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May 2, 2005
Tories Losing Their Nerve?

After new polling emerged showing that Liberals have rebounded significantly from the initial Adscam revelations, a Tory MP from the Liberal stronghold of Ontario has announced his preference to delay new elections, throwing the upcoming no-confidence vote into doubt:

Cracks appeared yesterday in the Conservative Party's plan to topple the Liberal government at the earliest opportunity as several leading Tory parliamentarians insisted the decision isn't final and one central Ontario MP said a vote should be delayed.

"I've said for a while that I don't think we should be going to an election right now," said Larry Miller, the Tory MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, in a radio interview Saturday.

"Ultimately the choice will be out of our hands, but that's what the majority have said here and that's what I'll take back [to caucus]."

The interview, aired by CKNX-FM in Wingham, Ont., was immediately seized upon by the Liberals as fresh evidence that Tory Leader Stephen Harper is forcing an election that few Canadians want.

Party disunity is the last thing that Stephen Harper needs at this point. He needs to concentrate on the BQ MPs and the three independents for vote collecting, not the Conservatives who should stand ready to support his move against Paul Martin and the Liberals, especially after Martin's grubby NDP deal with Jack Layton last week to buy his support. Any such public wavering in his own party will make it almost impossible to gather the votes necessary to win new elections.

Miller's objections are short-sighted. First, Harper will likely only have one opportunity to table a no-confidence vote, thanks to the stripping of all but one Opposition Day from the Conservatives by the Liberals last month. The rest will disappear if Harper waits as Martin will likely prorogue Parliament before the other seven days appear on the Parliamentary calendar at the end of the session, putting off any action until fall at the earliest. Second, more revelations will come out about Adscam about Chuck Guit's involvement when Justice Gomery lifts the publication ban on his testimony, although that may happen late in an election campaign.

In a way, the publication ban assists the Liberals in putting these strains on the Tories. If the polls are to be believed -- and there may be some reason to think that they shouldn't -- it appears that like their American counterparts, Canadian voters have a short attention span. Their outraged over Jean Brault's testimony and the evidence corroborating it appears short-lived indeed. It's hard to imagine that a plurality of voters can still support a political party that deliberately constructed and implemented a money-laundering scheme that stuffed cash into the pockets of high-ranking political officials and defrauded the government of millions of dollars, but if so, it's because the steady stream of revelations have been interrupted by Gomery's blackout.

Miller spoke more supportively of Harper later in the day, but his initial hesitation may reflect the lack of true momentum that Harper needs to push Martin and the Liberals out of power in Ottawa. The Tories need to find that momentum again and get their message out to the Canadian voters, reminding them of the stakes involved in delay.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 2, 2005 5:15 AM

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