When we last chatted about the ongoing soap opera that is Ottawa (Belinda and Peter are “taking a break”; Bizarro World of Canadian Politics), the Conservatives had just failed in their attempt to bring down the Liberal government of Paul Martin by one vote, cast by the Speaker. The Tories were extremely frustrated, because they’d been riding high in the polls and thought they had a real chance to force an election, and a real chance of at least forming a minority government. The Grits were giddily high-fiving each other, having dodged one bullet, but still very much on the defensive. The Tories were rumbling about further confidence challenges.
However, proving the adage that “a week is a long time in politics”, the situation has completely changed. There was a series of confidence votes this week, true, but the Liberals passed their main budget bill - with the support of the Conservatives. Looks like only the Bloq voted against it: Canada Gov’t Easily Survives Latest Confidence Test.
So, what’s happened? what happened to those fire and brimstone Tories, determined to bring down the gov’t? Well, uh, more polls. Bad polls, if you’re a Tory, indicating that not only have they slipped badly behind the Grits nationally, they may even be behind the NDP in the crucial battleground of Ontario, as set out in this article: Liberals Have a 14 Point Lead:
But what caused the shift in the polls? Looks like two things: the Tories may have mis-judged the popularity of the supplementary budget bill, the one the NDP demanded from the PM as a price of their support. Maybe spending money on things like the environment, low-income housing and such-like things is actually popular in Ontario. Who knew?
Second, the Grewall tapes fiasco. Apparently the Conservatives were not aware of the hard lesson that Mr. Nixon learned: if you have tapes of crucial political conversations, don’t release them if there are gaps or signs of altering. People won’t trust you.
So now it looks like the only thing that the Tories will salvage from the session will be to delay the same-sex marriage bill to the fall, as a condition of allowing the supplementary budget bill to go through without a filibuster: Same-Sex Bill will be put off until the Fall, PM indicates.
Part of the Conservatives’ reaction to this debacle is quite sensible: they’re going to send Mr. Harper out on the BBQ circuits in Ontario and Quebec, to try to improve his personal popularity. Makes sense.
However, this being the Conservatives, it sounds as if that tried and true remedy for a sag in the polls, axeing the leader, is already being considered by some in the party, according to the same article:
Like most Canadians, I’d like to see two real national parties, instead of one national party and three essentially regional parties. But I’m starting to wonder - is there a chance that the NDP is poised to become that alternative national party, not the Conservatives? Or are we just in an unusually volatile mood at the moment, and the Conservatives will be back on top in the polls by the fall? Or do voters just like Jack Layton’s mustache? :eek:
Any thoughts, Canadopers?