In Canadian politics, next fall shall usher in a Season of Elections. We will see not only the Federal election scheduled for October 19th but also four Provincial elections and a Territorial election between October and early November.
Way back in 2011, Premier of Saskatchewan Brad Wall asked Mr. Harper to change the federal fixed election date since, at the time, five provinces and one territory (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, PEI, Ontario, Newfoundland, and the North West Territories) had their next scheduled election date in October or November 2015. Wall claimed it would be far easier to reschedule one Federal election than six provincial/territorial elections. How dare a Provincial Premier ask the all mighty Harper to change his plans! Although Ontario’s Liberal minority won a majority in an early election they had called last spring, the remaining provinces and territories are still looking to play Which Crummy Politician to Elect This Time in roughly a year.
Although the relevant Provincial Election Acts say the dates could be moved to the spring of 2016, the decision is still up in the air. Also up in the air are rumours that Mr. Harper will call an early election for the third time in a row. Despite his fixed election date law, Mr. Harper disregarded it in 2008 and again in 2011. Clearly, there is a precedent. His excuse for calling an early election in 2008 was that fixed election dates only apply to a majority government.
With a resurgent Liberal party under the helm of Trudeau, plummeting numbers for the Conservatives at the polls, and a growing number of scandals and criminal charges against the Tories (Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau, Del Maestro, etc), many speculate that an early election may be the only way for Mr. Harper to eke out another mandate. Predictions over the past year suggested that the Tories held the majority of support amongst the 30 new ridings across the country—many of which have a large proportion of new immigrants who seemingly support Conservative values. If that had been true, it is no longer the case as an iPolitics poll indicates that support amongst new immigrants leans overwhelmingly towards the Liberal Party.
Bruce Carson, former Senior Advisor to the PM (and one of Harper’s many cronies soon to be on trial) told The Hill Times that Mr. Harper will have already made up his mind about calling the election early or not. Carson said, “right after the fall economic update, I can see the Prime Minister saying ‘We need to go to the people because we’ve got the Iraq war, we want a mandate on the Iraq war and we want a mandate to implement the tax changes we’ve put into the fall economic update.’”
Although the Prime Minsiter has more former Chiefs of Staff, Deputy Chiefs of Staff, and Advisors than Henry VIII had wives, several of them agree with Carson. Keith Beardsley, former Deputy Chief of Staff says, “there’s nothing you can do to control what’s going to happen. Governments usually go [for an election] when the timing is best suited for them.” Chretien did this twice and won a sweeping majority each time, but that was following the nearly decade-long Mulroney government.
Though the PMO insists that an early election will not be called, given the PM’s record, the Opposition parties are preparing for one at any time. Even repeating the words of Seargent Schultz, “I know nothing, nothing, nothing!” seems to fall under the blanket of preparation. Tories as well seem to be gearing up for a snap election call. Already, they have nominated over 100 candidates. The Liberals are at just about 100 and the NDP is hovering around 25. Considering the NDP has 97 MPs right now, only 5 of whom have announced they won’t seek re-election, it is curious that the other 67 experienced MPs haven’t yet been nominated, particularly since the Liberals have a third of the seats and three times as many candidates set up already.
As usual with this government, questions remain and hypocrisy looms. Will those five provinces and territories be expected to wait until September of next year before having to decide whether to put off calling their elections? Or will they be free to call them whenever they please?