In the past four years there have been two federal elections. According to sources inside the Prime Minister's Office, there's about to be a third.
Senior government officials speaking on the condition of anonymity revealed to the CBC, among other news agencies, that this week Prime Minister Stephen Harper will ask Governor General Michaelle Jean to dissolve Parliament and set an Oct. 14 election date. The official election call is expected by week's end.
Three elections in four years might seem a little excessive, especially considering political pundits- and reportedly even the Prime Minister himself- are projecting this election will deliver another Conservative minority government, the third consecutive minority overall. Some may ask what the point of another election is, especially if the result is going to be the same. Yet, even if the proportion of seats in Parliament remains the same, this election is bound to have a lasting impact.
The federal Conservatives have run a minority government for the past 30 months, although you'd never realize it was the weakest minority in Canadian history with the way they've been able to push their agenda. Despite having only 127 MPs, well below the 155 required for a majority, the Tories managed to lower the GST by two per cent, amend the Canada Elections Act to create fixed election dates and survive several confidence vote threats.
The reasons for the survival of the Conservative minority aren't cut and dry, but pundits point to two sources: the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals. Originally extolling the virtues of Quebec sovereignty in the 1990s, the Bloc has at times seemed rudderless as the separatism issue has faded from prominence. In early 2006, then-Bloc house leader Michel Gauthier announced that the Bloc would vote to keep the Conservatives in power, effectively negating any point of Quebec voters supporting them instead of the Tories.
Moreover, ever since Stephane Dion became Liberal leader in Dec. 2006, the Tories have lobbed several criticisms at Dion's poor leadership. Whether he's bad or not, the Conservative criticism may be working to undermine him. Since taking over, Dion has repeatedly threatened to topple the minority government and unveiled a carbon tax plan amidst claims from Liberal MPs that it wasn't quite ready. Despite being the official opposition and having the ability to restrict the Conservatives, the Liberals haven't been effective under Dion.
Suppose the pollsters and Tory projections are correct and this election results in another Conservative minority. More than polls, these election results will be a tremendous way for citizens to tell their government how they're doing. If Canadians truly want the Conservatives to keep governing, they'll vote for them. If Canadians think that Stephane Dion is a bad leader, the results will show that at the polls. If anything, another sub-par showing may prompt the Liberals to give Dion the boot and choose another leader.
The last time Canadians went to the polls, they elected a minority Conservative government. Unfortunately, the official opposition Liberal Party hasn't used its leverage very well and the next best thing to an opposition, the Bloc Québécois, have no agenda besides seemingly propping up the government. When the most effective opposition in Parliament is Jack Layton's New Democratic Party, it's time for a change. Three elections in four years is a bit much, but if it results in a more representative Parliament that actually reflects in practice what Canadians voted for, it's worth it.