Here's why you'll be going to the polls on that tuesday
- It will have been almost 18 months to the day since the last federal election, about the average life of a minority government. With Mr. Harper slated to host the G8 and G20 meetings in June, he has a narrow window to get an election out of the way before the delegates arrive.
- Notwithstanding the continued strength of the Bloc in Québec, Mr. Harper is now within shooting distance of achieving a majority government, a goal sought by all (and all potential) prime ministers.
- Based on the latest Nanos poll, Michael Ignatieff - Mr. Harper's only potential replacement - has fallen below Jack Layton in the eyes of Canadians on the issue of leadership, and Mr. Harper runs little risk of not being in the chair for the G8 and G20 meetings after a spring election.
- If Mr. Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament was designed to thwart further investigation into the Afghan detainees issue (why else would he have done the dirty deed?), he will be looking to ensure from the get-go that the opposition parties don't pick up where they left off as soon as the new session begins. A quick election call would neatly do the trick, especially given Canadians' apparently lukewarm interest in the issue.
- The Throne Speech will be read by the Governor-General on Wednesday March 3rd and the budget will be tabled by finance minister Flaherty the next day; both will situate Canada on the path to gradual economic recovery and stress the need for a firm hand on the tiller, and on the till. With these documents on the public record, Mr. Harper could then cross the street to Rideau Hall to request a vote on Tuesday April 12th, explaining to voters that Canada needs a single set of safe hands on the wheel (namely, his!) to deal with the next phase of the economic recovery through gradual expenditure restraint and no tax increases.
Here's why Mr. harper won't wait until the fall to call an election
- Several polls have indicated that Canadians are increasingly uncomfortable with the shenanigans in Ottawa during minority government situations. However, whether the election is in the spring or the fall, the big unknown remains whether that sentiment can survive a five-week campaign during which voters are staring the prospect of a Harper majority government directly in the face.
- Waiting until the fall to call an election would allow economic concerns - Mr. Harper's trump card-to further fade as the top of mind issue for voters in an improving economy.
- The HST comes into effect in Ontario and British Columbia - key provinces in a possible Harper majority - on July 1st. Waiting until the fall to call an election would mean that the Conservatives would reap the anger at the new tax - and normally it's the first government to go to the polls that does - at a time when back to school purchases would still be very fresh in the minds of voters.
- Waiting until the fall would also give Michael Ignatieff more time to recover from his disastrous 2009. On the other hand, dropping a quick writ in the spring - a page straight out of the Jean Chrétien playbook - would throw a spanner in the Liberals' thinkers conference, planned for Montréal from March 26 to 28.