PM Harper doesn’t rule out federal election before 2015
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not ruled out the possibility of calling a snap election in 2014, according to a recent interview with Postmedia News.
Harper, whose governing Conservatives are in a bit of a political slump over a string of scandals—including the Senate expenses scandal—and breaches of election laws by former members of the Tory caucus, have had a difficult time finding their focus as opposition parties keep delving deeper into alleged misbehaviour by the government.
The prime minister is not prohibited by law from calling an early election, but it would be the second time in five years that Harper would ignore the fixed election legislation that his own government tabled after assuming office in 2006. Harper called a snap election in 2008, saying that his minority government was unable to govern and that a new mandate from the people was required.
The fixed election legislation, which mandates that federal general elections be held every four years, would see the next federal election take place in October 2015.
Given that the Conservatives enjoy a majority of the seats in the House of Commons, it is unlikely that Governor General David Johnston would refuse a writ of election submitted by Harper.
Some in the Conservative ranks may see a snap election as their best possible opportunity to be given a new mandate from Canadians, particularly as NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau are untested in terms of leading their respective parties in an election campaign. Harper’s only federal electoral loss came in 2004.
Polls suggest that the Liberal party have had a good 2013, especially since the election of Justin Trudeau as leader. The NDP, on the other hand, have lost support in national polls from the historic highs they garnered in the 2011 general election.
The possibility of a snap election could bring about division within the party: some Conservatives may believe that a snap election would allow the Harper government to get back on message and give them the opportunity to take the Senate expenses scandal out of the news cycle; meanwhile, other members of the Tory caucus may feel that a snap election at this time puts them at risk of losing government.
Harper himself may find some resistance from his own backbench at holding a snap election, as the prime minister’s leadership has come into question of late. Mark Warawa, a Tory backbencher, has openly called on the Prime Minister to be more flexible with MP’s statements, protesting the involvement of PMO staff vetting MPs talking points. Another MP, Brent Rathgeber, left the Conservative caucus altogether to sit as an independent, in protest of similar concerns.
Concerns about the prime minister’s handling of the Senate scandal has also made its way onto the government’s front bench, which has led to an increasing dialogue in political circles and in the media about who may potentially succeed Stephen Harper as leader of the federal Conservatives.
Under the current fixed election law, the next general federal election is scheduled to take place on October 19, 2015. Prime Minister Harper has the option of calling an election before the fixed date. The Canadian constitution limits the mandate of a government to five years between elections, although the fixed election legislation calls for elections to take place every four years.