It has been obvious for a long time, that -- despite his claims to the contrary -- the Prime Minister has been engineering his government's fall. As Hamlet said of another melodrama, he "doth protest too much." For months, he and his ministers have crisscrossed the country, announcing all kinds of government goodies. The attack ads -- which never go on hiatus -- have increased. And pundits like Jeffrey Simpson and Chantal Hebert claim that the election is Harper's to lose.
Mr. Harper approaches the election with the same kind of hubris which led him to rename the government in his honour. Jeffrey Simpson -- again -- claims Harper is absolutely in the driver's seat:
Whatever happens in the campaign, the government presented a reasonable, moderate budget that contained some sensible spending increases, avoided additional and unnecessary tax reductions, and promised a credible, if somewhat leisurely, march toward a balanced budget. The budget won’t survive the House of Commons, but it will carry the Conservatives through an election they’ll almost certainly win.
Simpson's claims that "very few voters pay attention to the goings on under the Peace Tower." Like that great cynic, H.L. Menken, he seems to believe that Canadians are card carrying members of "the booboise." Simpson's colleague, Lawrence Martin, is more measured in his response to Tuesday's events. The election, he writes, hinges on Michael Ignatieff. But unlike Stephane Dion -- who did not allow the Prime Minister his coveted majority -- Ignatieff is no Dion:
While Mr.Ignatieff’s polling numbers are just as weak, he is considerably more gifted in terms of leadership potential. He is more articulate and trenchant. He is stronger in debate, better organized and surrounded by a better team. There will be no grainy videos arriving late at TV studios as there was under Mr. Dion. Mr. Ignatieff is unlikely to have to restart an interview several times, as did Mr. Dion, occasioning an embarrassing mishap at a critical period in the ‘08 campaign.
Moreover, Ignatieff has gotten better at his job. David Olive -- who has published a number of critiques of Ignatieff -- says it's time for Canadians to engineer Mr. Harper's exit:
As Mr. Trudeau said when the press got on his case, "Consider the alternative." And so we thought of poor Bob Stanfield and Joe Clark. And Trudeau lost an election and won four, and served some 15 years as PM. As we should have given Harper his chance - and trust me, we've seen as good as it gets from this cold, mildly paranoid, mean-spirited and visionless man - the most viable alternative now deserves its chance.
Olive has it right. If Simpson has correctly sized up Canadians -- and they are not willing to give the most viable alternative a chance -- then we have engineered the demise of our democracy.