Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tories realign over break

Tumultuous session stops for summer

  • Print

OTTAWA -- For a few minutes last week, all the hope, conflict and spin of this Conservative spring stood in a circle of camera lights and microphones in the foyer of the House of Commons.

As Calgary MP Michelle Rempel gamely handled questions from reporters about allegations of unethical Conservative behaviour, she was clutching a glossy caucus briefing package -- upbeat talking points designed to help Tory backbenchers put a positive spin on their disastrous spring sitting.

It remains to be seen whether better communications, a cabinet shuffle and a fresh policy agenda can revive the government's fortunes. But no one on the government side would argue that Tuesday night's adjournment of the Commons for the 12-week summer break came too soon.

At the midpoint of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's four-year majority mandate, his government has never appeared so besieged.

Even an abbreviated list of the government's problems since January strikes at the very heart of Harper's Conservative brand: policy drift, a disengaged finance minister battling illness, the ongoing stench of alleged election-campaign misdeeds, cabinet resignations, a simmering backbench revolt and a Senate expense scandal that reaches right to the prime minister's innermost circle, complete with an RCMP investigation.

The latest public-opinion tracking numbers by pollster Harris-Decima suggest the Conservatives are firmly in second place, nine points behind the Liberals under Justin Trudeau and five points up on Tom Mulcair's third-place NDP.

Mid-term horse-race numbers are ephemeral, but the Harris-Decima data reveal something more troubling for Conservative partisans.

The party's support among men, rural Canadians and voters aged 55-plus was at 30 per cent or lower -- the first time that's happened since the Conservatives took power in 2006.

"That's a whole new territory we haven't been in before," said Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg.

Set against this parliamentary and public-opinion malaise are free trade talks with the European Union and other trading blocs that have yet to deliver any deals, and a resource-export policy sideswiped by American and domestic pipeline politics.

A summer cabinet shuffle is expected, where fresh, enthusiastic talents like Rempel might supplant some of the scowling cynicism of the Harper front bench.

A Conservative policy convention in Calgary at the end of the month will give Harper a stage on which to rally the cause.

And a frenetic month of late-night sittings in the Commons cleared much of the government's legislative agenda, setting the table for a widely anticipated summer prorogation and October speech from the throne, laying out a fresh agenda.

"They have a great opportunity to lose the next election in the next two years," said Barry Cooper, a University of Calgary political science professor.

So where does that leave Conservative fortunes?

"I wouldn't say at the edge of the cliff," Cooper said. "But I would say -- at the risk of being a minority government next time -- they have to recover momentum. A cabinet shuffle can help, but getting a deal with the Europeans and somehow brokering a deal with British Columbia on the pipeline, that's the kind of evidence you have to look for."

Peter Van Loan, the government House leader, boasted Wednesday a typical year's worth of legislation had been passed since the end of January.

"I'm here to report that the House of Commons this year, results are what happened while others were busy focused on question period," he said.

But new laws to deport foreign-born criminals more quickly or to strip prison lifers of parole bids competed for airtime with robocall investigations, the resignation -- and subsequent byelection loss -- of ex-cabinet minister Peter Penashue over campaign-spending problems, and the still-unexplained $90,000 "gift" by Harper's then-chief of staff to pay the improperly claimed Senate expenses of Harper appointee Mike Duffy.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 20, 2013 A12

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Stuart Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Korea Veterans Association stained glass window at Deer Lodge Centre. Dedication with Minister of Veterans Affairs Dr. Rey Pagtakhan. March 12, 2003.
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local/Standup- BABY BISON. Fort Whyte Centre's newest mother gently nudges her 50 pound, female bull calf awake. Calf born yesterday. 25 now in herd. Four more calfs are expected over the next four weeks. It is the bison's second calf. June 7, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the city grant mosquito buffer zones for medical reasons only?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google