Well ok, he hasn't actually walked up to the Governor General's residence and advised Madame Jean that it's time to go to the polls (not that he could anyways). But Smilin' Jack has decided that we're all mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more, well, ok we'll take it for a little longer, but not much longer there Paul. Well is January ok for everybody?
Jack Layton laid down the boom on the Martin Liberals today, outlining his ideas for going to the polls. A non confidence vote that isn't really a non confidence vote on the 26th of November, followed by a little break for Christmas and then its off to the election campaign through January and into mid February.
Which would leave the country governed for over a month by a party that a majority of the MP's have no confidence in. An unusual strategy which doesn't exactly make one (ahem) confident in governance these days. Of course Jack's announcement was just more theatre, in this long running slapstick known as the 38th Parliamentary session.
One day we're on the cusp of an election, the next day its business as usual. Now all three opposition leaders are apparently in synch about the need to go to the people, they just can't figure out when they want to do it.
The Tories and Bloc can actually bring down the government sooner should they desire, with opposition days on the horizon for next week. The opportunity to trigger an election is there for the taking. The only stumbling block apparently a hesitation to send Canadians into the electoral battle over the Christmas season.
It requires at least 37 days for an election campaign, so if the Tories or Bloc were inclined, we could be marking our X as early as Boxing Day (the symbolism of boxing up the old gift of a politician and returning one's MP is just too rich don't you think).
I don't think Canadians are so fragile, nor scatterbrained that they can't prepare for Christmas and make an informed choice at the same time. Rather it's probably more a fear of not being able to get their political machines geared up for a campaign over Christmas, that has all the political operatives in fear of a Christmas election.
If we go to the polls, it would be the first Christmas election since the days of Joe, when the Conservatives not only lost a confidence vote but lost their government as well.
The Layton idea would give the nation a thirty seven day decompression before the politicians knock on our doors. Even more interesting would be the timing of an election, just as the final Gomery report was issued in early February. A report that was supposed to trigger an election anyways, thirty days after it was issued.
Layton says that we need an election sooner rather than later, but yet delays the process. One can't have one's cake and eat it too. Don't expect the Prime Minister to allow an election to be determined scant short days after Gomery II is released. He may be more inclined to take his chances with the electorate prior to the Gomery release, using the interim report released last week as his template for action.
While Layton's plans for the 26th will call into question the governments future, it won't necessarily be a vote of confidence, something that has not escaped the notice of Stephen Harper, who casts a wary eye on anything coming from Jack. The Layton proposal has also been shot down by an eminent constitutional scholar, who opines that unless it's a confidence vote it will be business as usual in Parliament. Or as one unidentified Liberal put it "we'll tell the NDP to go screw themselves." Curt but to the point!
The wildcard in all of this debate is the upcoming first ministers meeting scheduled for November 24 and 25 in Kelowna. That meeting was to include the leaders of the First Nations who would address the many issues in their communities. If the government is brought down before that conference, the project would be cancelled and put on the back burner until after a new government is formed, if held at all. The optics of abandoning the First Nations issues so close to the meeting, will be something the four federal parties will be quite conscious of. Then again if there is going to be an election in January, how binding would any agreements be to a new Federal government anyways.
Steven Harper described the developments in Parliament today as "moving rapidly towards a three party consensus to wrap up this Parliament". Most Canadians might suggest the term three ring circus as more appropriate!