Who cares about policy! When’s the election?

In Ottawa this year, it seems that most parties have figured out the very fuel which drives media cycles and therefore access to important eyeballs during the dinner hour news: election speculation.

From CTV’s Question Period, to CBC’s At-Issue Panel to even CPAC’s Primetime Politics, the questions are almost cliché,

What do today’s events mean for election timing?

Will we see an election this spring or before summer?

I’ve noticed that the Conservative government has tied this number one concern of Ottawa-area reporters with the issues that they want to underscore for their constituents. Crime is perhaps the best polled issue for Conservatives and by this measure alone, it has the Prime Minister’s party towering above the others even in Liberal Fortress Toronto. Yet, it is a topic the media either doesn’t find attractive or relevant to selling ad space or commercial time. How could the Conservatives remedy the situation?

Late last year and early this year, the Conservative government made its crime bills an omnibus one and an issue of confidence. Immediately, the passage of the crime bills and Conservative-Liberal logger heads on the issue and the striking differences between the two parties on a popular Conservative issue could be highlighted. By testing the confidence of the House, the Conservatives were able to talk about their issues, but by tying it to election speculation, they had a willing open microphone in the mainstream media.

Even as polls show immobility for the Liberals and Conservatives in the electoral horserace, recent events such as the halting of the sale of MDA, the seizure of the Farley Mowatt are being seen through the lens of election timing even though most in this town have written off an election prior to the summer break. Darrel Bricker of Ipsos Reid Public Affairs tried to do his part to drive election speculation by calling the recent poll numbers as “a stalemate in perpetual motion.”

We’ve even seen opposition parties use the allure of the election story to highlight their policy differences with the Conservatives. The Liberals embarrassingly threatened to pull down the government over changes to immigration legislation by dropping a confidence motion on the government to force an election in early June. Unfortunately for Dion, the Liberal leader then proceeded to vote for the immigration legislation.

So, when will there be an election? It seems to be a matter of importance to anyone that works within the Ottawa bubble as travel schedules need to be booked, airtime reconfigured and commercials for sit-down showers benched for Lakota herbal medicine and alpaca farming opportunities. Outside of the bubble, people are concerned with real policy and how it will affect their lives. Bring on “vote-rich Ontario” and “the path to a Harper majority goes through Quebec” because if that’s how policy discussion is framed by our media framers, then parliamentarians will keep the press hounds rabid thinking Ottawa is always on the brink of election.