The second session of the 39th Parliament is about to begin and I hold the view that it might actually be able to live up to the hype. Forget the fact that logic would suggest that only the Conservatives and NDP have any reason to even think they might want a fall election, forget the fact that not only are the legislative initiatives that come out of the Throne Speech not confidence; the Throne Speech itself is not necessarily a matter of confidence and forget the fact the Canadians are overwhelmingly against a fall election. The rationale for this view is simple, logic and reason didn’t make it back from the prorogation and this machine is now being run on ego, emotion and testosterone.
As usual, let’s adopt a totally unfounded air of confidence and dive in the rather shallow waters of political speculation.
The Bloc have just suffered a major loss in the Quebec byelections and the Conservatives seem to be making significant gains there. Gilles Duceppe has set out five specific elements that must be present in the Throne Speech to ensure Bloc support. He won’t get what he wants but by being out early with his demands he has essentially shifted responsibility for the election to someone else. I don’t know exactly what he gains from a fall election but it may simply be a “have what we hold” notion or he could be planning on whipping up nationalist sentiment and target a convenient scapegoat.
The NDP are certainly riding the “big mo” with their byelection victory in Quebec. I am not sure how it will play out in a general election, but Layton is fundamentally opposed to the Conservative platform and will also be hard-pressed to do anything but vote against the Throne Speech.
The Liberals seem to have adopted a very unique strategy in the wake of the fall election threat. In response to a very porous caucus they will pretty much make all decisions on the fly. A real-time strategy formulation process is the perfect compliment to the ongoing self-inflicted wound strategy they embarked on last spring. I will say that recent additions to the staff are solid choices but they still need time to get everyone in the same vessel, let alone pulling their oar in the same direction. I honestly don’t think that the majority of the Liberals want a fall election, but if they are not very careful they could easily get drawn into one. It should be pointed out that there seems to be a faction within the Liberal Party that actually wants a fall election. Their theory is rooted in the notion that although it is true that time will allow you to see the light at the end of the tunnel, that light you see is from an oncoming train. It will be very interesting to see how all this unfolds.
The Conservatives have a solid session under their belts, they are looking at increasingly good polling numbers, are flush with cash and are starting to walk around like they own the place! Recent musings about making every syllable in the Throne Speech a “confidence syllable” would suggest to me that their strategy is now focused on how they get a fall election, not whether they get one.
The parties may also want to see what lessons can be learned from recent provincial elections. In Newfoundland, we learned that anger is the best motivator and at the end of the day if the ballot box question is “us” or “them” always go with “us.”
In Ontario we had one for the ages, but the bottom line is that politics is about luck, skill and timing. On the day of an election the campaign rarely even resembles the entity that left the gate and things can happen that you may not be able to predict, or control. So never count your supply-managed chickens before the hatch.
So to summarize, the NDP are high on life and ready to fight, the Bloc have adopted a very risky path that essentially boils down to the old roulette strategy of doubling your bet when you lose, the Liberals are in denial and the Prime Minister has made it clear that this fall he intends to hand out only CPC key chains and electoral arse-whoopings; and he is just about out of the key chains!
• I do need to interject at this point and congratulate former MP and Trent University Professor Emeritus Peter Adams for the launch of his book entitled Trent, McGill and the North. The book is a memoir of Adams’s life and work in the North, from the 1960s to the 21st century, brought together by chapters summarizing aspects of the science and politics of the period.
Proceeds from this book ($20 including tax), matched dollar for dollar by the McGuinty Government, go towards a student bursary at Trent University Copies can be ordered from www.trentu.ca/alumni (1-705-748-1011, say “alumni”) or Package Plus, 171A Rink St., Peterborough, Ont., (1-705-749-1661). I add this last bit without shame because Peter is not profiting from this venture and also because after serving with Peter for more than seven years I never quite got over the guilt about not getting my head around exactly how important he was. Well done Peter, everyone else go out and buy the book.
Joe Jordan is a former Liberal MP and a consultant at the Capital Hill Group in Ottawa.
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