Friday, January 01, 2010

Enablers and elections in 2010

Update (Sat a.m.) below.

A few items here, not necessarily related, but I'm too lazy at the moment to do multiple posts. So tie them together however you like.

First, on the "enabling" front, for lack of a better word, I thought this statement from pollster Nik Nanos was rather remarkable:
"Pollster Nik Nanos. whose surveys show the public unmoved by recent troubles for the Conservatives in Parliament, called it a 'deft political move.'

'It effectively removes the House of Commons as a key public platform for the opposition parties to attack the government,' he said. 'Historically, when the House sits, the opposition parties garner more profile – and many times, support for the opposition parties increases when the House sits.'"
Yeah, shutting down Parliament is a deft political move. After all, when the opposition has a platform, the government's poll numbers might go down. So just get rid of the "key public platform." Very deft. And quite the rationalization.

Speaking of which, talk of a spring election is increasing and a few pundits are now predicting it. So, what might make us plunge into a federal election? The budget is being introduced on March 4th, that much we know. Meaning that there are two full intense months of strategery and planning going on in the upper echelons of the Conservative brain trust. Do we think they need two months of undiverted attention solely for a budget? In which they've already tipped their hand that it's all about spending restraint? Or do they need this time for something more? As in, executing the Olympic rah-rah plan and following it up with a patriotically imbued general election.

Would we find ourselves in an election simply by dint of Harper traversing over to Rideau Hall to ask for an election? That would put the X on his back. And we all know, "Canadians-don't-want-an-election." We are supposed to "stay on track," as very-serious grandpa told us in the very politically motivated Economic Action Plan ads throughout the fall. So how does Harper get his election then? By making the opposition parties an offer they can't refuse.

Here's a thought...the next item on the Harper agenda could be the public party financing system. Maybe in the March budget as a poison pill, yet all enveloped in the post-Olympic glow of hockey gold. Because I'm sure the public can be talked into opposing it, with something along the lines of...political parties getting funding when we have a massive deficit, who do they think they are anyway? Or at a minimum, I'm sure they can get the polls to reflect that people don't care about the issue. Not enough to have an election after the Olympics anyway. It would be the selfish opposition parties who would wear the X.

And, depending, we could see this move termed as another "deft" move accompanied by dutiful rationalizations. What? He wouldn't do that? It would be too much? Really.

And by the way, a ruling came down yesterday in a Conservative case against Elections Canada on the GST as an election expense and the Conservatives won the case. They are crowing about it. While the judgment has yet to be released, it could have financial implications for other parties, namely, the Liberals, that might not be good. The case could be appealed, and the details are yet to be known, so there's that caution. But it's worth throwing into the mix as a further backdrop to a possible election and possible vulnerabilities of the Harper opposition. As BCL suggested today, it would be prudent to have a plan "B" at the ready.

Update (Sat. a.m.): From a Globe column today, some contrary opinion to the above speculation on the likelihood of a spring election:
“Election speculation is credible, but the ability of the government to survive into the fall of 2010 and beyond is real,” pollster Nik Nanos observed on Friday.

Darrel Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, believes Mr. Harper would be taking an enormous risk by forcing an election that voters clearly don't want.

“Once you unleash the dogs of war, particularly if you don't have to, things can go disastrously wrong very quickly,” he said in an interview.
On the "dogs of war" point, my argument above was that it's all in who is seen to be unleashing those dogs. It's a risky proposition, inserting some kind of poison pill into that March budget, but if it's done in a clever way, maybe even in respect of an issue that's not been contemplated yet - it's not too remote to think that Harper could do it. All speculation, but it's useful to consider the possibilities, well in advance.