The Globe and Mail‘s chief political writer Campbell Clark comments, “In theory, there are 21 months to the next election, in October, 2015, but a calculating prime minister like Mr. Harper, weakened by scandal, will know he has only nine or 10 months before he must decide whether he can win, or will make way for a successor. He’ll have to spend 2014 playing to his strengths, as a full-bore pro-growth economic manager to know if he’s there.”
“Weakened by the Senate scandal, his government is showing its age almost eight years in. Several polls put the Conservatives behind Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, and below 30 per cent – a losing position. It’s hard to believe he’s already planning to leave, when he might still rebound. It’s also hard to believe assertions he’s dead set on running even if his support slides further. Veteran PMs don’t like to seal their legacy with electoral rejection.”
So, “It’s got to be full speed ahead for Stephen Harper now, on pipelines, on the economy, on appeals to Canadian pocketbooks, and on the campaign to establish whether he can run another campaign. …The Conservatives will push consumer pocketbook issues like allowing people to pick cable channels, rather than bundles, an attempt to connect with voters’ day-to-day economic concerns. They’ll hammer the EU trade deal and pro-trade agenda to emphasize economic growth is the priority. Pushing pipelines is part of the package. …Forget the suggestion that it’s too risky for this Prime Minister to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline, or that he can back away from full-throated support for shipping oil to Asia. It’s far riskier for Mr. Harper to change his stripes now, with so little time. …(Expect too that the) 2015 budget will show a surplus, raising the prospect of pre-election tax cuts.”
The article also notes, “The fixed-date election law seems to leave plenty of time, but it’s running out. Provinces bound to fall 2015 elections have asked Mr. Harper to move the federal vote forward to that spring. If he quits, the Conservatives would want him to leave his successor two election windows, spring and fall. And he’d have to allow months for a new leader to be chosen – making the fall of 2014 decision time.”
The Council of Canadians will continue to push back against the Harper agenda on a number of fronts, including two of the main planks that Harper will be promoting over the next 12-21 months – the Canada-EU free trade agreement and the Northern Gateway pipeline.