Unpopular Tories continue to push Keystone

“Stephen Harper will travel to New York Thursday in yet another bid to sell skeptical Americans on the merits of the Keystone XL pipeline. More than a pipeline is at stake. Halfway though his majority-government mandate, a confluence of events and self-inflicted wounds have left the Prime Minister dangerously unpopular,” John Ibbitson wrote for The Globe and Mail today. The article continued, “The Tories are widely expected to lose the by-election in Labrador on Monday. Former cabinet minister Peter Penashue faces defeat at the hands of the Liberals, which would present an early electoral coup for the new leader, Justin Trudeau. And it’s not just the by-election. Polls suggest that if a general election were held tomorrow, Mr. Harper would lose it. But only the very foolish would predict such a defeat in two years time. Political fortunes are determined by fundamentals and events. Both continue to favour Mr. Harper, despite his present travails. How much trouble is this government in? Let us count the ways.

The Conservatives bet on President Barack Obama approving the initial Keystone project, and lost. The proposed Northern Gateway alternative that would send oil to Asian markets through British Columbia has been effectively scuttled by native and provincial political opposition. An agreement for a free-trade deal with the European Union is five months behind schedule, and counting. If CETA, as the proposed treaty is called, fails, that would be another major blow to the government’s credibility. On top of that, an audit last week concluded that a Tory senator (plus one former Tory and one Liberal) improperly claimed tens of thousands of dollars in expenses. In the lower house, a gaggle of Conservative MPs is resisting Mr. Harper’s determination not to permit any further debate on abortion. All this, combined with chronic complaints that the Tories are bull-headed on foreign policy and just plain nasty at home, have pushed the Conservatives into second place in a raft of polls, some of which show the party dropping below 30 per cent in support. Put it all together, and you have a damning indictment. But a guilty verdict in 2015 is far from settled. Mr. Harper will reshape his cabinet in a few weeks’ time, giving him a chance to put some friendlier faces in some key portfolios. Look for some combination of Eve Adams, Chris Alexander, Candice Bergen, Rick Dykstra, Shelly Glover, Kellie Leitch, Rob Moore and/or Michelle Rempel to advance into cabinet.” Read the full article here. | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

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