On Wednesday night the Governor General of Canada delivered the Throne Speech, by which the agenda of the government for the coming parliamentary session is formally made public. Given that the current government, headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party, has only a plurality of seats in the House of Commons, election speculation is rife.
A vote on the Throne Speech is a confidence matter. However, the current indication is that most members of the Liberal party will abstain, which would be good enough for Harper to remain in office.
Votes on the individual bills are another matter. The government needs the support (or abstention) of at least one other party to pass its bills (and they also require support of the Senate). Many of these will be confidence matters, too, starting with the crime bill.
I wonder what those closer to the unfolding events think. From my vantage point, I can’t decide whether Harper is hoping for an election. It certainly looks as though the Liberals fear one. I can’t think of a reason why either the NDP or the Bloc would want an election soon. So, my guess is an election is not coming soon, as Harper needs some high-profile defeat to get one, and the other parties like the current situation more than they like the idea of taking a chance on a Conservative majority–or even a larger Conservative minority (which might be the most likely outcome if an election were held this fall). The other parties can always let bills pass passively, by abstaining or just not having all their members show up. But if the government decides it wants an election, it could get more aggressive with the policy content of its bills, thereby compelling the opposition parties to vote no.
See Paulitics for an aggregation of polling trends: The Conservatives currently are about five percentage points ahead, though this is may be overly sensitive to what looks like an outlier near the end of the current sequence. Perhaps more to the point, the three largest parties’ current standings are not much different from what their national vote percentages were at the January, 2006, election.