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June 14, 2005
Tories Reportedly Unhappy With Harper

To no one's great surprise, the Tories blame Stephen Harper for booting their best chance in years to topple the Liberal grip on power in Ottawa this spring and may start looking for new leadership according to the Globe & Mail. Members deny that they have started that process as yet, but some organizers have started to grumble about the lost opportunities:

Political knives are out for Stephen Harper as his federal Conservatives sink deeper in the polls, and the sharpest weapons are being brandished by members of his own party.

"There is a lot of discontent with the turn of things. People are saying it's time to replace the leader," said one key Conservative organizer in Toronto who, like many others, asked not to be named because it could hurt his status in the party. ...

[B]ehind the scenes, party members from coast to coast are pointing fingers and asking why opinion surveys have the Tories battling for third place nationally when the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal should still be tarring the Liberals with the stigma of corruption.

Dissatisfaction with Mr. Harper's leadership "started expanding with the Belinda [Stronach] defection and then it continued to expand when we didn't get our [confidence] vote passed [on May 19] and a lot of people in the party are tired of waiting," said one organizer, who also asked to remain anonymous.

"This guy was supposed to be the answer, and, instead of being 20 points up in the polls which should be happening with the way things are in the Liberal Party, he's eight points down in the polls. Like, what the hell?"

Despite all of the Gomery revelations, Harper couldn't pull off enough votes in an almost evenly split Commons to force a vote. The failure to secure Chuck Cadman's vote certainly didn't help, but the worst blow was Stronach's defection. Stronach complained about Harper's treatment of her as part of her excuse to switch to the Liberals, although she had been in a personal relationship with Peter MacKay, deputy leader of the Tories, until hours before her defection. Stronach's track record clearly shows her as an opportunist, bouncing in one year from outsider, to failed contender for Tory leader, to MacKay's girlfriend, and finally to Liberal Cabinet minister, but the embarrassment and the timing still reflected an inability of Harper to close the deal.

Ironically, the Liberals will table a series of confidence motions tonight, starting with one of their most controversial bills, C-48. C-48 contains the budgetary payoff for Jack Layton and the NDP's alliance with the Liberals that kept PM Paul Martin in power. While the overall budget passed its previous reading in the Commons with the Speaker breaking the tie -- and keeping Martin in power -- C-48 had received open criticism from at least one of the independents that sided with the Liberals the last time. An even better opportunity will be C-38, the bill explicitly allowing gender-neutral marriage, as the Tories remain fairly united in opposition and a significant number of Liberals may not support it either. Liberal leaders have promised that C-38 would get tabled in the spring, but with the votes appearing doubtful, it may get pushed off to autumn.

But as I noted yesterday, even with these opportunities to push for new elections, the polling numbers have the Tories stymied. At the moment, the main problem with getting Canadians to support the Conservatives looks to be Harper himself. If Harper wants to retain his leadership position, he needs to get out and start doing some high-profile interviews, hit the stumps, and start really campaigning to make Canada feel comfortable with a Harper prime ministry. That might go quite a ways in dampening internal Tory dissatisfaction with the missed oppportunity in May.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 14, 2005 6:06 AM

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Captain Ed blogs about an article in the Globe & Mail suggesting that members of the Conservative Party of Canada are looking to hang Harper out to dry. I don't disagree with the notion that people within the party are looking around and wondering h... [Read More]

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