It's an unnecessary election, made interesting only for the fact that the leaders all have their jobs on the line, says Rex.

Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

Leaders' Last Hurrah

March 24, 2011

Well, the majestic stewards of our glorious destiny - by which I mean - the Ottawa politicians, have got the election horse to water and I believe the old wretched nag is actually going to drink.  A Canadian election - unwanted, unwarranted and unwelcome - is almost certainly upon us.

Elections change things, and while this one may not change the partisan composition of the House of Commons - the odds of another Harper minority are good - it will very likely change, and change for good, the leadership of every party in Ottawa, a cast of characters who have become as familiar to us and as loveable as the Jersey shore crowd.

This is a leadership election in every sense of that phrase.  Stephen Harper survives only if he wins, finally, the majority that has stayed out of his grasp since the victory over Paul Martin.  If the result is yet another fractious minority Mr. Harper can hang in for another year or two, but the Conservatives - already a little thin on the imperious Mr. Harper - will be looking for someone else to lead them. Someone less brittle, less polarizing, and…someone who can smile in public without giving the impression he's doing so while reading a particularly demanding ransom note.

On Ignatieff, the point is obvious.  Having won the leadership by finessing any contest the election is, his first real competition. The early auguries are not good.  Despite the summer tours, the stirring rhetoric about restoring democracy (interesting cry from a [mostly] appointed leader), Mr. Ignatieff has an Alpine climb till polling day. Should he lose, it's either back to the Halls of Harvard or the must-read memoir of the decade.

Are we not all aware that Justin Trudeau is testing his Canadian Idol status, and that there are impatient others, besides veteran Bob Rae, eager to take the reins of the once proud, cocky and invincible Liberal party of Canada?

Mr. Layton has the kindest image of the current leaders.  And, whether it's insensitive to say so or not, this has to be his final campaign.  He's done very well, invigorated the NDP as an opposition party and managed to keep his ideological herd of cats very much on message.  But the NDP, like the Liberals must be looking to renovate their leadership.

And the Greens.  Well, Elizabeth May, as the custodian of everything that is green and global warming, is next to having her last shot at this game.  Having lost in central Canada in one election, in Eastern Canada in another, if she loses as well in Western Canada - she will have nearly run out of points on the compass.  That may mean - ultimately - that the Green Party itself is…unsustainable.

As for Mr. Duceppe, the federal parliamentarian who's a provincial separatist, he's been on Parliament Hill as long as some of the more interesting statuary or the flying buttresses. But this is likely his last go too. Ottawa is a really lovely city, but even separatists have to go home sometime.   For the National, I’m Rex Murphy.