Without a real leader - their effete Stephane Dione was merely a compromise after all the frontrunners had knocked each others out - the Liberals have been to scared to risk an election until now. Every time the Tories called a confidence vote, the Liberals folded, refusing to engage in an election. Then Harper called an election - even though he had promised not to do so - and while he didn't get his majority, the Liberals suffered their worst defeat in Canada's history. The only reason they are still around is because of Canada's weirdly confusing first-past-the-pole election system.
Ok, enough of political theory, here's the beef:
The opposition parties are threatening to somehow topple the government by either
- forming a triple etente against the Tories, and asking the Governor General to give them a mandate to form a new government - which won't last more more than a few months at best, ending up in an election sometime in spring.
- or they could vote against the government as soon as the Tories try to make the economic statement a matter of confidence.
OR - the Liberals could do nothing, pass the statement, and risk having their financial kneecaps broken come once the funding runs out.
In either case, the Tories will probably win:
In any case, this whole thing puts the Liberals into a real dilemma: ever since the Tories came to power as a minority government back in 2004, the Liberals have voted with them on everything that really mattered. Against their principles, against their stated objectives. They passed everything.
Only now that their finances are in trouble will they develop the guts to vote against the government. Not that anybody can blame them for it, really, but... the Tories will hang them with it: it'll make it really easy for Harper to make them look like they are only interested in their own welfare, and like they couldn't care less about the welfare of Canadians.
Forcing an election NOW? In this economic crisis?
And on what platform? More stimulus? They just accused the goverment of not being financially prudent enough. They Liberals would run a deficit just like the Tories - if they claim they wouldn't, nobody in their right mind could believe them.
They COULD accuse the government of attacking 'democracy' by removing public funding - but, that's an easy accusation to refute. After all, the Tories won't get funding, either, and if this is a matter of democracy - what's more democratic: people donating to a party, or the state giving money to them?
The Liberal's are screwed big time. I'm not saying they are doomed, but royally screwed for sure.
For an economist who entered politics almost by accident, Harper is certainly a smart operator. Not smooth, but smart.