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December 1, 2008

Tories considering regime change

CANADA - The Conservative Party of Canada is fuming about Stephen Harper's tactical blunder. Indeed today two of Harper's rivals, including Stockwell Day, refused to stand during a standing ovation for Harper's speech.

For once the blame for Harper's blunder is landing on the prime minister's doorstep. A few blame Harper's new top aide, Guy Giorno, but most lay responsibility for their unprecedented predicament squarely at the feet of the prime minister. It was Harper's decision to ignore the economy and try to cut public funding of political parties. "At the end of the day, we all know who signed off on it," one Conservative said.

Stunned Conservatives MPs are barely concealing their outrage. Many are venting their anger in private to the media (on condition of anonymity) because of Stephen Harper's iron grip on the party and the uncertain prospects of a coalition of opposition parties.

"The prime minister is ultimately his own chief strategist," said one Conservative MP from a western province. "He got us into this. We need him to get us out."

Asked how he might do that, the MP said Harper needs to "do whatever it takes." Apparently that includes spying on other political parties.

Most members of cabinet and caucus are reluctant to get into an analysis of what went wrong because they are desperately hoping for or working on some kind of plan that can rescue their government but right now it doesn't look possible.

Many Conservatives remain perplexed by the timing an explosive element of their economic plan to end taxpayer subsidies to political parties. Party strategists are still scratching their heads at Harper's rookie mistake.

Angst has set in among some Conservative staffers. Many Tory staffers in ministers' offices just arrived in Ottawa from out of town and have barely unpacked boxes and settled into new homes. Now it looks like they might be out of jobs.

"It's reasonably safe to say people aren't happy about where they find themselves, especially those who arrived here more recently than before. New staff and other people included, there's no doubt there's angst," said a Tory strategist.

A Conservative Christmas party set for Monday night will certainly be a less festive affair than originally thought when the event was planned. The party could be the official opposition by then.

Publicly, the Conservatives have put up a unified front. Tory MPs fanned out across their ridings over the weekend to sell the government's message that being replaced by opposition parties is "undemocratic" (even though the opposition parties got twice as many votes).

Top 10 reasons for replacing Stephen Harper

10. We won’t have to see sweater boy and his demonic eyes on the news every night.

9. The Globe and Mail’s Jane Taber will stop writing gushing articles about Laureen Harper.

8. No more businessmen will be guests hosts on CBC Radio’s The Current.

7. The military won't hijack Canadian professional sports events to trick our kids into becoming Taliban fodder.

6. Stockwell Day will have more time to go jet skiing on Lake Okanagan.

5. Maxime Bernier will try to become leader of the Conservative party.

4. Fraser Institute fellows won't get calls returned from the PMO anymore.

3. Elizabeth May can retire from politics knowing that her mission in life has been accomplished: Harper is no longer prime minister.

2. Stephane Dion will learn to speak better English.

1. It’s going to be fun watching Harper pack his boxes and load up the moving vans before vacating 24 Sussex Drive in the middle of winter. And even more fun to watch him move into Stornoway.

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