02 December 2008

What's right about this

Stéphane Dion's Liberals and Jack Layton's NDP, with the support of Gilles Duceppe's Bloc, are proposing to vote out Mr. Harper's Conservatives and form the new government. Is it a coup? Is it democracy? What will the GG say?

The fact accords with the constitutional reality - Prime Minister Harper has lost the confidence of the house. He will almost certainly lose the next confidence motion. A closer examination of how that happened will help us understand the best response.


First, we have the explanation of the coalition: he has failed to respond to the financial crisis. This is true, with Pollyannaish estimates of the economy's performance, promised substantial savings from cuts to they-know-not-what, and Mr. Flaherty's unwise and premature musings on a hasty sale of assets.

Second, the opposition's not-at-all veiled anger at the withdrawal of funding for political parties that was slipped in with the economic update. Mr. Harper thought the opposition would 'blink' and it would be a Merry Christmas for him. And why not? They had been blinking for a year or more.

Which is really how we got here: Mr. Harper was able to whip the required Liberal votes by threatening them with an election and so govern without a majority but also without negotiating or compromising with the other elected members of the house. Frankly, that's undemocratic and it was bound to end. As the inevitable end approached, we had his intentional obstructions at the Committee level, a bit of a holiday, and then the election.

Our government has not done much work in the last six months, and that is Mr. Harper's fault. He intentionally broke this House. It was his excuse for the election. He was hoping the election would 'fix' it by giving him a majority, but that didn't work. He returns to the House he broke with no idea of how to put it back together again.

So, the reason Mr. Harper does not enjoy the support of the House is because he does not deserve it:

1) We are not governed by a majoritarianism, much liess some kind of minoritarianism: the government must negotiate in good faith with the other members of the House, who are all duly elected democratic representatives of their constituents. Mr Harper fails to play well with others, as is his duty.

2) He laid out additional confidence motions to ensure the passage of legislation that the House would not otherwise support, and to weaken his opposition further. These are both partisan aims and show that he will place partisan advantage above the proper functioning of government, the well-being of Canadians, and the respect in which those Canadians hold our democracy and it's officials.

3) He will obstruct the work of government to prolong its life and then force an election, not on any substantive issue but simply because it was an opportunity to seek a majority. Again, this places partisan interests above the interests of the nation and its citizens.

4) He has been given the chance to learn from these mistakes and has failed to do so, returning to the House he broke with the same strategies that caused its collapse.

His failure to respond to the economic crisis is, frankly, window dressing, and the removal of funding is simply the example of how he failed to learn from his mistakes and adapt to a minority house (he's had almost two years!). He will almost certainly compound these by asking for the House to be prorogued (a stay in which he would hope to out spend and out PM the opposition) or for an election. Again, either response shows he is placing the continued power of his government over the proper functioning of our government, the Parliament of Canada.

Whatever the GG does, it's about time these guys got to work. And that means a PM who can command the support of the house on a confidence motion. Right now, there is only one of those on the table, and that is the best of the alternatives. Long live Dion, and short may he reign.

2 Comments:

Blogger JCKelan said...

The PQ likes this coalition that you are forming with their separatist cousins. Doesn’t this cause you concern? If it’s good for the separatists, is it good for Canada?

Is this your legacy?

Think again!

JC Kelan

PQ says Quebec can be 'winner' under new coalition

Updated Tue. Dec. 2 2008 7:54 AM ET
The Canadian Press

MONTREAL -- Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois is applauding the possibility Quebec could emerge as a winner and "get things" from Ottawa under a new coalition federal government.

Marois suggested on Monday the participation of her party's federal cousin - the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois - in governing Canada might result in gains for Quebec.

She offered little indication of what benefits she envisioned but she has lambasted Liberal Premier Jean Charest in recent days for allegedly remaining silent while Ottawa revised its equalization formula in a way that would slash transfer payments to Quebec by $1 billion.

She appeared to be referring to that equalization change as she replied to a question about the coalition deal during a provincial election campaign stop Monday. But Marois stopped in mid-sentence, perhaps aware of the political sensitivity surrounding the issue.
"If the Bloc Quebecois can get things for Quebec while Jean Charest is on his knees. . ." Marois said, her voice trailing off.

"It's Quebec that will come out the winner," she continued.

December 02, 2008  
Blogger Gavin Magrath said...

First of all, I am not forming the coalition and it will not be my legacy.

But thank you for repeating one of the PM's talking points. He was prepared to work with the other parties in parliament when he needed to oust Paul Martin's minority government. He didn't get the chance, but this attack is still hypocritical.

Worse, of course, it's undemocratic. The Bloc is the third largest party in the house and each one of its members was voted in by Canadian citizens. they are entitled to have a say in the affairs of government.

Like Steve, you make the mistake of thinking your enemies are all evil, and conclude that your mission should be to neuter them completely. That's a view of power, not democracy.

December 03, 2008  

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