Sometimes Dion's rhetoric rises to the level of common sense! He is probably right that Harper is worried about more dirt being uncovered in committee about the Conservatives and he is also worried about a worsening economy's effect upon his electoral chances. Having a meeting with the opposition seems a bit of joke. Harper: Dost thou Stefan Dion promise that thy shall have thy members sit on their hands and not impede our progress so help thee God? And if Dion does not take the pledge Harper will pull the plug. Of course Dion may not take the pledge but may wink and nod and let Harper know he will do it anyway.
Harper weighing snap election call
PM could seek writ before House resumes Sept. 15, official says
With a report from The Canadian Press
August 23, 2008
OTTAWA -- The Governor-General could be asked to dissolve Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government in the first two weeks of September if high-pressure meetings with opposition leaders do not produce a deal for a fall agenda, a PMO official says.
Mr. Harper's team gave its clearest signal yet that the Conservative government will pull the plug before the Commons resumes sitting on Sept. 15, claiming Parliament is not functioning.
The Prime Minister has already said he will not be bound by the 2009 fixed election date he set, but a senior Tory made it clear that Mr. Harper is not talking about issuing an ultimatum that could lead the opposition to defeat it in the Commons, but rather dissolving Parliament before it sits.
The Prime Minister wants to meet with each of the three opposition leaders before Sept. 15 to seek "common ground" and then make a quick decision on whether it is worth resuming the session.
"If there isn't common ground, then he has a decision to make about whether or not to visit the Governor-General," the PMO official said.
The official said there is little reason to be hopeful of a deal, and noted that public threats of confidence motions from Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe indicate the Commons faces the constant possibility of an election this fall, anyway.
"If Parliament comes back, there will be a confidence motion at the first available opportunity, according to the Bloc," he said. "We'll have one last good-faith attempt in terms of a private meeting between the Prime Minister and opposition leaders."
The PM has not ruled out calling an election before three by-elections in Quebec and Ontario scheduled for Sept. 8.
That means Mr. Harper could trigger the election in the first two weeks of September, as early as Sept. 2, setting a vote for either Oct. 13 or 20.
It's unclear when Mr. Harper will be able to meet with all three opposition leaders, however. Spokesmen for Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP Leader Jack Layton said no time has been set for their meetings, but it probably won't be possible until next Friday, or later.
No meeting has been set with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, either. Mr. Harper will spend three days next week in the Far North, while Mr. Dion will be in Winnipeg the following week for his party's caucus meeting from Sept. 2 to 4.
For Mr. Harper, whose party has been on near-permanent election footing since it won power in January, 2006, a quick start would be beneficial. His party, flush with cash, has done extensive advertising and has a war room open.
Mr. Dion's Liberals have appeared less unified and enthusiastic, and it's unclear whether a leader still uncomfortable in English can communicate his key policy, the Green Shift plan to raise carbon-fuel taxes and cut income taxes. Plus, polls suggest that Bloc support is soft, opening possible gains for Tories outside Montreal.
Some Conservative government ministers are already showing signs of high election alert: Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn let slip that he has cancelled his English-immersion courses for next week, and will meet with some fellow ministers today.
Mr. Dion said he always accepts an invitation from the Prime Minister, and will meet him before the Commons resumes sitting. But he told reporters in Cambridge, Ont., that he thinks Mr. Harper "is trying to save face, trying to find an excuse to once again break his word, this time on the fixed-election-date law."
Mr. Harper's government passed a bill that set fixed election dates every four years, with the first in October, 2009, and until recently said it was committed to waiting.
Mr. Dion, who has said the Prime Minister is trying to avoid hearings on the Conservatives' "in-and-out" election-finance scheme, also argued that Mr. Harper wants to campaign before an economic downturn takes its toll.
The Finance Department yesterday downgraded its own forecast for annual growth this year to a sluggish 1.1 per cent from 1.7 per cent.
"The official excuse that Parliament is not functioning is phony," Mr. Dion said. "What is true is that the Prime Minister does not want people to realize he has ethical problems in his government and to what extent he has badly prepared us as a country for the economic slowdown we face."
Mr. Layton said yesterday that the Prime Minister has a duty to meet Parliament.
"If he pulls the plug on the Parliament without even having the members of the House come back to their seats and show what they can do, then he's showing contempt for the democratic institutions and for the fact that Canadians did not elect him to a majority government, only to a minority," he said.
Already, Mr. Dion has fired at Mr. Harper on a topic the Liberals used in ads in the dying days of the last campaign: abortion.
At a town-hall style event in Oakville, Ont., on Thursday night, Mr. Dion responded to a question about a Tory MP's bill that would provide extra penalties to someone convicted of killing a pregnant woman by saying he opposed it - and that Mr. Harper should make clear his views on abortion.
Some have argued that the bill, sponsored by Conservative MP Ken Epp, would give a fetus legal rights that could affect abortion rights, although Mr. Epp has argued that his bill explicitly excludes that.
PMO officials repeated Mr. Harper's position that the government will not initiate abortion legislation, and noted the Conservatives have not done so in government. If a backbencher introduced such legislation, there would be a free vote, they said.
"This is the sort of thing that they usually trot out at election time," the official said.