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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable (Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)
Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable (Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

Points of Order

The case against <br/>a spring election Add to ...

We've been giving you all the reasons why there could be a spring election call next week. We'd be remiss if we didn't also give you all the reasons why there might not be.

Maclean's magazine offers a witty video of pundits Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells drinking coffee and explaining why, as Mr. Wells puts it, they're "the last journalists in Canada who think we're not going to have an election."

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The reason to avoid an election is simple: mutual self-interest. For the Conservatives, the polls do not point toward a majority government, so what's the use of having Prime Minister Stephen Harper run around the country for five weeks to no good effect?

Those same polls, though, have Michael Ignatieff's Liberals more than 10 points behind the Conservatives. The polling trend line has been discouraging for the Liberals for many months, suggesting voter attitudes are entrenched. Why would Mr. Ignatieff not swallow his pride and keep the government alive? Things might be better in 2012. They could hardly be worse.

The NDP also needs to reconsider whether it should bring down the government. The issue, simply put, is Jack Layton's health. He only recently underwent surgery for a broken hip, and has been battling prostate cancer. He is much more likely to be in peak fighting form after he's had a few more months to recuperate.

There is a political maxim - or if there isn't, there should be - that if it is not in the interest of any party to have an election, there's no election. So there should be no election.

Nonetheless, most of us watching this incline toward the likelihood that the government will fall. Here's why:

If the NDP supports a third Conservative budget and backs the Tories in a confidence vote, it might enrage its own base. The NDP is currently not doing so badly in the polls. For Mr. Layton, the situation actually could get worse.

The ruling from Speaker Peter Millikan that the Conservatives are in apparent contempt of Parliament, if affirmed by the House, will give the Liberals an ideal cudgel to wield.. The best hope the Liberals have to improve their numbers is by convincing Canadians that the Harper government presents a clear and present danger to democracy. The contempt ruling was made for that argument. But it will grow stale with time.

As for the Conservatives, while they have no reason to force an election, neither do they have reason to fear one. They are well financed, well organized and their base of support is solid. And who knows? Maybe there is a majority government out there for the taking.

So this space will stick with its prediction: a spring election is highly probable. But if it doesn't happen, Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells will have earned the mother of all I-told-you-sos.

Follow on Twitter: @JohnIbbitson

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