This is from the Calgary Herald. This article sums things up quite well. Harper will be quite satisfied if he can push through his legislation and Dion capitulates. Dion will look to be the weak leader that he has been so far and also someone lacking in principle. On the other hand, if he is defeated the Conservatives are well prepared for an election. The worst that is likely to happen is that he will form another minority government.
What's Harper really up to?
An election if necessary, but not necessarily an election
Calgary HeraldPublished: Saturday, February 09, 2008
Is Prime Minister Stephen Harper trying to provoke an election? Or is he, by staking out three confidence issues in the Commons, just trying to get some governing done?
The issues are the budget, due in March, and two government motions introduced this week. One calls on the House of Commons to order the Liberal-dominated Senate to pass its crime bill.
The other, reflecting the main points of the Manley report on Canada's role in Afghanistan, recommends extending the mission to the end of 2011, "but with increasing emphasis on training the Afghan national security forces expeditiously to take increasing responsibility for security in Kandahar and Afghanistan as a whole," all conditional on an increased NATO commitment.
These are all consequential matters, not "juvenile tricks," as Liberal Leader Stephane Dion vainly asserts.
Still, Harper's apparent intentions could be interpreted as engineering his own defeat. Certainly, the possibility is there and those who see him manoeuvring Dion to where he has no choice but to bring the Tory government down, point to the Liberals' attractive vulnerability -- shortage of money, internal division and Dion's own uncertain leadership.
For a well-disciplined, well-funded Conservative party, the temptation to grab a majority while the Liberals are weak, and before the economy wavers -- sitting governments always get the blame -- must be hard to bear. However, that's high-stakes poker.
The public isn't clamouring to vote, and on Groundhog Day the little beast saw the shadow of last year's polls: There was nothing about them then to coax a minority government into electoral adventures, and that hasn't changed. So, there's no guarantee that after a campaign nobody wanted, the relative position of the parties wouldn't be much as it is now. That would be a lot of goodwill spent for nothing. That doesn't sound like a Harper gamble.
Several times in the past six weeks Harper has said he prefers governing until the October 2009 fixed election date he promised shortly after taking office. We are inclined to take him at his word.
After slightly more than two years on the job, and with a little less than 21 months to go, it's rational. Also, he's clearly having fun, at least as the cerebral economist understands it. Above all, it's consistent with what we know of the man.
To become prime minister, he twice sought a party leadership, united Canada's conservatives and fought two general elections. It's illogical to suppose he would refrain from using the levers he has to make things happen, and settle instead for the rewards of non-confrontation: that is, a new record for the minority that served longest, and did least.
It's much easier to see Harper's strong-arming of the opposition as his determination to use his tactical advantages to have his way. That, too, is a high-stakes game that could lead to an election anyway. But the intent behind it is different.
Harper may well ask himself if he's not going to govern, what is he doing there?
It's certainly the question we would ask him..
© The Calgary Herald 2008