What follows is a personal theory that I’ve been assembling from observation over the past month. There are only three people, I believe, in the Conservative Party who actually know about an election, and I’m certain that even they squabble over timing.
Here’s my take.
There won’t be an election this spring or summer.
First, the Conservatives have been doing everything in their power to convince us of the opposite. Consider the training conference that the party just held in Toronto. This affair was no small feat and if I were a Liberal watching from the outside, I’d be anxious. Further, the Conservatives just showed off their 17,000 sq. ft. war room to the media. Can you remember a party in recent history that has done something like this? Why show the media one of the cards in your election hand? Again, I believe that this had the effect of sending shock into the spines of Liberal Party officials.
Stephane Dion, and his communications and strategy teams have been reacting to Conservative actions rather than taking the time to forge out their own long-term plan. Instead, the best Dion has been able to muster so far has been to complain that Harper is being “unfair” and that the Conservatives are bullies. The Liberals have not even begun to effectively present and communicate a long term policy plan for Canadians to consider.
Stephen Harper is also enjoying some of the highest polling numbers that he’s ever experienced. He’s got the opportunity to plateau these numbers rather than pick the spike and hope he’s got enough of a gentle slope to ride down on the way to E-day. Back in 2004, when the news came out that Harper was in “majority territory”, this was the kiss of death. Soon after, Ontario voters reacted to the news in order to put Harper back into a comfortable place in their minds.
With respect to comfort, this has been a key aspect of the Conservative plan, in my opinion. Stephen Harper’s strategy has been in part to be the status quo Prime Minister. Harper and his planners have done everything in their power to prevent Canadians from thinking that they’re rocking the boat. Take the latest budget, for example. Conservatives looking for a conservative budget were largely disappointed. “This is a Liberal budget” they exclaimed. The budget was heavy on spending and par for the course for most Canadians. Harper is hardly causing earthquakes in Ottawa. In fact, the more that Stephen Harper can do to be the Prime Minister in the back of the minds of Canadians instead of in the front of their minds, the better.
Harper has indeed been enjoying polling numbers that would give him a majority government. Some analysts have remarked that the best ally that Stephen Harper has is time. The longer that he is Prime Minister, the more that the concept becomes comfortably entrenched in the minds of Canadians. Pair this with Harper’s status quo Prime Ministership and he can ride out high numbers without those numbers themselves becoming an offensive concept in the minds of Canadians. The summer is coming up and most will, as usual, disconnect from politics. The Prime Minister is hoping to be riding high going into the summer so that he can park his numbers there as Canadians get used to the concept of Harper in majority territory.
I’m also getting the feeling that Harper may ride out his numbers far enough so that media observers will go from blaming him from being opportunistic if he were to call an election, to questioning his political acumen for not calling an election with such a good position in the polls.
So, for those of you who think that Harper’s on the verge of calling (or orchestrating) an election, I think that it’s time to reassess. Perhaps that’s only what the Conservatives want you to think.
Then again, maybe they want you to think like me.