Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Correcting the record

Following up on this post, Paul Wells's series of tweets this afternoon looks to serve as compelling evidence that even the best and most skeptical political commentator can sometimes be completely and utterly spun by the Harper Cons. So let's compare Wells' recollection of the summer of 2008 to what the opposition leaders actually said at the time.

Here's Wells:
But why did Harper call an election in 2008? (As I put on my pith helmet and delve into the ancient history of 2 years ago)...

...Because the other three parties *had decided to bring him down.* He actually met with each of them at 24 to be sure.

But knowing he'd be in an election at their hand in three weeks, he went earlier. He might do the same again. But only if they line up again.
So let's compare Wells' recollection to the actual interplay between the Cons and Stephane Dion when he met with Harper:
The prime minister has met with other opposition leaders in the past few days to determine whether there is common ground to avoid a fall election and to secure their support on an agenda for the fall session of Parliament.

Meetings with NDP Leader Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois, however, followed a similar script: the opposition leaders emerged to say Harper is intent on calling an election this week, with a vote to be held in mid-October.

Opposition leaders could avoid an election if they provided some certainty that legislation could be passed during the upcoming session of Parliament, Teneycke said Monday.

Dion, however, said he refused to provide Harper with a "blank cheque" when asked if he would support the government until October 2009.

"Because he's confusing two things. Does the Parliament work? The answer is yes. Does the government have the certainty to survive? The answer is no.
Which roughly corresponds with my recollection of the time period. Unless Wells is privy to information that I don't recall hearing then or since, there was no evidence whatsoever that the opposition parties had teamed up to bring down the Cons in the fall of 2008: Dion wasn't showing any particular sign of fighting back and still figured to be willing to roll over at Harper's convenience, while the NDP and Bloc were continuing to vote based on the merits of individual issues rather than having any grand plan in place to force a vote.

So in order to call an election that he wanted in the absence of any realistic prospect that he'd face a non-confidence vote, Harper instead set a new and arbitrary standard of declaring that an election was needed unless somebody was willing to support his party's fall agenda in toto. Yet even in response to the developing certainty that Harper was pushing for an election, Dion didn't state any intention to bring down the government if the opportunity arose.

So yes, Harper met with each of the opposition leaders - but for the obvious purpose of putting a facade of legitimacy on his own apparent decision to call an election. And if even Wells has managed to buy the Cons' always-implausible line about their intentions the last time they decided an election was in their interests, I'd think it's only all the more likely that we'll see Harper figure he can once again precipitate a trip to the polls on his own schedule without wearing any consequences.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

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