Rhetoric heats up ahead of confidence vote

If it was a B movie, it might be billed as the Tyrant versus the Three-Headed Monster.

OTTAWA — If it was a B movie, it might be billed as the Tyrant versus the Three-Headed Monster.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government is poised for defeat at the hands of the three opposition parties today in the House of Commons, raising the curtain on at least five weeks of political theatre and a federal election in early May.

The rhetorical trailers are already being aired.

The Tories are reprising the evil coalition theme they exploited so successfully following the 2008 election, when Harper prorogued Parliament rather than allow his freshly minted minority to be defeated by a Liberal-NDP coalition backed by the Bloc Quebecois.

Liberals, New Democrats and Bloquistes are painting Harper as an undemocratic tyrant — and a hypocrite, to boot — and will highlight their point today with a non-confidence motion based on unprecedented contempt-of-Parliament charges.

The prime minister is expected to formally dissolve Canada’s 40th Parliament with a trip to the Governor General on Saturday morning, making Election Day either May 2 or May 9.

For all intents and purposes, the campaign is already well underway.

Conservative cabinet ministers and backbenchers managed to squeeze 18 “coalition” references into Thursday’s 45-minute question period in the Commons. And the party has rolled out a new ad that ominously frames Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff between Jack Layton of the NDP the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe.

“The real scandal here is that the Liberal-led coalition with the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois won’t even accept the democratic will of Canadians,” Conservative House leader John Baird thundered at one point.

Ralph Goodale, his Liberal counterpart, shot back: “Nobody will take lessons on democracy from this crowd!”

A Liberal-sponsored motion to be voted on Friday reads in part that: “the government is in contempt of Parliament, which is unprecedented in Canadian parliamentary history, and consequently, the House has lost confidence in the government.”

A series of ethical stone chips, parliamentary stonewalling and overly partisan gambits have marked Harper’s big blue machine in recent weeks and the Liberals hope to make trust the central issue of the campaign.