Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Harper to Opposition: "Go Ahead, Punk. Make My Day"

Tories daring opposition to bring government down

With Liberal Leader of the Opposition rattling the election sabre consistently over the past year-and-a-half and the Conservative government now forging into unknown territory as the longest-serving Conservative minority government in the nation's history, it seems Stephen Harper is taking some pages out of "Dirty" Harry Callahan's play book.

Today, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced that if Bill C-2 -- the government's omnibus bill dealing with violent crime, dangerous offenders and the age of sexual consent -- is not passed promptly, the government will move the bill as a confidence motion.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Harper announced that he'll also extend a confidence motion on extending the government's Afghanistan mandate.

The latter motion could come before the house as early as next week.

With an election expected at any time during the coming year, it seems that Harper may have given up on trying to eke a few extra months out of this parliament and instead is perfectly content to play chicken with the opposition leaders.

For Stephane Dion, only one question remains to ask himself: "Do I feel lucky?"

Well? Do ya, punk?

(Okay, that last one may have been a little much. Just have fun with it.)

After all, on which issue would Dion like to defeat the government? A crime bill containing measures that will actually help protect Canadians from violent and dangerous offenders? Or the Afghanistan mission that his own party initiated -- while he himself was in cabinet, no less?

Dion has already announced he'll be seeking amendments to the Afghanistan motion.

"You need to be prepared to fight but the combat role is when you are proactively seeking the engagement with the enemy. It's something I have said that we will interrupt in February 2009," Dion has announced. (Apparently, Dion would prefer an "easy" mission despite recent admission by his own deputy leader that there are no "easy" missions in the 21st century).

As far as Afghanistan goes, it may just be the perfect issue for Harper to challenge Dion. Liberal MP David Cullen is rumored to be prepared to vote in favour of the mission on a whipped vote. At least three more Liberal MPs are apparently prepared to do the same. With Michael Ignatieff possibly very eager to make another run at the Liberal leadership, one can't rule out the very real possibility that he, himself, may vote in favour of the mission again.

On violent crime and dangerous offenders, it's unlikely that Dion would win that particular battle in the public eye. Considering that the issues that defeat a minority government tend to frame the coming election, this really is a no-brainer.

Then one considers what other issues the Liberals may want to defeat the government on? Climate change? Their prior abysmal performance -- with Dion as minister of the environment, no less -- would make them easy pickings. Nuclear safety? Nuh-uh. The Liberals ignored the mess for the better part of a decade-and-a-half.

With his prospects of finding an issue on which he can defeat the government and find an advantage, Dion will need to feel very lucky to force the election that he so desperately wants.

With the Conservatives still nursing a lead in the polls, that just may make Stephen Harper's day.

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