Election prospects

A loss to Stéphane Dion in December 2006 may have set back Michael Ignatieff’s political career temporarily, but he is quickly trying to extend the Liberal party’s power.

After securing the leadership of the federal Liberal party on May 2 by a 97 percent vote on behalf of the delegates, Ignatieff has become the leader of Canada’s official opposition.

During his acceptance speech, Ignatieff expressed his disappointment in the Prime Minister, stating, “Mr. Harper, you have failed us.”

Ignatieff’s strong criticisms of the Harper government have raised the question of whether another federal election will be called. If a spring election does occur, it will most likely be held before the end of June. “The house typically does sit beyond June,” explained Dr. Roberto Leone, a political studies professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Dr. Chris Anderson, who also teaches political science at WLU, noted that summer elections are usually a “non-go, because people are busy doing other things and politicians need support from their members.

“Something quite dramatic would have to happen for the parties to consider holding on, so for those reasons I do not think there will be one [this summer],” said Anderson.
Leone noted that a fall election is more realistic, because it would give the Liberals time to organize and fundraise. “That’s something that they lack right now,” said Leone.

The Liberals are currently exerting pressure on Stephen Harper to resolve the issue of employment insurance (EI) benefits for thousands of Canadians who have been left jobless as a result of the economic crisis.

The party wishes to extend the EI benefits to include more workers affected by the downturn. The current criteria requires one to have worked 420 to 700 hours in the past 52 days. Those who are unemployed but do not meet the minimum requirement of 420 hours worked in the past 52 days do not qualify for the EI benefits.

Leone noted that this is one of the primary issues that “might blow up.” “There’s a lot of people who are angry with the system, the delays in getting the funds and the benefits from EI and I think the opposition is just picking up on it.”

EI is not the only grounds on which the opposition can call an election. Budget implementation bills presented to the House have the potential to be voted as confidence motions.
“If the government loses an implementation bill, that’s grounds for an election,” explained Dr. Leone.

Whether or not Canadians have another opportunity to go the polls remains uncertain, but political experts such as Leone still have their predictions.
“I put the probability pretty low for having an election this year period,” he said.