Break costs Conservatives

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After trying ­ and failing for several months to find that silver bullet to stop Conservative momentum, it appears Prime Minister Stephen Harper did what the opposition parties could not do when he decided to prorogue Parliament.

Recent polls indicate Canadians are not happy with the prime minister and are not buying his claims that the break was necessary to plan for economic recovery. Most Canadians feel the government has not been active since Harper announced the break and they dont have high expectations for when the House of Commons resumes in early March.

Suspending Parliament has only led to more suspicion by Canadians about what the governments motive really was and both the Liberals and New Democrats have gained a lot of credibility by having their MPs report to work in Ottawa while Conservatives were scattered in their ridings across the country.

It seems Harper may have underestimated the impact prorogation would have on his governments popularity. Not long ago, the Tories held a 15 per cent lead in public opinion polls. Now, thanks to a series of rallies across the country, theyre in a dead heat with the Liberals even if Canadians havent quite warmed up to the idea of electing Michael Ignatieff prime minister.

If there is one saving grace for the government, that has sort of deflected criticism, its how Harper responded quickly to the Haitian earthquake relief effort. Canadians have long played a prominent role in the Caribbean nation and Harper was quick to send more Canadians there to help while pouring millions into the rescue, relief and reconstruction efforts.

Expect the Conservatives to make the most of any popularity it can gain from its Haitian response, but dont expect Canadians to be so forgiving when it comes to questions about just what Harper and his government have been doing. Hopefully, when Parliament resumes early next month, the government will have a new economic plan in place. Anything less would only confirm what a growing number of Canadians are thinking the government is using prorogation to quell criticism.

Organizations: Conservatives, House of Commons

Geographic location: Ottawa, Caribbean

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