Election Season

August 25th, 2008

Now that summer is all but over and the kids are spending their last few days of freedom with weepy eyes and furrowed brow, it’s time to think election. Specifically a federal fall election. PM Harper has announced that he will summons Stéphane Dion and insist he actively support the Conservatives fall legislative agenda, instead of passively supporting it by declaring the new holiday, Confidence Motion Day, a statutory holiday for all Liberal MPs. Expect Dion to refuse his support. Expect a scary October 31st with politicians knocking on your door offering tricks and treats.

I’m of two minds on this one. As an ideological conservative I’d rather an election call be on issues. Let Stephen Harper decrease the excise tax on diesel fuel, or put forth his bill on Senate Reform and let it fall or pass as it may.

As a follower of the game of politics, however, any Conservative Party of Canada faithful wants an election now. The Conservatives chances of winning an election next fall would appear to be much less so than they are right now. There are various reasons why this is so, why the Liberals may want to wait a year, the Conservatives less so.

First there is The Green Shift, which hasn’t won the hearts and minds of the nation outside of the editorial offices of The Toronto Sun. Meant to be Dion’s jumping off point for a platform, it appears to have fallen flat with voters.

Second is the budget surplus, which is rumoured to be heading into minor deficit this year. While a small, temporary deficit during bad times doesn’t bother me too much (far less than not paying down debt during good times), it’s not a position a government seeking re-election wants to be in. The Conservatives may or may not be there this year, but better to go to the polls now and explain a deficit from the position of newly re-elected government than one seeking re-election.

A third reason for wanting an election now is inflation. It has reared it’s ugly head around the world and is expected to hit hit 4.3% by early next year here in Canada. The Bank of Canada has an inflation target of 1 – 3%. If the rate stays above 3% interest rate hikes are inevitable. But what if rate hikes don’t work? Or as Maclean’s pondered a few weeks ago, what if inflation goes higher? It is possible in that a year from now we could see borrowing costs 2, 3, 4% higher. That starts to hurt families trying to make ends meet. And it starts hurting Conservative chances a year from now.

That all said, The Conservatives brought in fixed election legislation for a reason: to stop governments going to the polls for their own political advantage. The dissolving Parliament clause may make it legal but clearly Harper would be breaking the spirit of the law by calling an early election. An argument can, I think, be made that minority governments constitute a different situation than a majority, but for Harper to set the precedent of violating the concept of fixed dates renders the law meaningless. It would be better if he lost a confidence motion. We all know Stéphane Dion is loathe to vote the Conservatives down, but if the Conservatives abstained 1 for 1 with the Liberals, sit 95 MPs out of the next confidence motion, they should have no problem losing a motion based on the NDP and Bloc’s vote. Harper could get the fall vote he wants without violating the intent of the fixed election date law.

Personally, I’d rather he kept on governing like he had a majority and let the chips fall where they may, but Stephen Harper leaves nothing to chance, and he doesn’t look like he’s about to start now.

Fall Election, I don't have confidence in any of them, Parliament, Stephen Harper

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