The last two weeks in federal politics have been some of the most tense and dramatic since this government took office. What began as a relatively straightforward examination of Senate expense reports has erupted into a scandal reaching into the heart of the PMO, ultimately causing the resignation of the second-most powerful man in the country. Since the implication of the PMO in the scandal, the Conservatives have fallen sharply in the polls, garnering just 29% of the vote in a hypothetical election held May 28th. Fortunately for the Conservatives, the next election is scheduled for autumn of 2015, which is more than long enough for this party to overcome this crisis, regain the support of Canadians and win another majority government.
For there to be any chance of a Conservative victory in 2015 it must become clear to Canadians that the Prime Minister played no role in Nigel Wright’s gift to Mike Duffy, but rather that those two individuals acted without the Prime Minister’s knowledge. Although some Canadians may remain convinced that Mr. Harper was involved, the majority of Canadians will believe the results of an RCMP investigation. The RCMP, since 2006, has shown itself to be independent of any political interference. If the investigation proves that Mr. Harper was uninvolved in the gift then Mr. Harper will remain alive in federal politics, and if he is left alive then he can implement a winning strategy for the 2015 election.
The first aspect of this strategy is the long anticipated cabinet shuffle. A cabinet shuffle will inject new blood into this government and turn the spotlight away from the PMO and towards the new Cabinet Ministers and future progress. Fortunately, no ministers seem to be involved with the current crisis, meaning that they will be able to sidestep it in the media and discuss real issues. Expect to see Jason Kenney, John Baird, Lisa Raitt, James Moore and Kellie Leitch in positions of prominence. These young, bright and ambitious parliamentarians will be eager to implement new policy that they can exhibit as both Party and personal successes in 2015.
Next, the government should focus on signing the highly anticipated free trade deal with the European Union that has been in the works for four years. To be clear, the government should not, and is not developing foreign policy simply to distract from negative attention at home. However, the successful completion of a free trade deal with one of the largest markets in the world is a major government success and will help the party argue that only it can be trusted with the economic future of the country. Negotiations have been extended until at least June 8th and sources say that a historic agreement on Canadian beef and pork exports is extremely close. This deal will ultimately have a much larger impact on Canadians than Mike Duffy or indeed any individual Senator ever could, and a successful completion of the agreement should help the government reaffirm its commitment to strong economic growth.
Finally, the government must continue the Senate reform process that it began earlier in 2013. The government first embarked on the road to reform in February by filing a reference question on Senate reform with the Supreme Court, asking what unilateral avenues of senate reform the federal government can undertake. This process began long before this current crisis began, and the government will be pursuing it long after this crisis is forgotten. After the Supreme Court issues a ruling, expected in 2014, the highest possible expediency should be allotted to the development of legislation grounded in the decision. This legislation will put the opposition parties in a difficult place, as opposition to it will require them to defend the existence and legitimacy of a fundamentally undemocratic body. That will be especially taxing for the Liberals, as they will have to justify the almost total non-existence of Senate reform during their over 90 years in power. Senate reform will be a major issue as this government pushes on and will most likely become a major campaign issue in 2015.
The combination of the cabinet shuffle, a trade deal and Senate reform should lead the government to success in 2015. Last week’s announcement of 2.5% growth in the first quarter of 2013 is yet another feather in Stephen Harper’s cap, and will bolster his ability to move beyond this scandal. Continuing to foster economic growth of that magnitude over the next two years will help lead to a solidly Tory electorate. If the government pursues these policies aggressively while avoiding even the shadow of a scandal in the future, then this ministry will not only win re-election in 2015 but will ultimately be remembered as one of the most successful in Canadian history.
– M. Satti
Featured photo : ajcgn, Creative Commons, Flickr
Photo 1 Body: Kashmera, Creative Commons, Flickr
Photo 2 Body: .:Axle:., Creative Commons, Flickr