July election on EI? Possible but quite improbable

Is there election fever in Ottawa? This seems to be the question on Parliament Hill whenever we move through the months of May and June in a minority parliament. Of course, the most fevered example was during the late months of spring in 2005 when Stephen Harper’s newly minted Conservative Party tried an assortment of creative parliamentary procedures to take down the Paul Martin government only to be upset by former Conservative leadership candidate Belinda Stronach when she crossed the floor to sit in cabinet.

But in June of 2009, months after an attempt by opposition parties to form a coalition government without vetting of the idea before the Canadian electorate and just months and a few weeks after that electorate returned Stephen Harper to power to deal with the global economic crisis, will we have yet another election?

From the MPs that I’ve spoken to, many believe that it is a real possibility with Michael Ignatieff tabling a confidence motion on Employment Insurance which will paint the NDP into a corner forcing them to support a vote of non-confidence in the government. For Jack Layton, leader of that fourth party in the House, his votes are critical to this government’s survival. Though Mr. Layton’s party is not poised to make any serious gains in an election held in the short-term any failure to deliver – in the context of an embarrassing collapse of the coalition game – will have the party grassroots looking to replace its leader. The next election will be Mr. Layton’s last if he does not perform. Mr. Layton needs more time to explain why he’s still fighting and build a real election plan. NDP executive director Brad Lavigne was in Washington last week meeting with senior Democrats to get a fix on both strategy and tactics. As for NDP confidence, they could easily save face if a number of their MPs had the flu on the day of Ignatieff’s confidence motion.

As for the leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Ignatieff has an important objective; the man who ran second place to Stephane Dion in a leadership race doesn’t want to go into the summer looking like his leadership predecessor. You’ll recall that when Mr. Dion was leader of the party, his MPs were shamed and embarrassed as Stephen Harper rammed his legislation through while the Liberals feably sat on their hands. While Mr. Ignatieff doesn’t face a caucus revolt over inaction, he does want to appear as though he’s given the Conservatives a rough ride and his party will claim it as a victory as they go into the summer with their heads held relatively high. Strategically, going to an election in July wouldn’t be ideal for Mr. Ignatieff as a $5-6 million Conservative pre-writ ad buy defining the Liberal leader would be much more effective if the Conservative messaging is fresh in the minds of Canadians. On the other hand, despite a $50 Billion projected deficit posted by the Conservatives recently, the Canadian economy is starting to show signs of recovery. If Michael Ignatieff wants to defeat Stephen Harper in an election which which will certainly be defined upon the Conservatives’ traditionally perceived strength (taxes/economy), his advisers are likely telling him that this may be his best chance. Yet Michael Ignatieff’s only visible policy proposal on this has been EI reform.

As for the Prime Minister, he will only precipitate an election if he believes that he can orchestrate a majority win. Many observers now agree that the dissolution of parliament previous to the last election was a defensive measure by the Prime Minister as he read the global economic indicators and found himself staring into an abyss about to rattle Canadians. If we are to have an election, it will be because the Prime Minister would have allowed it; either allowed himself to fall on a Liberal confidence motion, confident on the framing on an election on EI, or because he will orchestrate a political crisis which will upend the polls. For example, polling is moot if the Prime Minister were to frame an election on cutting public subsidy for political parties with the $50 billion deficit to back him up as to why. “If an election were to be held today” is a pointless question when elections are framed, campaigns are waged and events occur to shape electoral intent during a 36 day writ campaign.

An election based upon EI is a ruse. It’s a ruse because it splits voters into two politically inequitable camps: the employed and the unemployed – the latter won’t deliver a win for Ignatieff. It’s a ruse because most Canadian voters have paid more into EI than Michael Ignatieff as the Liberal leader filed his tax returns to British exchequers and American secretaries of the treasury for thirty four years. It’s a ruse, because the man who came second to Stephane Dion is only trying to appear that he has already bested him now after just a couple months as Liberal leader. An Liberal triggered election on EI is a ruse because the Conservatives occupy an entire side of the debate, the other parties will be fighting each other to stake out their position on the issue. Finally, the Liberals need to rebuild their party. They are still only raising money at par with the NDP and of their nominations, I’ve heard that they still have about 200 spots to fill.

An election in July? A dreadful prospect for any opposition party and not ideal for the PM unless the man best positioned to set the stage can line up a major win.

Comments

comments

  • gimbol

    Hey lets give Iggy some credit.
    He’s got his caucus supporting the Conservative legislation on manditory sentencing for drug crimes…of course I’m hearing that the Trudeau wing of the LPC ain’t pleased one bit.
    Which would also mean that Iggy is making some success in purging the LPC of the rabid left anti-american crowd….well I guess they could always vote NDP.
    ;)

  • Michael

    What does that have to do with anything happening today, or with anyone around today?

  • Michael

    I'd like to see a quote that adds one shred of credibility to your Conbot talking point. Just one.

  • Michael

    It would be nice to export gold, but your government lost a whole bunch of it right from the mint. Nicely done.

  • Scott

    When I cast my mind back to that Spring of 2005, I seem to remember the howls of indignation from the Liberals and MSM (do we still have to distinguish?) about the Conservatives’ “Lust for Power”

    Invariably followed by some anecdotal evidence that “Canadians don’t want or need an election now”. And without fail, an arbitrary number thrown out about the extremely high cost of an election. $200 Million sticks in my mind.

    All this was followed up with cries that “Harper is a Bully” – “Harper is a control freak”

    Why don’t I hear anything about Iggy’s or the Liberals’ LUST FOR POWER at any cost to the country?
    Why don’t I hear anything about Canadians not wanting or needing an elections – especially NOW?
    Why don’t I hear about how much an unnecessary election will cost?
    Why don’t I hear about Iggy’s Bullying nature (“I’ll mess with you til I’m done….”)?

    It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

  • Gayle

    He just likes telling you to go back to Harvard. It's conservative humour.

  • Phil

    Well Iggy has invited many of the “Adscam” Liberals, including at least one who was supposed to be “banned for life”, back into the party. Why would he do that? And while we are on the topic of Adscam why don't the Liberals name the MPs involved, it would be nice to know if some of them were sitting in the HOC.

  • Phil

    Does that 1.8 million include the money that the LPC got by asking people to donate to Iggy's non leadership campaign and the Liberal Party bypassing political finance laws. Maybe that is why Iggy is inviting the Ascamers back.

  • Phil

    A possible response would be “because the Liberal Senators did everything they could to prevent Canadians from getting the money they need”. Iggy rushes things in the house and then delays them in the Senate, I guess he is only in it for himself.

  • Observant

    The four CPC attack ads … are they intended to sensitize the dozey Canadian electorate coming out of hibernation and looking forward to a lazy, hazy, indolent summer free of politics … or … were the ads intended to rile up the Liberal grassroots against USian Iggy the counterfeit Liberal leader..??

    Any grassroots Liberal party worker must be feeling somewhat queasy about having Ignatieff as their leader and their best offering for PM of Canada. Harper has said he has a lot more dirt on Iggy just waiting for an election, which threw the Liberals into panic mode. I fully expect a new batch of ‘truth’ attack ads in September if there is no election this June-July … because by then an election will have to be mandatory if Iggy is going to achieve his goals of grandeur.

    If this series of four attack ads haven’t broken the backs of the Liberal faithful, then what must surely be waiting in the can will throw Iggy into a death spiral as Liberal party workers start to abandon the fold. In any next election, Liberal candidates will stay away from Iggy like poison and just run on the beloved Liberal ‘brand’, as they did with Dion.

    If things settle down by late summer and polls reverse, Liberals might decide that Iggy should not even get his one kick at the election can, and be asked to “voluntarily’ vacate the leadership. Why commit political hara kiri a second time ..??!!!

  • Calgary Junkie

    Duceppe is fond of saying: “If it’s good for Quebec, I’ll vote for it. If it’s bad for Quebec, I’ll vote against it”. He also said, shortly after the last election, that he would only defeat this gov’t on something major, like a budget.

    Those past statements give Duceppe enough cover to defeat just about any non-confidence motion put forward by Iggy. A pro like Duceppe can easily spin the BLOC abstentions/absences and still save face.

  • batb

    It's obscene that there's even talk of an election so soon after the one we've just had.

    That Michael Ignatieff is precipitating talk about an election at this point is clear proof that he's definitely not a man of the people, that is for Canadians, but is a bona fide natural ruling Liberal whose only purpose is to regain power in the HOC.

    I don't hear the Canadian public calling for an election, just Michael Ignatieff and his indefatigable band of power-at-any-cost Librano$. Well, at least they're showing their true colours for all to see: blood red for the blood they're trying to bleed from a stone.

    Give it up, Liberal$. Build your party. Work with the present government to make Canada stronger and more productive for the good of all of us. Stop thinking only of yourselves and your “need” for power. You're grasping at an elusive reality and making fools of yourselves and dupes of Canadians. Your agenda — to remove Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his CPC government from power, it seems, at any cost — is singularly self-serving and repugnant.

  • batb

    Ted: “It's a fine coalition you have there, desperately clinging to power with the support of the socialists and separatists.”

    LOL! What's the alternative in the benighted Parliament of Canada — or in what Mark Steyn calls the Deranged Dominion? Three parties left of centre and one which can only be voted for in Quebec.

    Canadians outside Quebec need a break. I'm sick and tired of Quebec calling the political shots in Canada — and sucking the rest of Canada dry. Until electoral boundaries change and Quebec no longer has a stranglehold on the ROC, any party that want to form the government will have to rely on “the support of the socialists and separatists.”

    Aside from the CPC, that's all we've got in Canada.

  • Liz J

    Not to worry, too many Blocheads would stand to lose their pensions from the Gouvernement du Canada if an election is called. In effect, they still call the shots as a provincial entity with the power to dictate who governs Canada because they represent the ever present threat of separation. The people who elect them have to be sent a message.

    This is an opportune time for PM Harper to stop pandering to Quebec, it's worth a try. Drive home the message when it comes to perks they're overdrawn as part of the Canadian family. Sure they're culturally different, they are the French fact, they're not endangered in that province or anywhere else in Canada.

    Iggy may get antsy but he'll be running in place, getting nowhere. His sabbatical from Harvard may be longer than he anticipated but he'll still be OK, doddering old profs are not unusual.

  • Beer and Popcorn

    Omanator, interesting points, but don't you think rising oil prices are a great thing for Canada right now? I mean, since we have seen declining prices in consumer goods and cyclicals (autos), and real estate (as well as mortgage rates near an all time low) I'm struggling with how inflation is a big concern to us at this point. Wouldn't this drag some prices back up in some sectors that could really use it? (thinking specifically about the auto sector)

    I remember the PM on CNBC a few months back talking about Canadian oil and it's importance to our economy. I think he is spot on and that this will be our trump card in the recovery.

  • Beer and Popcorn

    Michael – not true – unlike the previous government the PM is straightforward when it comes to natural resources – we need them for a strong, vibrant economy. With new techonolgy such as carbon capture that they are using in the oil sands they can extract with sustainable methods.

    With your Liberal$, it depends on the audience they are speaking to. If they are in front of a group of environmentalists they would likely say they plan to turn the oil sands into a wildlife reserve. When speaking to a business audience or outside of downtown Toronto, it's full steam ahead!

  • turtle

    I’m curious, can anyone remember the approximate cost of a federal election? I mean on top of the cost to us all of having government grind to a halt for a while, what is the price tag to the taxpayer for staging the actual election?

  • Beer and Popcorn

    Aye.

    They are making a concerted effort here in Toronto to disconnect Mr Harper's efforts with the economic recovery.

    In elevators presently: “Mayors meet and discuss their frusturation over stimulus funds funds not flowing as promised by Harper government”

    The MSM's war on conservativism continues.

  • Dan

    I would love to go to Harvard. Alas, I didn’t get in.

  • Gabby in QC

    Aye, aye! MSM! It's vacation time. Time to read some good fiction, instead of writing it! ;-)

    BTW, if infrastructure funds are not flowing, how come there's so much road construction going on – like in Montreal?

  • Beer and Popcorn

    There's no humour in the Liberal camp, except that directed towards the conservatives on the CBC (conservatives are neandrathals! [insert laugh track here]

    Just raw social engineering.

  • MaryT

    With the names of liberals who benefitted from adscam about to become public, is it really smart for Iggy to say that Canada needs Quebecers in government to make a united Canada.
    Bad timing for him. Duceppe is already going after him.

  • DougM

    As far back as Trudeau, when he campaigned against Joe Clark’s Wage and Price controls and gas tax, them imposed a more draconian version as soon as he was in power, to Chretien’s campaign on re-writing NAFTA and cancelling the GST, to his more recent Red book in which he failed to do a single thing in it, the Liberals have made lying to the Canadian Public part of their brand. Paradox – is a person a liar because he’s a liberal or do liars just normally gravitate to the Liberal Party of Canada? Is PMSH perfect? Nope, but of the five things he promised, he delivered four while the other was held up in the Liberal dominated Senate. He did back down on theTrust funds – because if he didn’t when everybody started to hide their taxes in that haven the Govt’ would have lost too much revenue – those same people who want all the Govt services.

    The fact is, that while the Liberals promise things, they never deliver – instead we get , as you say, Shawinigate, the HRDC boondoggle, the overinflated Gun registry, Adscam therGrand mere affair etc. and you name it. Essentially, and based on their record to date, the LPC seems as much a criminal organization as it is a political one – no wonder they took so long to come up with anti-gang legislation – they had to figure out how to bring it in so they weren’t going to be caught up in it. But I digress…

    Those in the center keep talking about “Separation” as though Quebec is some necessary part of it. Quebec is convienent, but not necessary – the west has bankrolled Canada for decades at about 244 billion per year while Quebec eats up about 16 of that. I have family back there and I enjoy Quebec – but it isn’t the center of the universe any more than Toronto is. Those in the west that are looking at their own version of Separation are very, very different from Quebec. They have no intention of holding Canada hostage, which has always been Quebec’s intention becuase it continued to work very well for them. In part because they don’t need to, the West is not in the same game and as each Liberal over the last decades coldn’t drop a writ without degrading Alta they listened. When the stupidity of the coalition of idiots came out there was a subtle shift in the mindset. (The press at the time called it “seething rage”) and it wasn’t nice conversation about how they could get more money out of the center. The Liberals have given up the North and screwed the rest of the country and its going to be interesting if the screw ups can be reversed. Frankly I’m not sure if Quebec will accept Canada becuase its in their economic interest to do so (those that wish to be Emperor of Quebec dont’ care about the economics) or the west will evict everything east of Manitouba, but for the next decade or two, they better hope for leaders from the west that can defuse the emotion that the idiots ignited or there will be new borders being drawn.

    Every time the Libs and the press complain about the “attack adds” on poor Mr. Absentee, I think of the way they went after Stockwell Day, and smile. The Conservatives learned from that and now -when the press won’t investigate, discuss or debate, the Conservatives will even if it takes their own money. While it isn’t illegal, voting for the LPC should be morally considered an act of disloyalty to Canada. They seek power for powers sake – if not they would have instituted their platforms or at the very least – tried to move on them as Harper did. For once we have someone with integrity to lead the country – even if he has to go to the states to get a viable interview – but in what were probably the only true words Trudeau ever said “The incompetance of the press is matched only by their nastiness”, maybe the next generation of them will not be so programed by the LPC – The Lying Party of Canada”

  • terry1

    Bat B…..I bet you were not saying that when Harpercrite decided to break his law and called that October election. Hypocritical tories

  • terry1

    Mary T…..you can whine all you want and adscam etc. but the polls are telling the real truth.

    http://www.canada.com/news/national/Liberals+ed

    The poll, conducted from June 2 to 4, shows the Liberals with the support of 36 per cent of decided voters nationally, up three points from late last month. The Conservatives have slipped two points, to 33 per cent.

    The NDP sit at 12 per cent, down two points, followed by the Greens at nine per cent, up one point, and the Bloc Quebecois, also at nine. Six per cent of respondents were undecided

  • Liz J

    Well, we have to also consider just how long Harvard will extend the learned professor's sabbatical, that could play into whether he attempts to go now. Gotta say though, the Bloc hold the key to when he would be able to have an election, a lot would be at stake for several of the Bloc MP's. Pensions would probably trump an election now. Besides they've only just gotten started on their attack ads against Ignatieff, their main competition , well currently, that could change given the fickleness of the voters in PQ.

  • Liz J

    Enjoy the polls Terry.

    If you think the Liberals can bring down the government without Bloc support you need to go back to math class.

    If you thinks the Bloc will support an election when they're down in the polls and so many of them stand to lose pensions if defeated, you really are out to lunch.

    Polls can turn on a dime in Quebec, they're very touchy at best. They still like to keep a separatist party in to blackmail whatever government happens to be in power. When Duceppes and company get going on Iggy there may be some changes in the polls in that province. I'd count on it.

  • terry1

    Liz J Hysterical…just because your guy totally screwed up his party's relationship with Saavy quebeckers does not mean Iggy will do the same. Iggy is not arrogant and condecending, things that Quebeckers pick up on. c

  • terry1

    stephen, nice of you to change the channel to provincial politics just when some juicy federal polls come out.

    Nanos out yesterday…Libs… 37.2% cons….31.8%

  • terry1

    Liz J…… I a enjoying the polls more and more with each passing one that comes out these days

    here's another one from the authorative Nanos whose poll says the Iggy ads are backfiring on the Tories.

    http://www.nanosresearch.com/library/polls/POLN

    Enjoy.

  • Listener

    Not as much of a factor though as talk that CRA has been told to delay paying out refunds

  • terry1

    I guess its ok to copy NDP caucus stuff but not stuff by Tory ministers:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/co

    HYPOCRITES ARE TORIES AND VICE VERSA

  • terry1

    they are NOT holding back on demands for payments for arrears though….kind of like a shell game I guess.

  • Omanator

    Well Gaby you turned out to be wrong ,but just wait until September. I still think there is a divide in the LPC and the hawks will push iggy to it. Besides if the Block and the NDP vote against it on Sept 28. Iggy would loose all credibility if he backs down again. He just cannot affort it. It is my guess that we will have a fall election this year. By then our Economy probably will have picked up considerably.

  • Omanator

    Batb1. That is exactly the reason why Chretien stuffed Quebec with electoral seats. Iggy is now trompeting from the roof tops in Quebec. “Its time Quebec got back to power….” The rest of Canada does not count. When are the people in Ontario and the GTO wake up to this reality.

  • Omanator

    Well Gaby you turned out to be wrong ,but just wait until September. I still think there is a divide in the LPC and the hawks will push iggy to it. Besides if the Block and the NDP vote against it on Sept 28. Iggy would loose all credibility if he backs down again. He just cannot affort it. It is my guess that we will have a fall election this year. By then our Economy probably will have picked up considerably.

  • Omanator

    Batb1. That is exactly the reason why Chretien stuffed Quebec with electoral seats. Iggy is now trompeting from the roof tops in Quebec. “Its time Quebec got back to power….” The rest of Canada does not count. When are the people in Ontario and the GTO wake up to this reality.