Successful ‘dysfunctional’ government pushes for election

The Conservative government is the longest-lasting minority government in Canadian history. Since its January 2006 electoral victory, the party has…

The Conservative government is the longest-lasting minority government in Canadian history.

Since its January 2006 electoral victory, the party has passed 65 bills.

It has survived 40 confidence votes.

And Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to take voters to the polls because the 39th Parliament is “dysfunctional.”

Harper’s successful minority has been helped by a Liberal Opposition that has allowed three budgets to pass by abstaining from the vote.

Now, election speculation is deafening — Liberals MPs are meeting in Winnipeg this week — and most pundits suggest the writ will drop this week.

In June 2007, local Conservatives nominated entrepreneur Darrell Pasloski as their candidate.

Like Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell, Pasloski has been a fixture at community events and public meetings.

He’s also benefited from a half-dozen visits from high-profile federal Conservatives, including most recently Prime Minister Harper.

An official campaign team hasn’t been established, but people are waiting to fill a roll once the writ is dropped, said Pasloski.

Not that he knows when that will be.

“I’m certainly not privy to decisions made at that level,” said Pasloski.

“We’re waiting to see what happens, and certainly we’re ready when the election is called.”

None of the opposition parties are committed to allowing Parliament to function, he added

“There’s increasing opposition to allow the (Conservatives Party) to govern,” said Pasloski.

As of Wednesday, Harper’s minority has lasted two years and 210 days.

That’s the longest-serving minority government in history.

William Lyon McKenzie steered a Liberal government that oscillated between majority and minority status for three years and seven months and 20 days, beginning in 1921.

Conservatives are obstructing the daily work of Parliament, said Bagnell.

Last year, a 200-page manual was distributed to Conservative MPs on how to disrupt or impede the work of committees, and slow work in the House of Commons.

Bagnell sits on the Justice committee and its chair, Conservative Art Hanger, has simply walked out of meetings.

“The only people obstructing government is the Conservative Party,” said Bagnell.

“It’s a sham excuse for an election.”

Bagnell is in Winnipeg at his party’s national caucus meeting.

There’s a lot of election talk — everyone attending is assuming one will be called shortly, said Bagnell.

But there shouldn’t be an election, he added.

“Harper would break his own law, or least the spirit of it, if he called an election before October 2009,” said Bagnell.

The Conservatives legislated fixed election dates, the next one stretching to October of next year.

“We don’t think there should be an election — there’s better ways to spend $300 million — but we’re excited,” said Bagnell.

“We’re excited to highlight the Conservative’s program cuts.”

The government recently cut millions of dollars from arts programs, raising consternation from artists across the country.

“In the Yukon we have a high concentration of artists and those cuts are upsetting,” said Bagnell.

The global economy — particularly a rickety US one — has affected Canada’s domestic economy, posing challenges for the government, said Pasloski.

It’s a good time for an election, then, he added.

“The government does need a new mandate to take action on the economy,” said Pasloski.

“The election will come down to a clear choice between strong leadership and a weak leader out of touch with Canadians.”

Pasloksi refused to discuss campaign specifics like the issues — declining salmon stocks, for example — he’d raise in an election.

“When it happens, we’ll come out with what we think are important issues to Yukoners,” he said.

Clearly, Pasloski’s campaign will bank its electoral hopes on Harper’s popularity.

Harper’s approval in the Yukon hovers around 54 per cent, according to a DataPath Systems poll released last month.

Support dropped for Bagnell from 55 per cent to 49.

Pasloski picked up the difference, increasing his support to 30 per cent from 24.

The NDP and Green Party are at 12 and nine per cent, respectively.

Green Party candidate John Streicker did not return calls by press time.

The Green Party recently secured its first seat in Parliament.

Former Liberal MP Brian Wilson switched from an independent to Green last week.

The NDP hasn’t nominated a Yukon candidate, but the issue will be discussed at an upcoming membership meeting.

Harper has made more visits to the North than any other prime minister, and he has made Arctic sovereignty a major issue for his government.

Despite its focus on Northern issues, the government recently cancelled two of three promised icebreakers, said Bagnell.

And money management has been a problem.

“In only a couple of years, the government has brought us to the brink of deficit spending,” he said.

The Liberal’s largest campaign issue, for now, would be its controversial carbon tax plan.

The northern premiers have come out against the plan, and it could be a tough sell in the Yukon.

The Green Shift plan taxes greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil fuels, which will be offset by cuts in personal income tax.

“The Liberals would also increase the Northern Living Allowance by $1,000 and index that to inflation (under the plan),” said Bagnell.