In fact, I said he would want to call an election while the Bloc was strong (to further split the opposition in Commons by bleeding away the Liberal caucus) and he could be sure of holding on to the 6 seats he currently has in Quebec. Well, ladies and gentleman, that seems to be exactly the current situation. I guess the Bloc is still in moral first place in Quebec (it’s Bloc 30 – 31 Tories – but I imagine the advantage would shift to the Bloc in a real election), and now we’ve added the missing ingredient as well: the Conservatives lead the Liberals by about 10 points in the province (!!! – I mean, is that even POSSIBLE???).
This is very nearly ideal for Harper. Of course, a poll showing a solid Conservative majority in the works would be better – but this has been my point all along: Harper doesn’t have forever. Canada is shifting right, but we’re still in the early stages, and any number of things could go wrong. For all we know right now, the surge in Conservative support has more to do with Stephane Dion’s ineptitude (case in point here) than any general change in attitudes among Canadians. However much people don’t like Stephen Harper, everyone thinks of him as “the most prime ministerial” (such an odd question, but it’s on nearly every general opinion poll I’ve seen) of all the potential candidates, and certainly everyone recognizes he’s highly competent. The same can’t necessarily be said for Stephane Dion. I guess the Liberals are stuck with him for awhile; he’s a symptom of nasty infighting rather than the cause of the party’s current woes, you might say. Booting him now would just mean yet another highly divisive leadership convention with all the associated new opportunities for the Conservatives to manipulate their selection (as happened last time). But he can’t stay leader forever, and when they get around to replacing him, it’ll be with a bang I’m sure. All bets are off what the polls will look like then.
So Harper can’t wait forever, and I, for one, think he should go for it now. Provided he can keep the rank and file in line and saying only the right things at press conferences (and is there anyone more qualified to do that than Harper?), and provided he takes the environment issue head on and puts the Liberals on the defensive from the outset, I think there’s a majority win lurking in those numbers somewhere. Dion is no match for Harper, so it really would be Harper’s election to lose.
But for whatever reason, a lot of higher-ups in the Conservative Party don’t seem to see it that way. Without the new data from Quebec, I would very much agree with them: waiting just a little bit longer for a majority to start to materialize would be the best way to go. But now I’m not so sure. If ANY bastion of Conservative support is on shaky ground, it’s definitely Quebec. This is the window that will close the fastest. If Harper doesn’t act soon, it’s more or less inevitable that his support in Quebec will start to erode – and quickly.
Well, we’ll see what happens. Obviously, today being Sunday and all, he can’t call an election until tomorrow at the earliest anyway. Maybe it will come in the next week. Or maybe, I’m totally wrong about what they’re thinking, and the Tories have decided to wait for an absolute majority standing before dissolving Commons. Or maybe, even, he just doesn’t like the idea of doing anything that would help the Bloc. Wait and see…