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A consulate for Calgary Add to ...

Calgary's French connection

Stephen Harper is wrapping up his whirlwind visit to Britain and France today - with little to show for his travels.

There is one exception, however.

While it appears he didn't make any inroads on his lobby against a global bank tax - both Britain and France are in favour of it along with the Americans - he did get a goodie for his home city.

At a press conference this afternoon at the lovely and palatial Hotel de Matignon, French Prime Minister François Fillon announced that a French consulate is coming to Calgary. This is to underscore the good relationship between Canada and France.

"I told Stephen (we are)... going to open a consulate in a city close to his home, Calgary."

Seat projections

A new poll by EKOS Research - a "classic feel bad" poll for the two main political parties, according to EKOS's Frank Graves - has the Tories losing 21 seats if an election were held today.

Mr. Graves' seat projections are based on his recent poll that has the Harper Conservatives falling to 31.7 per cent nationally after enjoying a 10 point lead for several weeks over the Liberals; the Ignatieff Liberals are still stuck - no matter what they do or say - at 26.2 per cent.

Currently, the Tories have 144 of 308 seats in the House of Commons; the Liberals have 77. Under Mr. Graves' projections, however, the Liberals would gain nine more seats for 86 - so not bad for them but still not the 98 to 100 seats that some Liberals are saying Michael Ignatieff needs to win in the next election to hold on to his leadership.

The EKOS projections shows the NDP going from 36 to 42; the Bloc would increase their hold on Quebec, winning 56 seats compared to the 48 they have now. There are 75 seats in Quebec.

Under Mr. Graves' scenario the Green Party would win no seats.

The Tories appear to be suffering the most in Quebec; Mr. Graves has them winning only five seats compared to the 11 they hold now.

In vote-rich Ontario, the two leading parties are virtually tied with the Tories winning 45 seats compared to 44 for the Liberals. Right now the Conservatives have 50 seats and the Liberals have 38.

This most recent EKOS poll shows no one even approaching majority territory; the Tories are still hovering around the 32 to 33 mark, which is far short of a majority.

This party gridlock has led to much speculation about a merger or coalition of the left.

And speaking of mergers … a shocking admission

Stephen Harper's Conservatives are trying to expose Liberal Party president Alfred Apps as plotting, possessing a secret agenda to form a coalition with the Bloc and NDP.

In a new Conservative Party memo circulated to MPs and supporters, Tory strategists say that Mr. Apps - "the ultimate Ignatieff insider" - has made a "shocking admission to the Toronto Star."

They say that Mr. Apps has indicated that the "Liberals will hide their Coalition plans from Canadians until after the votes are counted at the next election - a repeat of the party's 2008 Coalition game plan."

Mr. Apps told the Star that "it's absolutely wrong" to talk about coalitions now.

"Canadians will decide at the ballot box," he is quoted as saying. "And, once they've made their choice, then we can deal with the issue of coalition."

But Mr. Apps dismisses this as nefarious spin by the Tories. Rather, he told The Globe his thesis is simply "common sense."

"Unless the NDP are proposing a merger (which would require an official renunciation of socialism by them and a convention of both parties to approve) or an effort to topple the Tories now without an election (which would still require BQ support), the only time to consider a coalition is once an election has produced something other than a majority government."

Only then, he says, would the parties look at the numbers and "figure out what works."

Talk of coalitions is front and centre recently. In London yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with new British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is leading a coalition government.

But Mr. Harper criticized the attempt in 2008 by the opposition to form a coalition government. He said the British experience has made it clear that "losers" don't form coalitions. The parties who win the most seats do.

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