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According to Ipsos-Reid, a majority of Canadians don't think we need an election, would blame Michael Ignatieff if we have one and would vote against the Liberals if he forces the issue. Perhaps. However, based on yesterday's developments, if the Conservative government is defeated in the next while, there will be one person and only one person to blame: Stephen Harper.

Let there be no doubt: Jack Layton is willing to keep the government alive, ostensibly to help the unemployed. And, as Jeffrey Simpson points out, it won't take much on Mr. Harper's part. Which pretty much describes what he was prepared to offer the NDP yesterday, and how in Question Period he positioned the EI reforms that his minister had announced earlier in the day.

Perhaps Mr. Harper's internal polls, like the latest Ipsos-Reid, show him in majority territory, the NDP at their lowest since the last election and the Liberals trailing the Conservatives in Ontario by ten points. And maybe he's hot to trot after looking at the huge gap between him and Mr. Ignatieff on "leadership" in the latest Nanos poll. In other words, perhaps Mr. Harper wants an election right now, as long as he's not blamed for it.

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Alternatively, could it be that he's heard the rumours about the NDP losing its ad agency in Québec - and figures that Jack Layton is desperate and will settle for anything? Sure, one understands that the Prime Minister would not want to climb into bed overtly with New Democrats, lest he unilaterally disarm himself of a potentially potent anti-coalition message against the Liberals in the next election campaign. However, if Mr. Harper after the first confidence vote rubs Mr. Layton's nose in it - as he did when Mr. Ignatieff backed down in June and was savaged by the parliamentary press gallery - he, and Canadians, will have no one else to blame for the ensuing election.



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