Christmas came early for Stephen Harper when the governor-general granted him permission to prorogue Parliament until Jan. 26.
The Santa from Rideau Hall brought the prime minister a priceless gift when she allowed him to dodge four bullets: Monday's confidence vote that he was set to lose, possibly being replaced by a Liberal-NDP coalition government, the prospect of a new cabinet including, for the first time in Ottawa, ministers from the NDP - an ideological heresy for Harper and big business and, of course, the ensuing near-certainty of having his own party throw him out.
In a longer-term perspective, Michaëlle Jean also set a dangerous precedent in which any minority government could prolong its life artificially by using prorogation to escape the non-confidence vote of the House.
This prorogation gives Harper plenty of time to draft a more voter-friendly budget that could help him avoid another election. Just in case, the Conservative Party will inundate the airwaves with ads to discredit both the Liberals and the NPD for sleeping with the "separatist" devil. It looks like this tripartite coalition has become Harper's own "axis of evil."
It will also give ample time for more divisive bickering within the Liberal Party.
As for the Bloc, this crisis has proven beneficial, which, ironically enough, stands to profit Harper. Sure, he would have preferred to have Quebec on his side. But when Quebec largely turned its back on the Conservatives in the last election, Harper decided to turn his own back in retaliation.
Not only has the Bloc's promise to prop up the Liberal-NDP coalition caused Harper to feed the ROC with repetitive, antiquated and primitive "separatist"-bashing rhetoric, but Harper went farther yesterday, saying there were now only two other "national" parties fit in his eyes to "dialogue" with for measures to address the economic crisis. He excluded the Bloc.
While this might get Harper some sympathy and votes outside Quebec, he knows that here this kind of disrespect and provocation is received as an insult by most Quebecers, sovereignists or not. This stands to benefit the Bloc and help Pauline Marois, somewhat, in the last stretch of her campaign - perhaps a nice repayment in return for Jean Charest's criticisms of Harper during the federal campaign.
The logic seems to be that if Harper's not to recover in Quebec, a stronger Bloc will be one more advantage for him in his obsessional war of attrition against the Grits.
It seems as if Harper has simply concluded that Quebec has become too much trouble for him. On Nov. 14, in the Globe and Mail, his mentor Tom Flanagan confirmed it clearly enough. He referred to Harper's "three sisters" approach of having tried to unite the populist Tories of the West, the traditional ones of Ontario and Atlantic Canada, and Quebec's soft nationalists. But the last election, he wrote, showed the third sister had become too hard to please.
The good news, he said, "is that a fourth sister has appeared - the ethnic voters Mr. Harper has assiduously courted since early 2005." With them, "Conservatives might win a majority without major new gains in Quebec." He said ethnic Canadians seem easier to woo because they "don't make many demands." His conclusion: "If the Liberals lose the ethnic vote, their Evil Empire will go the way of Carthage, razed to the ground by the rising power of Rome." Could it be that the current separatist-bashing campaign is also part of wooing this "fourth sister?"
In other words, this gift of prorogation has given Harper more time to carry out his hardline brand of wedge politics that looks to divide and conquer to shift Canada's social-value system, as well as its seat of political and economic power, away from Central Canada to the West. Period.
The governor-general has given Harper the gift of time
The PM has a chance to draft a more voter-friendly budget