Will the PM get away with his risky election gambit? Probably


From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

August 27, 2008 at 5:00 AM EDT

Book it: election in October. It's a gambit straight out of Stephen Harper's catechism. "When I say jump, you say how high?"

This time, he's going to strange lengths. To get his way, the Prime Minister made it clear yesterday he will pull the plug on his own government. Even though it involves some dicey dealing, better for him to set the date, he reasoned, than leave it to the antagonists.

The opposition, Mr. Harper told the media, was not willing to co-operate with him on his agenda. Hogwash, replied Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion. Agenda? You don't even have one. "What is it?"

The agenda is clear enough: to get the election out of the way before likely by-election losses, before the appearance of Julie Couillard's book, before the U.S. election, before more bad news on the economy and other fronts can hit.

Mr. Harper is not rushing into an election because of any sure-footedness in the standings. "As you know, the polls aren't particularly wonderful," he acknowledged. But the storm clouds worry him. And there is also the fact that no one can be seen to be pushing around the man in control, least of all Mr. Dion.

Can he pull off what many'll see as a railroad job, as taking, as one Grit put it, the bullshit by the horns? With some short-term pain, probably.

Mr. Harper is breaking the spirit of his own fixed election-date law. He's saying Parliament is dysfunctional when, in fact, it has been one of the more functional minority Parliaments in memory. He'll be cancelling by-elections he just called. He's trying to sell the flimsy notion that, because the opposition has been a little tardy in scheduling a meeting, it's enough reason to trot off to Rideau Hall.

As flummery goes, it's quite a load. He could well be calculating that voters are so used to political chicanery by now that a couple more tonnes won't bother them. The bar is so low, it can't get much lower.

Mr. Harper was cool as he faced the media yesterday. Given the weak script with which he had to work, he managed it well. On the question of contradicting his own election legislation, he said: "We are clear. You can only have certainty about a fixed election date in the context of a majority government." That's true enough, though he probably wished he'd made it clearer when the law was passed.

"Look," he explained, "if any of the opposition parties wanted to provide some, any degree of certainty that we'll be here in October, 2009, then we'll have an election in October, 2009." True enough also.

He was less effective when someone asked: "I wonder if you can get specific about where this dysfunction lies. My understanding is that there were 43 confidence votes in the last parliamentary session ... and you survived every one?" Well, yeah, replied the PM, but now that Mr. Dion has his Green Shift plan out, it's clear there are divergent paths. Minority governments do tend to feature divergences and tend to require compromises. Isn't uncertainty, Mr. Dion asked, the common currency of minority governments?

The Liberal Leader gave Mr. Harper an opening by not quickly fixing a meeting date with him. He had, after all, only heard the PM described as a control freak about 300 times. When Mr. Harper went on not so long ago about fishing or cutting bait, he should have figured this kind of plotting was in the works.

Some will interpret Mr. Harper's gambit as another example of his brilliant strategic sense. Others will say he's taken dictatorial liberties too far. Judging by the hundreds of e-mails posted in response to the developments, there's a pretty even split with partisans of each party hollering at each other the way they usually do.

The Harper people are confident that accusations of duplicity will not haunt them, that when the election is under way, stories about what prompted it are quickly forgotten. Though the aftertaste will linger for some, they are probably correct in that surmise.


Commentary in the Globe and Mail by the Ottawa Mens Centre




Ottawa Mens Centre.com, from Ottawa, Canada wrote: Harper is the unofficial Republican Senator from Canada, except he does not get to vote, he just regurgitates whatever Washington wants. From Afghanistan to throwing us deserters back to US jails, he is following Washington's script coincidentally when the Republican party is all geared up for providing election support. Harper like Bush, is now telling us white is black by engaging in a the dubious not to mention, illegal and corrupt practice used with spectacular devastation by the underbelly in the Ottawa Family Court Judiciary called, "The Process of Justification". that is you can turn any set of facts into something that sounds good but is very obviously a pack of lies. www.OttawaMensCentre.com