Happy St. Patrick's Day!

PMOWelcome back!
Hope you had a grand St. Patrick's Day!
Here we are on St. Patrick's Day and I am in Philadelphia, the city that loves you back on a week-long seminar tour. So no real celebrating on my own here (no tears please) as Philly is always an enjoyable town to visit - especially when the weather is hitting the high sixties. The week began in Orlando, Florida where I was doing a seminar...and where all week it's in the high 70s and low 80s. Now I can take that anytime! I was sorry I couldn't get any golf squeezed in, but managed to enjoy a visit to Universal Studios. Every time I see it, they seem to be expanding. I will admit it here...I enjoyed the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
There I've said it and they say the first step of being able to move on is to face up to your weaknesses. So that's mine! One more day in Philly before heading back to Ottawa and turning around on Monday to fly to Atlanta. And the following week, it will be Greenville, South Carolina. So March Madness is well underway. [That's my excuse for the long delay since my last blog post..]
Japan's Disaster
The earthquake in Japan was almost too horrible to imagine and our thoughts and prayers are with the Japanese people as they struggle with this disaster. The nuclear reactor radiation emissions has revived the anti-nuclear forces and puts increasing pressure on the nuclear industry - and on politicians - to reassure the public about the implications for the aging nuclear power plants in Canada and the United States. This, in turn, puts increasing pressure on political leaders to position themselves on the issue.
Libya's Impending Disaster
Now that Gadhafi is moving to crush the rebels in his home-sweet-repressive-home of Libya, the U.N. Security Council is finally reacting with a much tougher set of measures - declaring Libya to be a no-fly zone and for member states to 'take all necessary measures' to protect civilians. After weeks of refusing to take such a position, the Obama Administration is moving quickly to make up for the West's mis-placed confidence in the rebels' chances of success.  A fulsome forceful attack on Libyan forces by land,sea and air will be necessary now in order to drive Libyan jets from the air.
Although risking a larger scale event, Gadhafi, IMHO is unworthy of further consideration, given his terrorist attacks on civilians in the past (Lockerbie being the most obvious and disgraceful). Canada is moving six CF-18 fighter jets into position as is the U.S. with greater firepower. No doubt Britain will move quickly also. So, this latest Middle East eruption may only be a prelude to much wider action involving Western Allied nations. The trick will be not to escalate it beyond what the intervention needs to be. There is now little question that this will be a huge test for President Obama's international leadership. Much more to come...and keep checking those oil prices!

Which brings us to....another impending event.....a Canadian election.
It looks now almost certain - barring a miracle - that the government will fall next week. If the Liberals have their way it will be on a confidence vote the day before the planned release of the Budget. If the Conservatives have their way, and fail to construct a deal with the NDP on the Budget, then they will be happy to have the election on a Budget vote - but not on the non-confidence vote the day before.

With the increasing accusations and tension in the House - the latest being an attack upon former Deputy Chief of Staff to the PM, Bruce Carson - it is clear that the status quo cannot continue. Although the Carson allegations don't seem to amount to "a scandal", however the allegation can outlive the facts in the run-up to an election. The government appears to have erred on the side of caution by asking the RCMP to investigate the matter. It looks like a case of 'overkill' at this stage, but they can't afford to look like they're doing nothing. With fairly strong poll numbers putting him within reach of a majority government, it may well be that Stephen Harper has reached the limits of his tolerance zone. Even though the public doesn't want an election (and they rarely do, it seems), nevertheless when one is underway that issue quickly falls by the wayside.

So what's going to happen?
I'm so glad you asked. With the caveat that anything can happen during an election, an election at this time is clearly Stephen Harper's to lose. At the least it will be a minority Conservative government. Deep down, the Liberals hope to increase their seats. That is all they can reasonably aim for. If the Tories can keep control of the ballot question - which in the Tories' case must be "which leader do you trust to strengthen Canada's economy, cut taxes and create jobs?"If that is the ballot question at the end of the campaign, then it's hard to imagine that he will lose. However, if Michael Ignatieff can make the ballot question about the Government's 'secrecy' and 'ethics' issues, then it could be closer than one might think. That, of course, is why the all-out Liberal effort to bring down the Government on those issues is critical to their strategy.
The key for Jack Layton and the NDP is to position themselves as a clear alternative to the two traditional parties - read 'politics as usual'. They will have a chance to solidify or strengthen their recent rise in the polls. If he can't point to clear aspects of the Budget that he can claim responsibility for, then it's off to the polls he will go - even with his recent hip surgery. [Whoever said politics is a pain will be proved correct in Jack's case.]
Soooooo although prognosticating is almost always a mug's game in politics, right now it looks like there is no strong wave out there to give the Conservatives or the Liberals a majority government; however it is within the reach of the Conservatives with a well-run error-free campaign.
And that's it from me. Until next time....

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