The rumour mill has been working overtime predicting that Harper might call an early election. These rumours went into overdrive this week when an April date was set for the Duffy trial. The speculation of many of my esteemed peers in the blogosphere, goes like this - Harper seems to have run out of his political cache (as so many leaders do as the years go by), Trudeau continues to be very popular in spite of (or, indeed, maybe because of) continual Conservative attacks on him, Harper has lost a number of important Supreme Court rulings and has set himself to lose more (with the prostitution bill and the Union disclosure bill), and as all his scandals gradually chip away at the Conservative credibility in general, and Harper's credibility in particular, the Duffy trial could could be the last nail in Harper's political coffin, particularly coming, as it will right before the election.
All of these facts are clear. However, I don't believe that they point to an early election, for a number of reasons. The first reason is simple: Harper is a deeply deluded and power-hungry individual and he is probably oblivious of his growing unpopularity. Harper, like many politicians with a dissociative disorder, is detached from much of what is actually going on in his own country. Furthermore, like other such leaders, Harper has surrounded himself with grovelling yes-men who don't dare point out the stark political realities to him. Harper's growing isolation, coupled with the fact that he won't want to face potentially negative news, means that he probably isn't even aware of the possible need for an early election. Reason two is this - if Harper is aware of the dire situation then he must know that calling an election a short time before a potentially devastating court battle would be perceived by everyone, even his base, as blatantly self-serving and could have a fatal effect on the electorate who already perceive him as too sneaky and partisan. (He did call an early election last time, but remember he was in a minority situation and there was no impending scandal.) The third issue that few seem to be considering is the fact that Harper doesn't actually need to have an election until may of 2016. Therefore, a more likely scenario in my mind than an early election is a late election. If Harper can avoid testifying in the Duffy case (or at least have his testimony covered by a publication ban), he can ride things out for another year, thus distancing the election from the events of the trial.
The biggest reason that I don't believe that Harper will call an early election is that his real strategy is now becoming clear. Like Thatcher in the early 80s or Bush in the early 90s, it seems that Harper is hoping to use a war-footing to get reelected. Perhaps aware that the Conservative record in almost every field is in tatters (poor economic record, poor environmental record, poor labour record, poor job record, poor legal record, etc), Harper is hoping to pull Canada into war in the Middle East and near war in the Ukraine because he knows that most populations, even Canada's, have a tough time not wrapping themselves in the flag. He also knows that the opposition parties don't have enough backbone to oppose his war agenda, and he can therefore make the opposition look compliant at best, weak at worst. (This worked very effectively for years with the Liberal Party that essentially rubber-stamped everything that Harper did, making their vocal opposition to him seem slightly ridiculous). I simply believe that Harper is hoping to have enough time to implement his war-footing strategy and believes that it will override his perceived unpopularity and continual scandals. Think about it, everyday on the news all we hear about now is Harper's international dealing concerning the Ukraine and the Middle East. And let's not forget that elections have been postponed beyond the five year rule in times of war before.
Stephen Harper's reign has been a kind of national nightmare for Canada. He has gradually eroded much of the good that this country represented and as taken us into what some people are calling a "post-democratic" era. He has made it clear that he doesn't like the constitution and walked all over it in his pursuit of power and his rightwing agenda. He has hired an army of communications staffers whose sole job is to spin all events in a pro-Conservative light, and has more or less turned the government of Canada into an arm of the Conservative Party, the guiding principle of which is to make money for the oil companies. He routinely has government spooks spying on anyone who opposes his agenda, and is using various arms of the government to shut down groups or silence individuals who might speak against him and his interests. Harper has so entrenched his party in power and held that power with such unscrupulous negativity, that it is not even clear that the Conservative would ever leave power voluntarily, even if they loose the next election.
Harper will do anything, absolutely anything, to stay in power and the best way to achieve that goal appears to be not to call an early election but to postpone it as long as possible to give his war strategy time to work or even to use a war to postpone an election beyond the normal constitutional limit.
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