Winter is a wonderful time to party in Ottawa. For political journalists this year, however, the capital is nervewracking. Waves of smart enemies and disillusioned sympathizers are just one confession — one eyewitness or e-mail — short of destroying Stephen Harper’s career and turning Canadian politics upside down.
The spirit is willing. Yet the killer dots that separate Harper from the foulest data about the Senate Expense Scandal simply aren’t closing.
New Year’s columns could be alight with speculation about who and which suppressed wing of Canadian conservatism will face Justin Trudeau in the next election. The bullied could show us their bruises. Thomas Mulcair could be acclaimed as another "great parliamentarian" too angry to govern. Instead, thoughtful columnists are stuck interpreting by-elections and wondering what will break the foul stalemate in Ottawa.
John Ivison's weekend column on tonight’s “big test” for Harper in the Brandon, Manitoba, by-election contains the essence of the punditry’s frustration. Here is what he elicited from an anonymous caucus gossip:
“My sense is that it would take something dramatic for the broad mass of Conservative MPs to reach the conclusion that their election chances would be improved by jettisoning the Prime Minister.”
Indeed, learning "something dramatic" would be the most efficient way to get him. Gossiping requires little skill, nerve, or concentrated thinking. But years of it haven’t yet worked on Harper. Suspecting things about his religious convictions and his ability to reason, as well as his competence as a father and husband, have circulated freely for a decade. But "something dramatic" hasn’t come to light.
Would it be waiting for Conservative Nigel Wright to destroy the Harper Government or for his Caucus to throw him out because Western Conservatives don’t like what he did to Mike Duffy or are embarrassed by his association with Ford nation?
There are probably still Birthers in the Republican Party who pray that even with a "valid" birth certificate Barack Obama will eventually confess that his heart is Kenyan. No columnist in Washington, however, is waiting with them.