Photo of Parliament Hill from Hull, Quebec, by Vince Alongi.
Cue the trumpets, unfurl the banners, make with the fanfare, and let fly with a triumphant shout of “Sweet merciful crap, here we go again.”
The awkward, drunken march of Canadian democracy may stagger onward as early as this weekend, following today’s announcement that Stephen Harper will table a ways and means motion this afternoon. Believed to be the Tories’ hugely popular 15% renovation tax credit, the move has been widely discussed as a shrewdly strategic ploy by the Harper Conservatives to pre-empt a bid to topple the government by the Liberals, whose earliest opportunity to do so won’t come until October 1. As a budget matter, the motion will force a confidence vote this Friday; as a stimulus-related measure that’s proven giddily popular with Canadians over the summer, it’s a confidence vote over which the Tories, on the heels of a gradually stabilizing economy, may lose little sleep.
Meanwhile, Parliament Hill has been buzzing with speculation over this morning’s news that the Conservatives will introduce sweeping changes to employment insurance, extending benefits by five to twenty weeks for laid-off workers who have been off the job for years. The EI reform legislation—with a $935,000,000 price tag—will come in two parts, which Canwest News Service reports as “an investment in the people who have been hardest hit by the recession,” according to Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.
And while phase two isn’t to be announced until later this month, sources have suggested that Harper’s EI gambit is an attempt to drum up NDP support. New Democrat Leader Jack Layton, however, has told the CBC that “We don’t know what’s coming down the pipe in terms of EI,” adding, “I’m not going to speculate on what might happen.” If the NDP throws its weight behind the legislation, the improbable union could avert an increasingly likely procession to the polls this fall.
So here’s hoping that a fall 2009 election, if indeed it happens, will elicit a voter turnout more befitting a relatively well-informed electorate like ours—cranky though it may be.