Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Election 2015: Spring forward or fall back?

Election 2015: Will Harper spring forward or fall back on set date?

  • Sep. 23, 2014 10:00 a.m.

By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – In exchange for a $25 donation, the Conservative party recently offered its supporters a Stephen Harper calendar “to help count down to election day.” But will they be counting down to Oct. 19, 2015, or some Monday in the spring?

When the prime minister will drop the writ is what passes as water-cooler talk around Parliament Hill and across government — even some Conservatives are wondering whether Harper will abide by the date he himself brought in to law.

Tuesday’s news that the trial of former Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy will unfold in April and June sent the guessing machine back into overdrive. Would Harper want to pull the plug early to avoid the potential damage from the proceedings?

The Prime Minister’s Office says no. “The timing of the election will not change,” spokesman Jason MacDonald said Tuesday in an email.

“It’ll be fall 2015.”

Still, there are plenty of precedents in Canadian history for calling early elections, with mixed results for the government in power. Wilfrid Laurier called an early vote in 1911 on the issue of freer trade with the United States, and wound up losing to Robert Borden’s Tories. Harper himself called an early election in 2008 arguing Parliament had become too dysfunctional and wasn’t allowing the government to fulfil its agenda. The Tories came back with more seats.

Despite the supposedly fixed date, the Canada Elections Act does not prevent the prime minister from asking the Governor General to dissolve Parliament early, as he did six years ago.

Here’s some potential scenarios around the timing of the 2015 election:

— The opposition calls for an early election or dares the prime minister to drop the writ, giving Harper an out. Newly elected Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day did that to Jean Chretien in 2000, and Chretien obliged. The Liberals won another majority.

“(Trudeau)’s in an established party, he’s been around longer as leader, so I don’t think that gambit would pay off,” Day said Tuesday.

“I think the prime minister would be correct in thinking that the solid economic record should carry the day, with a majority of voters.”

— The Conservatives announce a massive budget surplus and a new plan for how to spend it that has not appeared in previous platforms. Harper could then argue that he needs a fresh mandate to move forward with the plan.

— World events cause the government to consider a controversial military mission. Harper decides he needs to put the question to the public in a federal election as soon as possible.

— The Conservatives bank on the media and public interest in the Duffy trial petering out over the summer of 2015, and stick with the fixed election date.

— The Conservatives stick with the October date, gambling that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s popularity will fade between now and then — with the help of attack ads and relentless Tory attacks on Trudeau’s record.

“The analysis that any prime minister will do is, ‘Do I have a better chance of winning in April than in May or June or October, and what are the downsides if I break the spirit of my own law, is that going to be held against me?”‘ said Eddie Goldenberg, Chretien’s former chief of staff.

“I think it probably would be, because he’s got a majority.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

No one injured in suspicious Victoria boat fire, say investigators

Victoria police and fire personnel called to blaze on waters near Selkirk Trestle May 22

Three people facing mischief charges after protests at Premier John Horgan’s home

Special prosecutor was appointed to avoid real or perceived undue influence

VIDEO: Saanich police tackle man who refused to move off Trans-Canada Highway

At this point, it is unclear why the man refused to move

Crime stats show a shift in Oak Bay during COVID-19

Thefts from automobiles, marinas up this spring

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

COVID-19 checkpoints ‘up to them,’ Bonnie Henry says of remote B.C. villages

Support local tourism economy, but only if you’re invited in

CVRD testing Shawnigan water after complaints of metallic taste, odour

“This type of problem has come up a number of times in summers in the past”

COVID-19 cases next to nil on Vancouver Island

Only one COVID-19 patient being treated at Island Health’s hospitals

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

Most Read