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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper shake hands as they make their way to the House of Commons to deliver the federal budget on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday March 22, 2011. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press/Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper shake hands as they make their way to the House of Commons to deliver the federal budget on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday March 22, 2011. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press/Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Harper's post-budget statement cranks up election speculation Add to ...

Stephen Harper will make a statement later this morning, his director of communications tweeted Wednesday - which has the election rumour mill in full operation.

Will the Prime Minister announce he is dissolving Parliament because the opposition parties have all announced they cannot support the budget?

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Or does he spend another couple of days - in advance of an expected Liberal no-confidence motion on Friday - to play up the positive aspects of his budget?

One veteran Tory says he suspects the Prime Minister will do the latter and "talk about opportunism on the other side." In addition, there are a number of cabinet ministers and MPs out selling the budget Wednesday.

But another Tory MP told The Globe he hopes the Prime Minister does the former - tell everyone he's on his way to Rideau Hall.

Stay tuned.

Flaherty's ready to go

Jim Flaherty says he's disappointed by how "cavalierly" the opposition dealt with his budget - his sixth. On Parliament Hill Wednesday morning, he told The Globe he's ready to go into an election, even "looking forward to it."

But he at least thought the Liberals, NDP and Bloc would read the document.

NDP Leader Jack Layton, however, says he had never really believed that Stephen Harper would come through with any measures that could compel him to support the budget.

"He prefers to point fingers than shake hands," Mr. Layton said of the Prime Minister.

No harmony on this issue

The Harper spin machine went into overdrive after the delivery of Jim Flaherty's short-lived budget - especially after all three opposition leaders announced they couldn't support the document.

PMO and party strategists were circulating memos to supporters, suggesting the opposition rethink its position on the budget: "Notwithstanding their rhetoric today, the Opposition still have the opportunity to put Canadians' interests ahead of their own political ambitions and opportunism," one strategy memo said.

The memo even revisited the spectre of a coalition of Michael Ignatieff, Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton who are "prepared to defeat this budget." The Tories have successfully made "coalition" a dirty word.

"This budget provides the Opposition parties with a clear choice: whether to place their own political ambitions ahead of Canadians' financial security and recklessly force an unnecessary election - Canada's fourth in seven years - because they are only thinking about themselves."

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and his team, however, are steering far away from coalition talk. Mr. Ignatieff has been clear that he is running to form a Liberal government.

All in the family

Chuck Strahl has been a fixture on Parliament Hill since he rolled in on the Reform wave in 1993. But the 54-year-old Transport Minister, who was diagnosed with lung cancer several years ago, announced recently he would not seek re-election.

He's a popular MP, so his decision, though understandable, was also met with sadness. But another Strahl is stepping up.

Mark Strahl, the 32-year-old son of Chuck, has secured the nomination in his father's riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon on the weekend.

The younger Strahl - and the only son (he has three sisters) - is close to his father. He, too, is a political junkie. His father, who has missed some significant birthdays and other events in Mark's life as a result of politics, stayed to cast his ballot at the nomination meeting. Then he jumped on the "red eye" and returned to Ottawa.

The father-son scenario is not unique: Defence Minister Peter MacKay represents the Nova Scotia riding his father, Elmer, represented in the Mulroney years; Liberal defence critic Dominic Leblanc holds the former riding of his late father, Roméo.

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