Angelo Persichilli has a humdinger of a column in the Sunday Star that will change the way you view a potential 2011 election. Really - it's Zapruder film-esque in dismissing some popular myths. Let me go frame-by-frame:
"The minority Conservative government may be defeated on the budget vote in a few weeks. But if Canadians go to the polls this spring, it will have little to do with the budget, the economy, unemployment, the turmoil in Libya or Bev Oda smoking behind the Parliament building. There are other factors no one talks about but that everybody on Parliament Hill knows will play a significant role in deciding when Canadians head to the polls."
Got it. There are good reasons why there may be an election, everybody on the Hill - from the Prime Minister to the guy doing his best Charlie Sheen imitation at D'Arcys - knows what those reasons are and yet not a single person dares to mention them aloud. Until today's Persichilli column that is. Explosive stuff is about to be dropped.
"One of these factors is the role Bob Rae will play in the Liberal party. I'm not saying Rae wants his party to defeat the government and force an election to accelerate the departure of his friend Michael Ignatieff. I don't know what he wants, and that's not even the point."
Bob Rae is at the core of the decision on election timing. If there is an election, it's because of Rae. No election? Rae. But of course this is in no way the point of this column so I won't mention Rae's name again - silly me for bringing it up in the first place. But we all know Rae is at the core of everything that's about to unfold.
"I wrote some time ago that the Liberal party would be the only one to gain from an early election. I still believe that to be true. If it loses, it can get rid of Ignatieff. If the Conservatives don't win a majority, the Liberals have a shot at forming the next minority government with the help of the NDP, which has no choice but to support the Liberals."
There is no conceivable way the Liberals could lose from an election right now. Who says so? One A. Persichilli, that's who. God, why doesn't Bob Rae get this, if he does in fact oppose an election, which we don't know. If only the man had the power of speech, we could ask him.
"It would be odd to see Jack Layton supporting a Conservative minority government after forcing a $400 million election. It would also be political suicide not to support the Liberals either, thus forcing another election after two months."
See, Persichilli is thinking two steps ahead of the rest of us. After an election, the only two scenarios he can think of are Layton supporting a Conservative minority or propping up the Liberals. Given the $400-million dollars an election costs - duh - it would be Kevorkian to support the Conservatives. See, this is what everyone on the Hill knows but won't discuss. Not sure why that is?
"However, even the Conservatives and the NDP might have some interest in going to the polls sooner rather than later and that's when the Rae factor kicks in. If we don't go to the polls now, the Liberals might find a way to get rid of Ignatieff and anoint Rae. I know many NDP MPs would not be happy to face Rae in a general election and I'm sure even Stephen Harper would feel more comfortable debating Ignatieff than Rae."
Ah, so Rae really is core to all the election timing. The Liberals want to go now because of the win-win certainty outlined in paragraph two but the NDP and the Conservatives are desperate to go now because otherwise they "might" be facing Bob Rae instead of Ignatieff in the next election. Thats a horrific notion to the NDP and the PM so call an election now to avoid it from happening. Gotcha.
"Of course, the Liberals have no institutional mechanism to force Ignatieff out (otherwise they would have already done it). But if they don't go to the polls now, they'll have to wait until next year to avoid a scheduling conflict with provincial elections this year."
So the entire preceding paragraph is based on make-believe. It can't and won't happen - which raises questions about the majority of the NDP caucus who, per this same paragraph, fear it deeply.
"In fact, last week a respected Liberal strategist told me that 'even if we don't like it, we have to start looking at Bob Rae as the only person who can successfully lead the Liberal party in the near future.'
This feeling is shared by many other Liberals who have lost hope in the once-heralded prophet from the south."
Ah, a respected Liberal strategist thinks this. Once you have an unnamed but respected Liberal strategist, a boogeyman fearing NDP caucus and the PM you pretty much have everyone on the Hill. Of course, it's a technical impossibility but if the Hill consensus is formed, let us treat it as fact. Or at least column worthy.
As an aside, once, just once, even if just for kicks, can a journalist call an unnamed Liberal strategist "a douchebag Liberal strategist" or a "Liberal strategist who was clearly drunk while talking to me" or at the very least, give a descriptor like "an old white guy Liberal strategist in his 60s whose best before date was 24 years ago" Please, someone?
"But the decision to have an election is not only split along ideological lines. There are other interests, partisan and personal, that cross the political spectrum and might encourage many MPs to wait a bit longer."
Yes, because the argument presented so far is based on deep seeded ideology, please allow me to digress onto matters less philosophically driven. Seriously, it was when Persichilli started dropping Descartes that he lost me.
I know, I'm just bringing the snark and nothing else. If anyone can make sense of what he is talking about in this column - logically or otherwise - I'm all ears.
On substance, the notion that it's all Ignatieff, just as it was all Dion, just as it was all Martin but if only we could get the next guy in - Rae or otherwise - is ludicrous. But everyone on the Hill including "respected Liberal strategists" must know that.