Wednesday, April 13, 2005

An Election this Spring

It looks very likely that Canadians will be going back to the polls this spring. I'm going to divide my opinions of how important elements of the campaign will shape up into a few posts.

Timing

Commentators, amateur and professional, are making a great deal of the fact that this will be our second federal election in roughly twelve months. The most-talked about issue during both of these campaigns will probably be Adscam. Both times voters will be asked to render a judgment on who is best suited to govern before hearing a "final" report on the matter. I admit that at first this definitely doesn't seem like a situation the CPC should be seen as contributing to by calling a second election. On the other hand...

1. I strongly believe that the average voter's impression of what Adscam was, in a nutshell, has fundamentally changed since June 2004. Then it was seen as just another example of government being careless with expenses and allowing itself to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous ad agencies. Now, I believe, Canadians have in large part bought into the view that this was instead a carefully orchestrated scheme to funnel government money to Liberal Party of Canada causes.

2. On the issue of timing the media will be caught between a rock and a hard place. There will only be a few short days during which they can harp on the matter of who's responsible for an early election before their unabashed glee at having something interesting for their political flacks to cover takes over. So long as Harper doesn't take the bait, Liberal arguments that the spring is too early for an election will fizzle because: the Liberals pre-emptively called the last election; and Gomery testimony is getting enough attention that voters will soon get to the point where they draw their own conclusions and will feel resentful about being asked to wait six months to have some judge tell them what they already know.

3. Frankly, Harper has to call the election for the spring. The CPC leader finds himself in a position similar to Martin's on SSM and ballistic missile defense. As far as I can tell the vast majority of Tory activists and party members are champing at the bit for an election as soon as possible and while his better judgment might tell him that it would be wiser to wait until after the summer their emotion will win out. A failure to meet the highest expectations will draw less second guessing of his leadership if it happens for a spring election vs. the fall.

4. For both the Bloc and the CPC calling a spring election has come down to sort of a "might as well" situation. As far as I can tell the Gomery reports will be coming in November and December. If an election is held until after their release than the Liberals will have a chance to implement the recommendations and possibly issue another budget. So this negates the desirability of a winter 2006 election, which leaves fall 2005 or spring 2005--both of which are on equal footing as being before the release of the reports. I've made the argument recently that the Tories could do with the extra couple of months to prepare for a successful campaign over the summer but I'm starting to think that the degree to which voter outrage over Adscam will cool probably outweighs the benefits.

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