The focus on reaction to the budget has been on why the Liberals have chosen not to bring down the government, but TC thinks this is gazing in the wrong direction. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Conservatives had been moving toward an election. It now appears that, just like last spring, they have developed cold feet. The fixed election date does not absolutely prevent them from simply calling an election. In the end it is a political not a legal issue.
The question is why are the Conservatives reluctant?
TC suspects two reastons:
1. There are indications out of Alberta that are not encouraging for their provincial brethren. This Angus Reid poll reports that twice as many Albertans disapprove of Stelmach as approve of him. It characterizes the voters in Alberta as an "uneasy electorate". There are many other indicators (although not party preference numbers yet) to suggest an impending disaster of some sort in this traditionally one party state. An electoral setback for close provincial cousins would not have been good for Harper as a campaign was about to start.
2. It also appears (in part from the budget) that the Conservatives are losing hope of big gains in Quebec, and are shifting more attention to Ontario, something they should have done right after the last election. If they have made a calculation of this nature, they will need time to do something about it, and that would have contributed to the decision.
There is a very big risk for Harper in this call. The budget is tight, and if the economy performs any worse than anticipated, he will likely run a deficit, a real embarrassment for a conservative. More importantly, at some point he will blamed for the economic pain of a downturn.