OTTAWA – Michael Ignatieff’s declaration this week that his Liberals could no longer support the Conservative government was like the bell calling fire fighters to action at the station.
Political operatives from all major parties immediately swung into campaign mode, readying everything from modes of transportation to their team of partisan foot soldiers.
Senior Conservative staffers met earlier in the week to discuss some of the practicalities of campaigning. That includes who will stay behind to answer the phones in ministerial offices, and who will take leave and work for the party.
A Conservative source said the party has an Air Canada jet on 24-hour call, and can organize the campaign buses on extremely short notice. Newly minted Senator Doug Finley will continue on at the helm of the campaign, while the party’s new director of political operations, Jenni Byrne, will be his second-in-command.
Conservative election whiz Patrick Muttart is set to return to advise the party during the election, although he is working for an American public affairs firm in Chicago. Muttart helped deliver government to Harper by targeting small groups of voters in ridings that were just within the party’s grasp. He was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former deputy chief of staff.
Tory insiders point out that while their leader is not keen to go into an election, and there have been several changes in his office, the party feels comfortable given this would be the fourth run in five years with roughly the same team in place.
“They’ve got a well-oiled machine and they’ve got the people to make it work,” said the Conservative.
The Liberals are also putting the finishing touches on their election plans.
One source said the party has secured transportation from “one of the major airlines,” differentiating from the 29-year-old Air Inuit jet they scrambled to air during the last election.
The components of the Liberal war room are also coming together, the space allocated in the same building as the party’s headquarters in downtown Ottawa. Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella will direct the “rapid response” team that will handle the day-to-day news cycle. Campaign veteran Gordon Ashworth will be the campaign director.
“We’re definitely on red alert for an election,” said one Liberal operative.
At the NDP, party staff were told this week to set aside any work that is not focused on election readiness.
National director Brad Lavigne notes the campaign team has also been together for the past four elections.
“Other parties might be reinventing the wheel, but we’ll be building on the most successful campaign in a generation.”
The impact on the inner workings of the federal government was felt almost immediately.
Bureaucrats across Ottawa were re-evaluating their work plans for the possibility of a federal election.
Legislation which is in the earliest stages of development or parliamentary study would be put on hold. Other bills that are nearing passage in the Commons and Senate would be made top priority for the return of Parliament.