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ELECTION 2011: The election is set to begin

In about two hours time (at 9 am ET), Prime Minister Stephen Harper will leave 24 Sussex Drive and cross the street (likely in a five-car motorcade as he did in 2008) to visit Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall. He is expected to ask the Governor General that Parliament be dissolved. That will officially begin the election. He will speak to the media at 9:30 am ET and that’s when we’ll learn if the election is to be held on Monday May 2 or Monday May 9.

The Council of Canadians will be providing a daily Election 2011 update.

HARPER IN CONTEMPT OF PARLIAMENT: The Montreal Gazette reports, “The Harper government was defeated in the House of Commons on Friday on a nonconfidence motion declaring the government in contempt of Parliament. It was the first time in Canadian history that a government has been found in contempt. The Liberal motion passed by a vote of 156 to 145, as the opposition parties teamed up to topple the Conservatives.” While Harper’s response to his parliamentary defeat focused on the (shamefully inadequate and now dead) federal budget, the reality is the government fell because it was found to be in contempt of the Parliament of Canada for refusing to supply enough information on the cost of the F-35 fighter jets, spending on prisons, and projected costs for corporate tax cuts (in other words, jets, jails and jewels). More at>

CANADIANS COULD BE READY FOR A COALITION GOVERNMENT: University of Prince Edward Island political studies professor Peter McKenna writes in the Ottawa Citizen, “If there is another razor-thin election outcome in May, would we be better off with a coalition government or another slim minority government? That will probably depend on whether Canadians are prepared to take a leap of faith, to discard their fear of the unknown, and to give coalition politics a chance.” And while McKenna isn’t conclusive, he cautions, “We’re not used to coalition governments in Canada, we just don’t have any recent experience or familiarity with coalitions at the federal level,” and that you “can expect to hear more about the evil coalition”. But he also writes, “the media has done little to educate us on the merits of coalitions” (which we would suggest urgently needs to be done) and that the United Kingdom currently has a stable Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government with an agreed upon five-year term. If it a coalition is acceptable in the UK, why not in Canada? More at

IMAGINE A PROGRESSIVE MAJORITY: Council of Canadians Board member Fred Wilson writes at, “It has been a long time since working people connected either their quality of life or their most deeply held aspirations directly to politics, because for thirty years politics has been about the diminishment of collective rights and how deep will be the cuts to the social wage. While the short and long term goals of labour and social movements have been pushed off the political stage, politics has increasingly been about perceptions of leadership, competence, trust and ethics. However the looming context of the coalition may just differentiate this campaign and renew what politics means. If the campaign goes at all well, it will soon be redefined beyond the leaders’ debate or the fight for a seat here or there. The choice will be between a Harper majority and a new government that stands for something fundamentally different. The inevitable question that will arise is what a progressive majority could and would do when Harper is denied a majority? Therein will be the opportunity to answer Harper’s coalition-baiting and anti-Quebec bigotry. It will be a chance to raise expectations and aspirations, instead of lowering them in favour of tactical considerations that move what is truly important down or off the list of the so-called ballot questions. As Harperland falls, let’s imagine why we fight.” His full commentary is at

IMAGINE HEALTH CARE: The Toronto Star editorial board writes, “The Conservatives’ budget has nothing to say about the future of health care, even though funding agreements with the provinces expire in 2014. In this area, most of all, fresh thinking is needed. Dentists and even vets have ready access to computerized health records — but not most doctors in this country that regards medicare as an icon of national identity. Hospitals and extended care facilities operate in silos, with little communication or shared services. The result is inefficiency, duplicated services and frustrated patients. Where’s the federal leadership? None of this (investing in health care, people, and innovation) is unaffordable. By the government’s own calculations, the federal deficit will be erased by 2015 without major cuts, by 2014 if a new review of government services produces additional savings. A country as well-placed as Canada is now should not settle for short-term politicking and stunted ambitions. We deserve a government with the imagination and boldness to take steps now that will ensure we build on the advantages we enjoy, and share them more equitably.” More at–federal-election-the-real-issues-in-this-campaign?bn=1.

TODAY’S POLLS: The Calgary Herald reports, “A new Leger Marketing poll of 3,539 Canadians, provided exclusively to the Calgary Herald and Le Devoir, finds 39 per cent of decided voters would cast ballots for the Conservative party if an election were held today, while 23 per cent would support the Liberals. Jack Layton’s NDP is the choice of 19 per cent of decided Canadians, with Gilles Duceppe’s Bloc Quebecois at 9 per cent and Elizabeth May’s Green party at 7 per cent.” That’s at The Toronto Star reports similar numbers, “The Harper Conservatives are at the threshold of a majority government as the country plunges into the fourth election campaign in seven years, according to an exclusive Toronto Star/La Presse poll. The Angus Reid poll shows that the majority will most likely be won or lost in Ontario with a particularly pitched battle in the 905 belt around Toronto, where the Conservative have worked overtime on the reeling in the ethnic vote. The survey of 2,365 Canadians reveals the Conservatives are in the lead nationally with 39 per cent support, the Liberals at 25 per cent, and the New Democrats at 19 per cent. The Bloc Québécois has 10 per cent support and the Green Party 7 per cent.” That’s at–tories-on-brink-of-majority-as-election-called?bn=1.

WHERE THE LEADERS ARE TODAY: CBC reports, “The Conservative Party won’t disclose where Harper and his campaign will spend the first few days of the election. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP Leader Jack Layton have both planned rallies in downtown Ottawa before leaving town. Ignatieff will travel to Montreal, where Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe is spending Saturday. Layton is flying to Edmonton Saturday afternoon.” That’s at

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