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The Globe and Mail

Will Harper prorogue when he runs out of 'marquee promises'?

Editorial cartoon by Anthony Jenkins

Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

What's next for the Conservative government is the big question on Parliament Hill now as it uses its big majority to push through long-promised legislation at lightning speed.

There is speculation Stephen Harper will prorogue Parliament and deliver a new Throne Speech to re-calibrate his government's agenda – but so far it's just speculation.

Whether he pulls the plug or not, the Prime Minister is quickly checking off items on his list of election promises. Once he's done, his Conservatives could go one of two ways: "continue to throw red meat to their core" or "tilt a little more to the centre to hamper the chances of a Liberal Party revival," according to pollster Nik Nanos.

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"It will be fascinating to watch the post-policy housekeeping phase," the Nanos Research president told The Globe. "It is pretty clear that the first part of the Tory mandate looks like policy housekeeping."

Mr. Nanos noted that the Conservatives are fulfilling "marquee promises" now that they have their majority mandate. This week they introduced legislation to scrap the long-gun registry; last week they announced they were going ahead with dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board and they're also pushing through a raft of tough-on-crime bills at once.

Mr. Nanos says the "red-meat strategy" is a really a "consolidation strategy" and is "more conservative in terms of risk and would not surprise Canadians."

"The second strategy would possibly be a tectonic change in the political landscape by trying to make the Conservatives a natural governing party similar to the Liberals in the last century," he argues.

A tectonic shift of that nature would require a clean slate, hence speculation the Conservatives could prorogue Parliament this winter before resetting their agenda with a Throne Speech and spring budget. The Hill Times mused about such a scenario this week, citing an anonymous source.

"It's moving smartly, and so by the close of the session they should be significantly through many of this sort of cleaning up the backwash from seven years of minority issues, and so then they have an opportunity to, if the government chooses, they have an opportunity to hit the reset button and some time in 2012 come with a new Throne Speech that sets a longer-term agenda," an unnamed Conservative source told the weekly paper.

Contacted by The Globe, a senior Tory MP – who also asked not to be named – poured cold water on the notion, saying he has not heard this in his circles. He added that he does not see the need to prorogue since the government is still dealing with its strategic review and creating jobs in a sputtering global economy.

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Support for occupiers – skepticism they'll accomplish anything

The Occupy protests were viewed favourably by 41 per cent of Canadians, according to a new poll.

Despite the positive impression, however, Canadians are not optimistic the widespread demonstrations will in any way change government behaviour.

Released Wednesday evening, the Abacus Data survey found that 18 per cent of respondents believe the protests will influence Canadian politics compared to 59 per cent who believe they will have no impact.

The poll also found that 81 per cent of respondents believe corporations and those who are wealthy have "too much influence over politics" in Canada.

"If governments are overly influenced by the interests of corporations and the rich, why would government respond to these protests," the accompanying analysis says.

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The survey of 1,005 Canadians, selected from an online panel of over 150,000 Canadians, was conducted between October 19 and October 21.

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