Of course, that is what everyone expected him to do. His prime directive is to remain in power so that the members of his Party obtain all the perks of power as well. He is a politician after all.
He completely misjudged the situation believing that, no matter what he did, the Opposition would be afraid to stand up to him. They would abstain as they did before because they would be unable to convince Canadians that the belt tightening that the Government was proposing was unfair. Moreover, they could not afford another election so early on or so Harper thought. He was going to take away their Government money for elections and thereby bankrupt them. There was nothing they could do about it.
All he did by such a stupid move was to make it easy for the Opposition parties to join together when otherwise it might have been made more difficult. I really do not believe that the Liberals and NDP would have been able to form a coalition in any other case since their economic view of the world is quite different. Harper became their common enemy against which they could unite.
The BLOC would go along because no matter what, they would be able to say that they were able to lever their position to get more for Quebec. There was no way that they were going to support the Conservatives when they believed that they could eliminate them as a competitor in Québec.
The Liberals actually made a huge mistake. They did not expect that they could form a Government this time around and that Harper would be re-elected easily. That is the reason why, with all due respect, the Liberals had such a poor slate of candidates to choose from and why Dion was chosen. No one wanted to head a party that was going to lose the next election. Of course, the Conservatives did not capitalize on the Liberal mistake.
How wrong they were. With a credible leader, the Liberals would have formed a Government in this last election.
In any event, what Harper did not understand is that the Liberals were gearing up for the next election which they expected to win. They expected that Canadians would be disenchanted by Harper. The last election in which he was unable to gain a majority even with the weakest of Opposition parties and leaders proved that to be true. They were not expecting to have a showdown with the Government until after the next budget sometime in the spring. Even then, there was probably little likelihood of success of the Liberals winning a vote of non-confidence.
Instead, Harper gave them an issue on a silver platter.
If you do not believe that Jean Chretien and friends are calling the shots in the backrooms, then you are very foolish. They have made Harper looked like a complete fool such that he might not be able to survive a leadership vote if one was called by the Conservatives.
No matter what happens now Harper has lost. I noticed that Dion is already saying look at what we in the Opposition have accomplished, how we have forced the Government to back off. I expect, notwithstanding the Conservative propaganda effort, that the Opposition will say that they are united and will defeat the Government on the Budget if Harper does not do exactly what they tell him. And you can bet that Harper will. He does not dare call an election. He is dancing to their tune now, not the other way around.
The big mistake that people are making is thinking that public opinion has any impact on this whatsoever. It does not. These strategists will do whatever is required. This is out and out political maneuvering to see who will form the next government.
The Liberals are smart enough to understand that they are no position yet to run a new campaign especially when they are going to have a leadership convention in the spring. However, instead of being a party of abstainers, look at how powerful they will be perceived as forcing the almighty Harper to back off.
As long as the Opposition Coalition can stick together, even as the Opposition, they have Harper exactly where they want him. If the economy falters, then it is Harper’s fault. If the economy prospers, it is because they forced the Government to do the kinds of things that the Government did not want to do.
The real challenge right now is not what happens in the next few months but what will happen in spring when the Liberals choose a new leader. No matter what, if they choose the right leader, then that person will be the next Prime Minister of Canada. Their only risk is a Conservative convention in which that party also choose a new leader.