Most pontificating over the issue of a fall election has been based on hearsay, intuition, and well, dice-rolling. Such speculation is brought on when journalists spend too much time in a relatively empty room called “Summer in Ottawa”. For a change, let consider this (if we care to) from a logical perspective.
First, lets operate from the asumption that all leaders and parties appoach election timing from the perspective of self-preservation and/or potential gain. Next, lets examine the motivations behind each leader and party.
Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Quebecois: The Bloc has had much of its polling success based on its steadfast opposition to, and demonize of the Harper government while simultaneously accusing the Liberals of spinelessness for not doing the same. Many of the Bloc’s Montreal-area MPs are nervous about a relatively resurgent Liberal Party there and would thus not favour an election right now, but from a higher (ie: leader’s) perspective, the potential net gain of several currently Conservative seats would offset this. While that’s cold comfort to those Montreal MPs, their leader decides how they vote in Canadian politics.
As the Bloc has staked its ground on being Quebec’s bulkward against the Harper Hoard of the Western Steppes, he has little wiggle room out of his vote of no confidence.
Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party: Chantal Hebert, as usual, provides some of the best punditry (I’m assuming she spent her summer outside of Ottawa) on the predicament of Team Iggy. With his statements on withdrawing support for the government, he would loose face beyond recovery if he were to re-nag and return to the Dion and post-coalition era of abstentions and false threats. At this point, the Count is beyond the point of no return, baring an unfathomable climb-down. While polling numbers indicate that Ignatieff has a chance of forming a minority, anecdotal evidence leans towards a 3rd Conservative minority. That is not necessarily a loss for Ignatieff however; as Harper may wish to leave on a winning note following the vote and clear the way for new – and if Iggy’s dreams are fulfilled, less capable – leader.
Jack Layton and the (New?) Democratic Party: The NDP has made itself the leftist bulkward in English Canada, playing a similar role that the Bloc plays in Quebec. If there’s one thing you can say for them, its that their consistent, both in what they stand for and in how they vote, which is against everything. With reports and rumors wirling that a deal could be be in the works to keep the government afloat, one has to consider what is on the table. With Layton having proclaimed himself the immobile human shield of the English Canadian left, it is hard to see how any compromise would be enough to appease his core supporters. If however; by some chance Monsieur Layton could force the the government onto a course of Keynesianism, massive deficit spending and a retreat from most of its long held positions, he may be able to look his supporters in the face and say…“coalition?”
Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party: Harper has only one motivation to want an election, and that is to win a majority government. Since that is not in the cards (barring, events?), he has no interest in having one, but is still confronted with the reality of having to deal directly with the NDP. While one would be inclined to see a lot of similarities in the practical policy applications of the government today if one wipes away party labels, continued moves leftward would only continue to inflame the base of his party. Harper has managed to hold his troops together in the face of adopting a plethora of Liberal demands in the last budget, but acceding to the NDP’s more rigorous cookbook may prove a bridge too far. Further, meeting the NDP’s demands would simply keep the government in office for a short period of time, but would likely come with zero guarantee of passing its legislation. In essence, this would leave only the Executive branch of government in power while the legislature hangs in limbo. When faced with a brief life extension leading to eventual defeat in a non-confidence vote months later, coupled with stomaching even more opposition policy on one hand, and facing the electorate for a renewed minority mandate on the other, the choice becomes clear.