Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

No spring vote? Think again.

The Globe and Mail's John Ibbitson speculates in his latest column that because of the rising fortunes of the Liberals (and the declining fortunes of the Conservatives), there won't be an election anytime soon. The rationale, of course, is that the Conservatives certainly wouldn't go out of their way to engineer their own defeat if they're at all likely to then go on and be defeated altogether in the general election.

The problem with Ibbitson's logic is that he's assuming that the timing of the next election is entirely up to the Conservatives. It isn't. If Harper decides not to risk an election in light of these numbers, he can certainly make sure there isn't a confidence vote on anything until the budget next spring. But even Harper can't prevent the spring budget from being a confidence vote, at which point all bets are off. Ibbitson claims that the Liberals would benefit from another year in opposition, but by spring they'll have a shiny new leader, and there's no way they'll be feeling so timid that they'd allow themselves to be tarred with the brush of supporting the Tories. The Bloc Québécois has already named their price for supporting the spring budget: twelve billion dollars. And can you really think of anything that Harper would be able to offer Jack Layton in exchange for getting the NDP to support a Conservative budget? After all that's gone down this year? Yeah, I can't, either.

If the Conservatives rebound in the polls, Harper's going to want a spring election. If the other parties are strong, then they will want one. If somebody out there can show me a path that doesn't guarantee a spring election, I'm all ears, but at this point I haven't been able to find one.

11 comments:

Radical Centrist said...

But, as Ibbitson said in his article, the Liberals could come out against the budget but abstain from voting. The BQ and NDP don't have enough votes to defeat the Cons, so if the Libs abstain, the budget would pass.

The Libs will have a new leader, yes, but i doubt very much they'll have time to squeeze in a policy convention before February/March, when the federal budget is usually tabled. And if the new leader is someone who doesn't currently have a seat in the House of Commons (Rae or Kennedy, for example), they might prefer to try to get him in via by-election route first rather than jump from leadership convention to election without giving people a chance to see the guy in action as leader.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

RC,

Yeah, I read that, but don't really buy it. The Liberals are not going to hand the NDP the ammunition of allowing a draconian Conservative budget to pass. Plus, good polls will make them cocky (and if they don't have good polls, then Harper will). And if they wanted to give Bob Rae, say, a chance at winning a by-election, then they could do that in January or February and still have him in the House by spring.

Josh Gould said...

Indeed, and there are currently two vacancies in the Commons - one in Quebec and one in Ontario. As far as I know, by-elections have yet to be called, but they can't be put off until the spring. According to this, the by-election for the Quebec riding must be called by March.

Radical Centrist said...

They'd have him (or her) in the house, maybe, but a couple of weeks is hardly a test or chance to let the person demonstrate much. Personally, i'd rather let the Libs have time to have a proper policy convention, get the leader in the house if s/he isn't already. I don't think most people want yet another election so soon after the last. People aren't really that keen on voting, you know - esp. when it will just result in yet another minority government.
And knowing how Harper wants to totally destroy the Libs, if he can hold off on by-elections until March, watch him do that - but bring the budget down in Feb (as is the norm) leaving the Libs leaderless in the house to decide what to do about the budget.

Lone Primate said...

If somebody out there can show me a path that doesn't guarantee a spring election, I'm all ears...

Yeah, easy... that $12B for Quebec. Were you around for the Mulroney Years? :) I knew even before the last election a Tory government was going to mean another session of selling out Canada's interests pandering to the narcissism and venality of Quebec sovereigntists, and the inevitable cries of "humiliation!" and calls for The Next Referendum™ when the country couldn't/wouldn't put its money where the Conservative mouth was...

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

RC,

We're not talking about what "you'd rather," but what the Liberals are likely to do. I don't see them waiting. I suppose I could be wrong about that, but I'd be very, very surprised.

LP,

Skinflint Stephen Harper is going to give the BQ twelve mil? I'll eat my hat.

Budd Campbell said...

"Ibbitson claims that the Liberals would benefit from another year in opposition, but by spring they'll have a shiny new leader ... "

ROTFLMAO! "...a shiny new leader"?!?! Which Liberal Leadership Non-Race have you been watching?

I've been watching the one that stars Joe Volpe and Jimmy K, ... you know, the Toronto wheeler-dealers who are going to go to Bob Rae, thus making the party switcher the main anti-Ignatieff candidate. So delegates will have a crystal clear choice, between a candidate who is too pro-Bush, been outside Canada too long and not in the Commons long enough, and a party switcher who is still nothing more than cannon fodder for a large percentage of the political pundits in this country, and who is going to be backed up by other turncoats like Dosanjh and Hargrove, plus the crook wing of the Liberal Party (Joe and Jimmy and company). So much for a shiny new leader.

I confidently expect that this convention will be one of the most unsuccessful of recent leadership contents for the hosting party, and it will start downhill from the opening gavel when it's announced that registrations are about 1,000 to 1,500 below expectations. (Why? That's obvious, the $995 registration fee and the absence of big money to pick up the tab). When it's over I figure the Liberals will get about a two point drop out of it instead of the hoped for five point boost.

Turning to the subject of when there will be an election, my best guess is October of 2009, the date in Harper's fixed election date bill. No one is going to have the incentive, let alone the nerve, to push things over the brink before that.

And when it does finally come round I predict it will still be a muddy field with no big moves in any direction, unless the NDP gets some early defections of members and organization from disenchanted liberals.

Phugebrins said...

None of the parties have the resources to fight another election so soon. The BQ know this, and are exploiting it: 12 billion is a lot, but it's from the public coffers, so that's OK from a party's point of view. Both thay and the tories can come back smiling to their constituents with a deal at eight billion. The Tories will accept because they need to be *way* ahead in the polls - they can't risk coming back with another minority. The magic number in the UK (and we're less of a multi-party system) is 42%. Outside of Quebec, the Tories need 46% or more to be looking at a majority.

The Liberals and the Tories will then have about a year to gather up election funds in exchange for policies in the platform from their big donors (cf Jim Harris). THAT's where the new leader impetus is going to go.

KevinG said...

I find these things impossible to divine except by guessing.

With a minority government there is a constant assessment of wether electoral fortunes would improve enough with an election to warrant the risk. If the Liberals stumble badly or some other event tips things in favor of the conservatives ( so they think they can get a majority ) they'll bail and call an election. If the Liberals think they have a real chance they'll probably be able to orchestrate it.

The most likely case is that voters intentions stay roughly where they are. In that case, I think the Liberals will wait for another 6, 9 or 12 months.

Radical Centrist said...

Looks like the Cons are planning to call those by-elections any day now, according to today's Globe...

Lone Primate said...

Skinflint Stephen Harper is going to give the BQ twelve mil? I'll eat my hat.

Oh? How much of someone else's money would you pay to own a country for five years? :)