A potentially winning issue for the Conservatives that should not be forgotten is the proposal to eliminate federal subsidies to political parties. I know there may be a tendency to forget the idea that triggered a near death experience for Harper’s minority government last winter (though, as I argued at the time, here and here, it was a near majority experience as well, if it has been played smarter). However, the correlation between the proposed subsidy elimination and the Three Stooges coalition should not obscure the fact that the policy – in and of itself – was very popular.
The elimination of government subsidies for political parties is in many ways the ideal issue for Conservatives because it is a rare confluence of populism, conservative principle and Machiavellian gain. Because it is populist, the undecideds in the mushy middle will like it. Because it reflects conservative principle (that the government has no business subsidizing political activism), the party’s core supporters will be energized. Because the separatist Bloc is the party most dependent on federal government subsidies, English Canada will rally behind it. And, above all, because it directly threatens the fiscal solvency of every federal political party except the Conservatives, it forces the Liberals and the NDP to take a determined stand against a popular issue in the middle of an election campaign.
Please Mr. Harper, I beg you, don’t let this glorious opportunity pass us by!