Thursday, September 22, 2005

Stephen Harper: It's Up to the Oddfather

Interesting statement from Stephen Harper this afternoon, as reported in the Globe:

Mr. Harper said [the next election's] timing is up to the leader of the New Democratic Party, which has been backing the Liberal minority government.

“The Liberals, I predict, will want to keep pushing an election off farther and farther into the future, don't ask me when the next election will be — I wish we'd already had it, I'll have it tomorrow, I'll have it next month, I'll have it a year from now.

“Whether we have an election this fall is a question for Jack Layton, not for me.

“We'll have an election the day the NDP decides it doesn't want to support Liberal corruption in the House of Commons any longer.”

This is, in essence, acknowledging a bit of realpolitik. The Conservatives are likely to lose at least one more MP during the next session (Chuck Strahl's cancer is getting worse), which means they cannot count on having the votes to bring down the government even with the erstwhile support of the Bloc Québécois.

As of July 11th, the combined vote of the Tories and BQ equals 152. It's the same number as the combined vote of the Liberals and NDP.

We can subtract one from the Tories/BQ with Strahl's illness, and we might subtract one from the Grits/NDP depending on the health of Natural Resources Minister John Efford.

Of the three independents, Carolyn Parrish will support the Grits/NDP, while David Kilgour will support the Tories/BQ. While Pat O'Brien might support the Tories/BQ on social issue votes, he's very much a wild card when it comes to fiscal issues.

For a government to fall by one vote isn't enough to give momentum to a change of government, because voters will regard the fall as happening by chance, and such a circumstance would favor the incumbent. The only sure way for the Tories to develop momentum from the fall of a minority is if the Don decides to pull support away from the Grits. Something like a clawback of those benefits the NDP tacked onto the last budget bill, for example, could trigger the Grits' demise.

But somehow, the imagined sight of Harper sitting at Don Laytone's desk, asking him to be his friend, is a little disturbing ...