Canada's election comes down to this key issue

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Sun Media, Friday, April 22, 2011

This election is going to be decided Easter Sunday around the table of the Canadian family.

And there’s only one conversation around that table — majority or minority government.

This has been the ballot question from the beginning of the campaign, and nothing has happened in the first four weeks to change it.

Normally, the anger over an unnecessary election would dissipate after a week. Not this time.

Not only are voters still annoyed, they know how much the election is costing and consider it a waste of $350 million. They also dread the prospect of having to do this over again in another year or so.

All of which plays directly into the Conservative narrative of an opposition coalition to defeat a minority government over its re-introduced budget, which all three opposition leaders have already said they’d vote against.

As Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tells partisan crowds in his relentless touring of the 905 region around Toronto: “They did it before, they’ll do it again.” His storyline is supported by the images of the Three Stooges Coalition signing ceremony in 2008.

And in the week going into the holiday weekend, Stephen Harper has received two incredible gifts from Gilles Duceppe and Michael Ignatieff that only reinforce his case for a majority government.

Speaking at a Parti Quebecois convention in Montreal Sunday, Duceppe said Quebecers had to vote for the Bloc to stop Harper from winning a majority.

You can imagine how that played out on talk radio in English-speaking Canada.

In his sixth campaign as Bloc leader, Duceppe suddenly looks old, and he’s clearly worried about getting out his vote.

PQ Leader Pauline Marois exhorted Pequistes several time to get out and support their Bloquiste comrades in arms. And Duceppe, in his speech, blatantly played the sovereignty card.

“We have only one task to accomplish,” he declared. “Elect the maximum number of sovereignists in Ottawa and then we go to the next phase — electing a PQ government. A strong Bloc in Ottawa. The PQ in power in Quebec. And everything again becomes possible.”

Great. The Bloc’s agenda is about electing a separatist government so it can hold another referendum to break up the country. That was Harper’s interpretation of Duceppe’s speech, and he had it exactly right.

Then Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, in his Wednesday interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, allowed himself to be taken into the boards over the coalition question.

While vowing not to form a coalition, he mused if Harper “wins the most seats, forms a government but does not secure the confidence of the House … then it goes to the Governor-General. That’s how it happens, that’s how the rules work.”

Quite unprompted, he continued: “And then if the Governor-General wants to call on other parties — myself for example — to try to form a government, then we try to form a government.”

After saying no to a coalition, he continued: “What I’m prepared to do is talk to Mr. Layton, or Mr. Duceppe, or even Mr. Harper and say: ‘Look we’ve got an issue here. How do we solve it? Here’s the plan I want to put before Parliament, this is the budget I would bring in and then we take it from there.’ ”

Game over. If the Conservatives can’t win a majority with two gifts like that, they don’t deserve one.

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