1. Timing is everything. Political Ottawa’s rumour mill was in overdrive this weekend after the announcement that three senior B.C. Conservatives – Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, Transport Minister Chuck Strahl and veteran MP John Cummins – would not seek re-election. This was seen as an admission by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that an election is inevitable – that he believes the opposition will try to defeat him on or before his March 22 budget.
Given this, there is a view the Prime Minister could try to pull the plug himself this week, dissolving Parliament in order to avoid a messy and potentially damaging three days of committee hearings. After all, repeated accusations of being anti-democratic are not a good way to start a campaign in search of majority government.
Although the Commons is not sitting this week, the procedure and House affairs committee begins hearings Wednesday into the opposition motions stemming from the Speaker’s rulings that, “on its face,” the Harper government and International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda have breached parliamentary privilege. Without the noise and distractions of Question Period and the usual parliamentary antics, all eyes would be on a potential contempt finding.
The Liberals were not entirely discounting such a scenario. “It would be a high risk maneuver from a Prime Minister who’s demonstrated no respect for Parliament in the past,” finance critic Scott Brison told CTV’s Question Period Sunday. “I mean this is a Prime Minister who has shut down Parliament twice with prorogation. And when Parliament says to this Prime Minister something he doesn’t want to hear, he shuts it down.”
Tom Lukiwski, the parliamentary secretary to the Government House Leader, however, repeated that his government doesn’t want an election. “We’re not concentrating on anything but our job as parliamentarians to manage the economy, to create jobs, and we’re going to be bringing down a budget next Tuesday. I’m not going to speculate on whether or not there’s an election around the corner.”
He added: “The Prime Minister has been clear, unequivocal, that he does not want an election. We do not believe that Canadians want an election.”
2. Compliance. In that same interview, Tom Lukiwski vowed that the Conservatives would co-operate with the Commons committee by turning over documents on the cost of the Tory crime agenda.
The Conservatives previously released some documents on the issue but not enough to satisfy the Speaker, whose ruling last sent the potential contempt issue back to committee.
“We will be complying as best we can by turning over all the information that we can obtain and presenting that to the committee,” the parliamentary secretary to the Government House Leader said. “Committee starts hearing on Wednesday. And hopefully by the time Wednesday and Thursday is concluded the committee will be satisfied the information is before them.”
3. Name recognition. A weekend profile in The New York Times about Michael Ignatieff included a phonetic pronunciation of his last name. Even though the Liberal Leader has been on the political scene for years now, it's still pronounced incorrectly – which goes to show he still needs to get himself known among the voting public.
Mr. Ignatieff tells The Times he doesn’t care about the nasty “just visiting” and “he didn’t come back for you” Tory attack ads. “I don’t care what they say about me, that’s not the issue,” he says. “There came a moment at Harvard when I thought that I had to decide: do I want to be a spectator, or teacher, in someone else’s country? I was frustrated by the fact that you could keep writing these articles and nothing would happen. It was time to come home and take responsibility. I didn’t’ want to get on my high horse about it but there something there, existentially..”
In the article, Mr. Ignatieff – who is often criticized by his opponents for his perceived pointy-headed arrogance – notes that becoming Opposition Leader was one of the hardest tasks he has taken on. His job, as the country heads into a likely election, is to become better known, to become more accessible to the average Canadian.
And so there he was on the Rideau Canal skating, which he is good at, for a photo opportunity. The Times article concludes by noting that a small crowd finally started to gather around him – when Justin Trudeau showed up.Report Typo/Error