So we get to have an election...

Today, as widely predicted, a no-confidence motion brought forward by Michael Ignatieff brought down the Stephen Harper minority government and triggered an election. So much for my uber-bold prediction from 2009 that Harper had 2 more years in office.

Yet it remains to be seen...was I really wrong? After all, I did throw in a little caveat at the end:

In other words, Stephen Harper's minority government could last a full 5-year mandate as the Liberals and NDP keep flipping positions on who wants an election and who wants the status quo. If we have an election soon and/or without a massive gaffe or mistake that drops Tory support, the only possible explanation is that somebody got really really bad advice. This one is a guarantee: in that event, look for one or more of the major parties to experience a very very rude awakening the morning after the election.

For the last couple of days, NDP supporters and analysts have been asking... "why did Jack Layton refuse to support the budget"? It has been noted that this budget has more carrots thrown to the NDP than even the 2009 budget that was intended to stave off coalitions. If Layton could sign off on the budget in 2009, why not this one? It seems they have started discovering what I noted in the 2013 post: that individual NDP MPs would have to worry about losing their seats seeing how the NDP is basically at the highest number of seats they could reasonably be expected to achieve. An election risks those seats, and by extension Layton's leadership. Dozens of competing theories have abounded why Layton would do this, most involving the word "cancer".

But then yesterday a bombshell dropped: Ipsos polling shows the Conservatives are pushing in on majority territory and the new question arises: is the party pushing for an election with bad internal polling numbers the NDP? Or should we instead be looking towards the Liberals?

After all, if the Ipsos numbers are to be believed the Liberals have had their support plummet to an almost inconceivable 24%. Is this poll an aberration, or does it jive with what the NDP number crunchers have themselves discovered: the Liberal Party of Canada is as vulnerable as it could ever be? Locking Stephen Harper into a majority now then seems perfectly sensible to the NDP: their current crop of 36 seats are going to survive this election more or less intact. Anything in the 32-38 range (some say 40, but I think this is pushing it) requires them to siphon huge quantities of Liberal votes, and that happens to be the seat totals that would keep Jack Layton in his position and his NDP cronies collecting sweet sweet Member of Parliament money...this time locked in for the next four years.

Meanwhile, the Liberals either didn't see this poll coming or found it to be an outlier...otherwise Ignatieff would have done what he did when his party was struggling in the polls last spring and begrudgingly back the budget to prevent an election.

Anyways, onto the actual election. I asked this morning what this election would be about, but didn't get much of a solid answer so far. Successful elections tend to be about big issues (Free Trade in 1988, the GST in 1993, Adscam in 2004). The 2008 election, where Harper squandered a majority by calling one for clearly self-serving reasons, serves as a prime example of the opposite. Whether in government or opposition, if you bring forward an election you need a damned good (and marketable) reason to do it. I just don't see that here. The scandals don't quite do it.

First we have the no-confidence motion itself. Contempt of Parliament sounds like a pretty intimidating phrase until you look into it and find out they just want to make exaggerated claims about Bev Oda again. It's hard to get worked up about a scandal that...
  1. Involves claims somebody "lied" and "deceived" by giving slight different answers to...slightly different questions
  2. Has one side insisting that the buck has to stop with the Minister while the Minister and her Prime Minister are both busy insisting...that the buck stops with the Minister
  3. Only came up in the first place because, as Maggie Thatcher once proudly noticed "advisers advise, Ministers decide" yet the Ottawa bureaucracy had a system designed where Ministers could only accept now or accept later. That very procedure had to change as a result of this "scandal" and the cure is not only worse than the disease but it in fact cures a far more serious disease simultaneously. Bev Oda, national hero to beleagured taxpayers.
Secondly we have the "In-and-Out" scandal. New financing rules for elections were brought out, and soon after an election was held. The Conservatives pushed the restrictions as far as the thought they legally could, and the enforcers disagreed. The rules were made more clear, the Conservatives stopped doing what they had done before, and in a lengthy process tried to make their case in a civil court. Ultimately, the narrow interpretation of the old rules were supported. The key problem about the In-and-Out scandal is that by the time you finish explaining what the background of the situation was, what exactly the Conservative Party did, and why what they did was wrong, the person you were explaining this scandal to has already walked away from you and is doing something far more exciting with a person they find far more interesting than you. Ultimately the executive summary of the In-and-Out scandal removes the entire "scandal" from the equation. It's the only scandal in history where when voters hear you explain it your poll numbers go down.

The Liberals, the party that brought in a $2,000,000 gun control bill in 1996 and discovered by 2003 that it was a $2,000,000,000 gun control bill, also wants you to know that the financial costs of proposed Conservative programs will increase. Increase by 1,000% you ask? Well, no, the Liberals will tell you (and ask why you picked such a curious number), but that's bad, isn't it? While the worry of cost overruns is serious, there isn't a party in Ottawa that can lay claim to the penny pinching defender of the public purse. Liberal attempts to be that party are laughable at best, insulting to the electorate at worst.

It's pretty clear at this point that not only has Stephen Harper gotten his hands on Jean Chretien's old Teflon Suit, but he's decided to wear it and roll around in some mud just to test it out. In early May there will be another General Election, but with the current poll numbers and Ignatieff's amazing track record of costing his party support with every summer tour, Jack Layton and Stephen Harper are the two leaders who aren't getting nervous ticks at night for reasons they can't quite explain.