Ignatieff seems set to gamble on another election

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Looks like the Liberals are set to find a way to bring the Conservative government down and call another election. A very risky manoeuvre if it happens. Here's why.

The last election (October 2008) was called when the Conservatives were at a fairly high level of popularity, but because there was no real concrete reason for an election at the time Harper spent a great deal of time during the campaign explaining why he had called an election in the first place after only two years. Even though the opponent was merely Stephane Dion, the beginning of the economic crisis right in the middle of the election campaign plus a bit of an awkward campaign from the Conservatives meant that they were denied a majority in the end, but they still did manage to increase their number of seats. Whether they were denied a majority due to the economic crisis or due to the fact that the election itself didn't really have a reason to exist is hard to say.

Now it's a mere 10 months later and there may be another election. If this happens, it will be a much more comfortable one for Harper, since there really isn't an issue to drive this one. If it's about the economy then it's simply about the Liberals saying that the economy isn't improving as quickly as it should, but that's open to debate. It can't be about EI payments because that's just not big enough to be an election issue and not everybody agrees with reducing the number of hours there either. Treatment of Canadians abroad is another issue, but that's certainly not even close to election-worthy. So if an election is called it will be up to Ignatieff and the Liberals to explain why it was necessary.

The danger can clearly be seen in the polls immediately following the opposition's attempt to form a coalition to replace Harper last year: Conservative support shot up to 44% from 37.6%. Voters simply don't react positively to grabs for power, including the election last year.

Now the Conservatives are daring the opposition to call an election on a popular issue, a favourite tactic of Harper's.

Duceppe is naturally the most comfortable of the party leaders. The Bloc votes issue by issue on whether it would be good for Quebec or not, unless there is the threat of an election when they are low in the polls and could walk away with less seats this time. Get them at a high point in the polls and they'll be willing to topple the government. Their calculations really are that simple.


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