The first sign of a potential election came earlier this week with the announcement by the Conservative government of a large surplus in federal finances, which may see small returns of money to Canada's overburdened taxpayers.
Another potential sign, some divisiveness on the Liberal caucus, as the associates of Stephane Dion fend off attacks from the dis-satisfied backroom and backbench supporters of former candidates. For the Conservatives a sudden and ugly internal war among the Liberals may provide enough of a distraction that the Conservatives could make use of to try and reach the lofty goal of a majority government.
However, the latest poll results show that voters may still entrust their vote with Mr. Dion's vision should an election be called soon. Something that the Prime Minister will no doubt study quite intensely as he waits to see what kind of reaction his speech receives.
The first test for Stephen Harper's government comes up shortly as the politicians prepare to head back to the rigorous days of Parliament starting with the speech from the throne, the normally lengthy blueprint of what the Conservatives will wish to achieve during the next session of Parliament.
That session is on the mind of Skeena Bulkley Valley MP, Nathan Cullen who outlined some of his thoughts on the upcoming session and what it may portend for a return to the ballot box.
MP weighs election prospect
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, September 28, 2007
Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen believes the chances of a federal election being called next month are about 50/50.
It all hinges on whether opposition parties support or reject Prime Minister Stephen Harper's throne speech on Oct. 16.
"My instinct is there's a 50/50 chance," said Cullen. "The Liberals and Bloc Quebecois are in a lot of political trouble right now, so they will be unwilling to call an election and Mr. Harper's government is also polling deep into minority government territory."
Both the Conservative stance on Canada's participation in Afghanistan and its environmental policies continue to be points of contention with Canadians, keeping Harper away from a majority, he said.
"Although in New York this week, Mr. Harper said he expects a minority government, so maybe he has lowered his expectations," said Cullen.
However, Cullen said his focus remains working on projects in the riding not preparing for an election.
Most of the parties in the riding do have candidates. Cullen will stand again for the NDP, hoping for a third term. Mayor Sharon Smith of Houston has been nominated for the Conservatives, while Prince Rupert resident Corinna Morhart has been nominated for the Liberals. Rod Taylor will again stand for the Christian Heritage Party. The Green Party is yet to officially announce its candidate.
If an election goes ahead, this would be the second winter election in a row.
In the last election, candidates in Cullen's northern riding faced wind and snow storms, flight delays and a narrow brush with injury as Conservative candidate Mike Scott totaled a truck after running into a moose on a dark, windy night.
"I don't think the brain trust in Ottawa gives a lot of thought to northern MPs and candidates. It's not ideal," said Cullen.
Prince George-Peace River MP Jay Hill said a federal election comes down to whether Liberal leader Stephane Dion decides to "roll the dice" and force an election by refusing to support the throne speech or whether he abstains from the vote to buy more time and get ready for a campaign.
Holding 126 seats in the 308-seat House, the Conservatives have stayed in power for more than 500 days, largely thanks to the support of the Bloc Quebecois, which has 49 MPs.
But the Bloc has issued a set of "non-negotiable" conditions for continuing to support the government and it is likely the Conservatives will refuse to comply with all the demands.
That means the final decision rests with Dion.
Hill said the Liberals, who have 96 seats, could abstain from voting on the throne speech, something the Conservatives did back in 2005 to keep the Paul Martin government in power because Canadians did not want an election at the time.
But Hill said he's also heard rumblings that Dion may vote against the throne speech at the request of his own party following the poor performances in the recent Quebec by-elections.
Traditionally, Liberals don't change leaders until they've gone through a nationwide election.
"I think he's under intense criticism, so he might end up capitulating to the views of many in his party," he said. "If it's a widely-held view that he's not going to dramatically improve and therefore become more popular with Canadians, they might as well roll the dice now and get it over with."
With files from the Prince George Citizen.