26 August 2008

Election Fever and Bully Tactics

Don't know how many of this blog's readers have been following the innuendo and bully-talk from Harper re an upcoming election call - this after having called FOUR by-elections whose campaigns are already underway.

The polling date for three of those by-elections is September 8th. The fourth is/was to be decided September 22nd, so the 28-day period of campaigning for that has just begun.

If the Writ is dropped early in September (speculation is between the 2nd and 10th), then taxpayer money spent by Elections Canada specifically for those by-elections will have been wasted and the various campaigns will have to find more $ to extend their campaigning over a longer period of time. (How do campaign financing laws come into play in such situations, I wonder?)

Since the Cons have been using, illegally, government money to jump-start their own campaign, they are likely in better position financially than the other parties. Among the Cons' alleged illegal activities have been the in-and-out financing scheme they used during the 2006 election and the junk flyers which have been arriving in your mail boxes over the past several weeks.

Again, regarding those four by-elections, can you imagine the uncertainty the threat of an imminent general election is having on the parties' volunteers? Not to mention, the uncertainty generated among voters? I mean, they're scheduled to vote September 8th and 22nd, which is now almost certain to change.

In the political blogosphere, the drama of 'will there be an election or won't there? And when?' has been playing out for weeks as the Harpercrits have refused to appear before Parliamentary committees (still occurring over the summer and including the committee investigating the in-and-out scheme) - even when issued summonses - and they've been seen to be running scared: too much would be revealed through the investigation of the various committees.

So Harper, having made into law fixed election dates per his promise to Conservative supporters (the first such election to take place October 2009), is about to call an election in advance anyway, one year early.

It's been a game of chicken for a long time, but it's typically been the case in minority situations that an Opposition non-confidence motion brings down the Government and thus forces an election. However, Stevie baby, being the bully and micro-manager that he is, can't stand another person playing with his toys. In this case, the toy is the Government of Canada.

Further evidence of an election in the air is yesterday's announcement by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson of his proposed Bill to stiffen penalties for violence against pregnant women. This Bill is purportedly designed to supplant the contentious private members' Bill C-484 ("Unborn Victims of Crime Act") introduced by Conservative MP Ken Epp.

Not surprisingly, Bill C-484 has drawn an outpouring of negative grassroots action and consequent publicity, including a strong 88% vote against it from the Canadian Medical Association.

A reading of Bill C-484 makes evident the intent of its proponents to recriminalize abortion. If this hadn't been clear before, then Epps' rejection of Nicholson's proposed law and his avowal to keep Bill C-484 alive are additional proof of his - and his Conservative supporters' - no longer hidden agenda.

So are we fooled by this Harper-via-Nicholson move, to "protect pregnant women" and scuttle Epp & Company's ambitions? Not unless we forget that the tabling of Nicholson's proposed Bill requires Parliament to be sitting and all signs point to Harper calling an election BEFORE Parliament resumes in the Fall.

One journalist covering this escalation of election fever is Paul Wells, the editor of Macleans. Another blog to watch is Kady O'Malley's Inside the Queensway. Kady - coincidentally, also with Macleans - has become my favourite Canadian journalist. Among her adventures has been liveblogging the meetings of the House of Commons committee investigating the Cons' 2006 election in-and-out scheme. Had it not been for Kady, I suspect that certain antics of the Cons to disrupt the committee and evidence coming out of the meetings would have gone largely unreported by the rest of the media.

NB: I may vote Liberal this time (the first time in decades) and have already offered my help with the local campaign but also for the Greens. Normally, I vote Green, but there's no way Canada can afford to have Harper continue holding the reins of power. So if it looks like the Liberal here stands a chance - very unlikely in this riding which swings between the NDP and the Cons (yea, weird) -, then I'll vote Liberal. If he doesn't, then my vote will remain Green.

ETA: Here's a great post, over at DTK, on the C-484 issue and the schism it reveals in the Conservative party.

ETA #2: Andrew Coyne, with whom I seldom agree, wrote a great piece for the August 20th Macleans issue. It succinctly and humorously lays out Harper's election kerfuffle.

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