Election battle will be bitterly fought

Why an election? Why now?

Well, apparently, why not. After four elections in seven years, that testy Ottawa Club at least wants to keep the routine alive. But if truth be told, Harper is just as keen as any of his opposition foes to go to the polls to try once more for that elusive majority he’s burning for. Right now he has the most to win while the Liberals and NDP have the most to lose.

Why an election? Why now?

Well, apparently, why not. After four elections in seven years, that testy Ottawa Club at least wants to keep the routine alive. But if truth be told, Harper is just as keen as any of his opposition foes to go to the polls to try once more for that elusive majority he’s burning for. Right now he has the most to win while the Liberals and NDP have the most to lose.

According to an on-line Angus Reid poll Saturday, the Conservatives had 39 per cent support, the Liberals were at 25 per cent, the NDP at 19 per cent and the Green party a distant seven per cent. A Harris Decima/Canadian Press release last week said that during the first two weeks in March the Conservatives had a six-point lead at 34 per cent to the Liberals’ 28 per cent.

The whole brouhaha arose as a result of a Commons committee that found the government in contempt of Parliament for failing to provide enough information on the true cost surrounding the purchase of 65 F-35 joint strike fighter jets, the justice system reforms and their projections for corporate profits and taxes. In a historic move, all opposition parties united Friday to vote that they no longer had confidence in the Conservative government.

Then there’s the stay-the-course budget (dubbed election-ready in anticipation of an opposition no-go) that doesn’t change the tax status quo, offers up a splattering of tax credits and other goodies to a wide range of interest groups and forecasts staying on track to eliminate the deficit by 2015-16. Useful voter-friendly fodder for campaign trail strategies to highlight what the opposition tossed.

Harper wanted this election. The economy, while still fragile, is ticking along better than other G8 countries, our banks are pretty healthy and our recovery coming out of the recession is ahead of the global curve. Harper, shrewd and strategic, likely knows this is as good as it gets and a delay could lead to slippage.

As for the opposition, the stakes are high. The Bloc is the Bloc and their raison d’etre is Quebec. The NDP need as many gains as they can grab and the Libs are acutely aware that Ignatieff  just doesn’t have the watch-me factor of other visionary times. The Greens are desperate for even just one seat in the House.

A lot of the problem lies in a minority government mentality. While people like the idea that leaders can’t run off and do what they want unchecked, politicians butt heads, knowing every move is political posturing.

As the leaders fan out to pitch strategies, Harper is hammering the coalition ‘threat’. But nearly 70 countries have functional coalition governments and Canada’s first government after Confederation was a coalition led by John A. Macdonald.

This election could be a game-changer. Will the same faces come back with the same fractious arguments in Parliament rendering it toxic and dysfunctional again? How come that’s become modus operandi? If, after May 2nd, we end up with another Conservative minority, will parties start looking at leadership change?

If Canadians are footing the $300 million bill for this five-week exercise, it’s time to get up close and personal with issues that have far greater priority than partisan bickering. While political hopefuls gather their knock-out punches and try to stay on message, Canadians have a priority list of stay-on messages of their own starting with a robust economy for working families. That means more jobs and new opportunities. In the line-up is health care, education, the environment, pensions, security, the justice system, defence, honesty and ethics.

Get set for an intense, likely acrimonious campaign.