It's no longer a secret - election speculation is ramping up, and rightly so. After five years in power, and nearly two and a half since the last election, Stephen Harper's government, a strong minority with effectively 145 seats to call upon for votes in the House but a minority government nevertheless, needs to face the voters for all its done, good or bad, proper deed or sin. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
After all that has happened, Harper must give us a reason to continue his mandate. That is the tradition our democracy follows, and I'll be damned if he'll deny us it just because he doesn't want to. Stephen Harper is not the worst Prime Minister in Canadian history, but he is far from the greatest, and definitely not the one that I, and many others, want. His government is essentially a bumbling mess of ministerial scandals, partisan excess, and a strange mix of populism, elitism, and extremism, only kept together because of his own personal inclination towards obsessive control over what his members say, do, and even think. It's time he faced the music, and for Canadians to pass judgment on him.
But this is also the time for the Liberals, and specifically Michael Ignatieff, to face reckoning too. He came to lead the Liberal Party during a moment in time when we were facing a crisis, one that we had never even dreamed about before. Since December 2008, he's lead the Liberals for two years, with flagging poll numbers, and limited, though welcome, success. But he's still in the doldrums, uninspiring to most and sluggish to the rest. For all his smarts and his passions, he has yet to give Canadians a real good reason to vote for the Liberal Party, other than Harper has to go. Is this a proper strategy, and is Ignatieff even the right leader to do it with? Only an election will give us that answer.
Meanwhile, the forever-third party, the New Democrats, are facing a squeeze as voters, most of them anti-Harper, ponder on the future. Their leader, though very successful, has failed to catch real fire with the electorate, not in the way that Ed Broadbent did during the '80's. Even Quebec, where they broke through in the riding of Outremont, shows a prospect of maybe one, maybe two, more seats, but overall shows how stagnant the situation really is as they fight among the other federal parties against the Bloc. Everywhere else, they're down, and they're facing challenges against all the gains they've made in Ontario, BC, and the Atlantic provinces. Which is why its not surprise that Layton is willing to throw away all his principles and his grandstanding to avoid an election, once again. But the reality is that the NDP should be relishing an election. They have a leader who is about as popular as Harper, if not more so. They have shown they can organize themselves and make gains in crucial battlegrounds if they're only given the chance by voters, and Layton gives them credibility as an effective Opposition - or at least he did. For two years, however, the NDP have gone from one thing to another, facing challenges against their status as the "principled third option," with outcomes that were frankly none too palatable. It's time that they, as well, faced the electorate.
This year, this time in history, for all three parties, is the opportune time to show themselves for what they believe themselves to be. In the case of the Conservatives, a stable, popular government that can earn the support of Canadians; for the Liberals, the best and strongest alternative, with new ideas and new directions, better to handle the task of governance, and have that fact recognized by the people; and for the NDP, a credible party that can take what is thrown at them and come out stronger for it. There is no better time than this year, after this session, with its ups and downs and turnarounds, to go to Canadians and ask, who deserves your support? Who deserves the legitimacy that only you can bestow?
All these reasons, and more, is why we must have an election this year. This government can't survive until 2012 - and don't believe the BS about "harming economic recovery." And, really, the supporters of the Liberals and the NDP expect a little more than what we've gotten so far. Don't drop the ball, Ottawa - now's the best time to do it.