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Conservative Leader Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on April 25, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on April 25, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

Lawrence Martin

Fortune's still knocking at Harper's door Add to ...

The breaks are unfolding nicely in this campaign, as they have in past ones, for Stephen Harper.

Somewhere out there is an Auditor-General's report about how the Conservatives used wads of taxpayer cash for political pork instead of the G8 summit in Huntsville, Ont. That report will not be released until after the election.

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Somewhere out there are sheaths of documents relating to the toxic Afghan detainees' affair that could prove damaging to the government. They were supposed to be released during this campaign, but now it appears they won't be.

Somewhere out there is a report from an independent firm on the federal government's former integrity commissioner, Christiane Ouimet, who swept aside countless whistleblowing cases and, for her efforts, was given a $500,000 golden handshake replete with a gag order. The report is being withheld because officials at the new integrity office say it would interfere in the campaign.

Mr. Harper is dodging all these bullets, while many other things are falling into place for the Conservatives, including the surge of the New Democrats. Their success is likely to take some seats away from Team Harper in British Columbia, but the impact on Liberal fortunes is just what the PM would have dreamed of. His primary political purpose in life, after all, is to crush the Liberal Party. He's been doing a pretty good job of it the past few years and, now, in the surprise of the campaign, he has Jack Layton to lend a hand.

At the campaign's outset, it was expected that the NDP vote might drop as Dippers scurried off to Liberal land to stop the Harper muggernaut. That, of course, was not the PM's favoured scenario. Instead, the opposite has occurred. Mr. Layton's success is very likely to keep the Liberals below the 80-seat mark. If the Grits have a bad final week, they may drop to the 60s, or even worse.

What this means is that, if Mr. Harper doesn't get his majority, he's got smooth sailing anyway. Even with only 135 or 140 seats, he'll have more than double the second-place party. His lead will be so big that the prospect of the second-place party forming a government will be untenable, and he'll be safe to run a minority for another two or three years.

This is an election that will go down in history as being dominated by a sideshow, that sideshow being a tedious debate over hypothetical scenarios relating to minority governments. The PM's own track record indicates he was well-disposed to coalitions. But he's caught yet another break in this campaign. Michael Ignatieff has made the issue work well for the PM - he inexcusably got tangled up in coalition knots from the day the election dawned.

If one moment encapsulated this campaign's fatuousness, it was last week's "dramatic newsbreak" that featured Mr. Ignatieff's explaining to Peter Mansbridge how our parliamentary system works. Pearl Harbor-sized headlines followed.

On the economy, things are also moving nicely for Mr. Harper. In selling himself as a good economic manager, he repeats a dozen times daily that Canada is doing better than other countries in recovering from the recession. True enough. The missing point is that Canada's economic fundamentals were in such good shape when he took office that almost any bunch of oafs could have steered us through the recession.

The campaign is looking like the previous two. Mr. Harper faces stumbling opponents. He gets good turns of fortune. In the 2006 campaign, it was the RCMP income trust probe that turned the tide for him. In the 2008 campaign, it was Stéphane Dion's late-campaign interview mishap. This time, it's been Mr. Ignatieff's weak debate performance, his coalition follies, and the NDP's inroads into Grit fortunes.

The beat goes on. People expect that, at some point, Stephen Harper will run out of luck. They might have to wait a while yet.

 

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