Billets doux


From the Inkless emailbox: Stéphane Dion sets a tone:

Harper must explain why he will break his promise – Dion

OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper tomorrow to hear first-hand why the Conservative leader is prepared to break his word to Canadians, forcing an early election in violation of his promise to respect fixed election dates.

“I will ask Stephen Harper face to face to explain why he is in such a rush to violate the spirit of his own legislation. I will ask him to explain why he wants to break his word, yet again,” said Mr. Dion.

Mr. Dion agreed to meet the Prime Minister to get answers now so he can address his caucus later in the week in Winnipeg to explain why Mr. Harper is rushing to put his Conservative government out of its own misery.

“The Prime Minister wants to see if we have common ground. He has no vision to address the climate change crisis, has no plan to re-invigorate the Canadian economy, which is teetering on the brink of a recession, and his only new policy this summer has been his cuts to Canada’s vital cultural communities,” said Mr. Dion.

“The Prime Minister should be spending less time trying to dream up contrived reasons for forcing an election, and more time addressing the serious issues facing our country, not the least of which is an ongoing food safety crisis.”


Billets doux

  1. Why did Dion never intend to respect the fixed election date either? Same goes for the other opposition parties.

    It’s not much of a fixed date if only the PM has to abide by it, is it?

    Although the PM was VERY late in pointing out this reasoning, probably for the purpose of tactical surprise.

  2. It’s certainly fair to say I’m surprised.

  3. I’m not sure why Mr. Dion needs Mr. Harper to explain why he wants an elections. Perhaps he doesn’t read the globe

    Although, according to conservative insiders, I was wrong, it *is* about the by-elections. Weird. I didn’t think anybody but those actually voting in them paid attention to them.

    Dennis: Perhaps because the conservatives made very clear when they put the bill forward that they still respected the ability of the House to lose confidence in the government? Just like they were very clear that the intent of the bill was to restrict the Prime Minister (without reference to majority or minority) from being able to singularly call an election.

    I mean, okay, it’s a stretch to think that a person might actually believe what a conservative says, but hey, optimism can spring eternal.. Wells aside.

  4. T. Whim, I realize it’s personal to you, but the law gives the PM an out, too, like it does for an opposition that has a majority of seats on a vote of confidence.

    Now you’re saying it’s Harper’s job to remind his enemies of what his constitutional options are?

  5. Wasn’t arguing the law. I was only pointing out what the conservatives said. I mean, if you don’t want to listen to them either, well that makes two of us.

  6. You can read the high praise Conservatives once had for this fix election date legislation over at the Globe and Mail.

  7. Yes, and much of what the Conservatives have said about the law really only applies to majority governments, since minority governments allow the opposition to manipulate election timing for their own advantage, too.

    I can, however, understand how Harper’s failure to mention this all along would infuriate his enemies. But I guess you’ll have to live with it, right?

  8. Oct. 19, 2009.

  9. Dennis, why does the law state a specific election date that is meaningless except in the context of the minority parliament that passed it?

  10. Dion = Dominique de Villepin, 2003, U.N.

    Last duck in the lineup.

  11. Q: Dennis, why does the law state a specific election date that is meaningless except in the context of the minority parliament that passed it?

    A: My guess: because the law itself was intended from the outset to be meaningless. See subsection (1).

  12. Wow.

  13. madeyoulook: In other words, a make work program.

  14. Dennis (Second Thots), here is what the Conservatives said when they about the fixed election date law in 2006:
    It states that the third Monday of October 2009 will be the date for the next general election unless of course by some strange occurrence the combined opposition determines that it wants to have an election before that date. [Lukuwski, Hansard, 2006.]

    No doubt, Harper is trying to use these meetings to say that strange occurrence has occurred, but every opposition leader so far has emerged from their meeting to say it is Harper who wants an election, and they think Parliament should resume in September.

  15. madeyoulook, Harper and his MPs touted this law in 2006 as “very important electoral reform”, which would “make democracy work”, “reduce voter cynicism”, “increase voter participation”, be “a good thing for the public of Canada”, give “improved governance”, allow “better debate on policy and on principle”, and pledged that “Never again will the government of the day be able to play around with the date of an election for its own crass political motives.”

    You are telling me Harper’s government said all this and knew all along they were talking about which was absolutely meaningless?

    Okay, I can believe that. Sounds like the kind of thing Harper would do.

  16. You see, the fixed election date isn’t meaningless. It wasn’t meaningless for McGuinty in Ontario, for example.

    As with all pieces of legislation that wade into constitutional matters, it serves like a reference to governments.

    Another example is Chretien’s legislation that placed greater powers with the provinces in approving constitutional changes.

    Or even Harper’s senate changes, which are meant to guide the decisions of sitting PM’s more than actually change the constitution.

    With this current fixed election date, if everyone played nice, we’d have an election in October 2009. Not everyone played nice.

    However, I suspect that the fixed dates will almost certainly prevail if we get a majority soon. If we don’t get a majority, and minority PM’s keep breaking the fixed dates, then the precedents might not be so good.

    It’s the nature of parliamentary democracy, among other less pleasant factors.

  17. Dennis, turn to talking points page 3.4…

    The law was apparently only suppose to affect LIBERAL majority prime ministers, and no one else. It’s kind of like their accountability act, too. You know, do as I say, not as I do stuff.
    Harper as Ward Cleaver, minus the charisma, integrity and honesty.

  18. Catherine, I could copy-and-paste, but I will save Rogers the bytes and refer you to “Cat and mouse”…

  19. Dan in van, you’re more than welcome to address the actual points I’ve made, instead of sulking about how Harper outsmarted you — right or wrong — yet again.

  20. Maybe the Tories have too much money. Gotta blow some of it on a meaningless election in order to make room for more. Maybe?

  21. I applaud Dion’s bravado here, but we all know the reason why Harper is calling an election now, the Liberals don’t have any $. Or is it that the Liberals don’t have a leader?

  22. Wow indeed Paul. If there was an event at the Olympics for mental contortions, these guys would be gold medalists. I invite our loyal Harperites to go back and look at Hansard from November 2006 or thereabouts. All of your political heroes were declaring that their law would take this power out of the hands of the Prime Minister. They in fact sold it to this minority Parliament by saying that while the PM would be powerless to bring down Parliament, they could always vote non-confidence. You don’t have to believe me. It is all in the record. Take a look. I dare you.

  23. Of course, the reality is, if it doesn’t apply to a minority PM who goes to the GG without the will of the House behind them, how on earth could it apply to a majority PM?

    And if the answer is it can’t, can someone please tell me why so many conservatives were calling it the greatest thing since sliced bread since it can’t do anything.

    Oh wait.. I forgot.. a government that can’t do anything is a conservative wet-dream.

  24. They in fact sold it to this minority Parliament by saying that while the PM would be powerless to bring down Parliament, they could always vote non-confidence. You don’t have to believe me. It is all in the record. Take a look. I dare you.

    Why should anybody else research your perception?

    Nevertheless, the law always had an out for the opposition and the government. It seems that only Harper took notice of the latter. In other words, he completely duped Dion.

    THIS IS UNFAIR! I know.

  25. T. Thwin, the law applies equally for all governments, minority or majority. However, the source of abuse in setting election dates occurs in majority governments.

    This is the longest serving minority in history. The opposition had more than enough time to set its own date. It chose not to, in part because it appears to have been lulled into a certain assumption by a cunning and/or manipulative PM.

  26. Dennis (Second Thots), actually the opposition argued that the law would be “illusory”. Harper addressed this with his usual bafflegab that didn’t mean anything but was meant to sound good to the brain-dead. I don’t know why the opposition eventually let it through, but I guess they felt they had plenty of documentation of Harper and his MPs saying this meant Harper could not pick an election time before October 2009.

    So, Dion outsmarted Harper. The law may be useless, but the government’s words can be used against it if Harper chooses to demonstrate how useless the law is. Harper said this law was to fufill one of his important election promises, so it is only fitting that he goes into an election demonstrating what he means by this.

  27. So, Dion outsmarted Harper.

    (Wiping Diet Coke off the monitor) Well, catherine, I guess the upcoming election’s results will test the accuracy of your claim.

  28. Catherine, if Dion outsmarted Harper, then why was it that it was Dion who would put on his best Sunday suit, appear on CTV’s Question Period, and proudly proclaim himself to be responsible for the timing of the next election?

    And why is it that, contrary to Dion’s words, it’s the opposition parties that are acting in a panic presently?

    I’m also a bit amused at just how outraged some Liberals appear to be at Harper’s tactics when some of those same Liberals didn’t say boo when Chretien and McGuinty pulled off much worse.

    Is it that you hate the idea of being outsmarted by a Conservative? It certainly can’t be about being consistent in holding all leaders to the same standards, can it?

    Personally, I think Harper can be a manipulative smarty pants. But, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think his antics are the worst. McGuinty is the all-time winner in that department.

    I don’t know. Maybe some Liberals are jealous. Who knows?

  29. Why pick on Chretien – he never promised fixed election dates.

    Harper was the one who campaigned on promises of accountabilty and transparency and all that other BS that he shot us.

    McGuinty – fixed election – well, duh – he had a majority.

    I know pundits like Wells, et al love this strategy stuff….but, it’s the effects on the country that count.

    Hey, but that doesn’t matter cause Harper loves to play games and it get everyone excited.

  30. Personally, I think Harper can be a manipulative smarty pants. But, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think his antics are the worst. McGuinty is the all-time winner in that department.

    I vote Paul Martin, for all-time worst antics, for bobbing, weaving, bribing (see Stronach), attempting to bribe (see Grewal), delaying and ignoring House votes in a pathetic desperate attempt to AVOID hearing from The People of Canada.

    Outside of the harrumphing here, I don’t see The People of Canada begrudging Harper severely for manipulative smarty-pantsing his way towards giving The People a say.

    Uh-oh, incoming charge of cynicism. Man battle stations…

  31. Denis, I’m referring to the law and integrity. Harper already has some strikes against him on trustworthiness, and this just gives another going into the election. I see you mean outsmart in the way Harper outsmarted Elections Canada, but you should realize that a lot Canadians do not see it that way. For Canadians who try to follow the law, we don’t see this as “outsmarting” anyone.

  32. PM to Jewish community: if you don’t like the election timing, Sukkot!

  33. Catherine, Harper haters will always see the devil in Harper, just as Liberal haters will always see the devil in Liberals. I doubt it has anything to do with what Canadians perceive.

  34. “It’s meaningless” except in majority government situations?

    Doesn’t that sort of, well,

    give it meaning?

    Here’s a question:

    why, if the press (and the Liberals) were so convinced of the fixedness of the dates, was everyone excitedly ruminating as to when Dion was going to decide to pull the plug, as if it wasn’t fixed? Isn’t fixed, fixed?

    The problem appears to lay in the fact that there’s TWO exceptions to the law (well, two prongs of the same exception based on the one constitutional convention):

    one is the opposition being able to take a vote no confidence (we’ll call this one the “super-duper law-like legislation that is…like…real legislation and, has, you know, law like effects”), the one the media has been recognizing for some time now,

    and the other is the Governor General at the PM’s instance, taking out the government due to non-confidence kind of stuff (we’ll call this the “extra secret hidden exclusion that was written in invisible ink by the eeeeevil Harper led Neocons, to confuse the media into ignorantly reporting that Harper was bound by law to not call an election, which is now therefore illegitimate if not downright illegal”).

    Either it was the reappearing invisible ink, or a liberal media elite double standard of the variety that shrugged a Belinda Stronach payout which kept a government alive but went bonkers over Emerson keeping his same post with a different party, we’re not sure.

    Scientists are still trying to figure out which one it is.

    I’m sure Paul Wells will be the first to report on it.

    Right Paul?

  35. You think it’s easy to make minorities?

  36. kody, once again, there are very few arguing the law itself has been broken.

    We’re saying this points out the hypocrisy of the conservatives when it was they themselve who were saying that it limited the PM from calling an election whenever s/he felt it was in the governing parties best interests.

    Putting it quite simply, they were lying to Canadians then, and if what you’re saying is true, lying deliberately in order to appear as if he was fulfilling his promise to make parliament more democratic.

    Why do you support a party that lies to you about improving democracy?

  37. T Thwim

    I think charging politicians with ‘hypocrisy’ is the ultimate in dog bites man stories. Who would ever think it, a politician might do something that he said he wouldn’t.

    That’s why nobody will get their knickers in a twist about this because it is all too typical of politicians from any party. All MPs are in it for themselves and their various parties and none of them cares what they said last week, last month or last year.

  38. Even if breaking promises isn’t important, this one just seems so transparent and unnecessary that it kind of sticks out.

  39. True, jwl, but usually they have the good sense to at least be ashamed and try to hide it from us.

    This? This is just plain insulting.

  40. jwl:

    Why do you think it is OK to hold our politicians to such a low standard when it comes to keeping their word? Especially the politicians that promised honesty and accountability? Made it their central platform plank, even.

    Then, the moment he was elected, that all went out the window. Most promise breaking politicians, I don’t think, are lying when they make the promise. Most of McGuinty’s ‘broken promises’ were a result of rather poor fiscal situation, and McGuinty making promises that he probably shouldn’t have.

    Clearly Harper always intended to break his accountability promises.

  41. A new one: electiongate!!!

    Chalk it up to all the other hail-Marys the libs have been throwing, rather than formulating policies that Canadians want.

    I don’t “like” any politician. I, like most Canadians, do not take politics personally (the Liberals would be wise to realize this soon). Canadians want their lives to be stable and happy – everything comes down to that. A “scandal” must be such that it affects that basic calculus. Adscam did that because it went to the very heart of our democracy and thus affected the stability of our government.

    Cadmanscam, in and out, Bernier’s girlfriend, and now electiongate have no traction because the average Canadian with bills to pay and kids to care for, see this as petty partisan sniping.

    But ask a Canadian whether they care if they have to cancel that road trip to the West Edmonton Mall, or any number heavily transport focused businesses if they have to worry about laying folks off,

    as they contemplate the professor’s academic experimentation with increasing carbon taxes,

    and you’ll have some honest answers as to why folks will be voting for Harper.

  42. comment by Richard on Monday, September 1, 2008 at 11:09 am:

    You think it’s easy to make minorities?

    Best line of the day.

  43. I’m actually surprised people are defending Harper on this one — I know when Dion is being a knob I call him on it… why are Harper supporters not willing to see that he’s clearly just making excuses after passing an inconvenient law?

  44. Scott M, it’s more like holding the other party leaders to the same standard. Here’s Dion asking why Harper is breaking the fixed election date. Well, why was he intent on breaking it, too? Right?

    Again, is it Harper’s obligation to remind his opponents what actual obligations the law places on both the opposition and the government?

  45. Dennis,
    I do not hink the government has the ability to pass a law mandating that the House express confidence in them… Clearly the law is not binding on the opposition (and I say clearly from the numrous comments of our PM as they introduced the bill).

    The law is meant to prevent the GOVERNMENT from playing games with election dates,calling a snap election hen it suits them. The House of Parliament is under no obligation, due to a law, to support legislation. Your argument is silly on so many levels.

    Harper is being held to a different standard because it is HIS law, HIS idea. He and his cabinet are the ones who said that governments should not pick and choose election dates to suit their political needs. And here he is, the Head of Government picking an election dte to suit his political need. Obviously he is being hypocritical. Dion, Layton and Duceppe are not. They are not bound by the law. And, they are not the ones who pushed for the law as a means of preventing exactly what is happening.

  46. Scott M, it’s more like holding the other party leaders to the same standard. Here’s Dion asking why Harper is breaking the fixed election date. Well, why was he intent on breaking it, too? Right?


  47. If the Libs had a leader who had a fighting chance at winning this election, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    The reality is that Dion will be decimated at the polls. He’s uninspiring, overly academic, (in the last couple of polls his personal approval/appeal numbers have been half of Harper’s) and has a ridiculous policy (raising already high fuel costs????) as the centerpiece of his platform.

    If you haven’t seen my predictions yet they are (roughly) a couple of CPC pick ups in BC, one in MB, approx. a dozen in each of Ont, and Que, and three in Atlantic Canada, for an easy rout.

    The public whining about calling an election is just the appetizer before the main course of Dion fricassee.

  48. Thanks kody, I look forward to eating Dion. He looks tasty.

  49. Dion’s also reported as saying again today that that Harper is calling a general election now to avoid the results of the by-elections.

    This guy has a Ph. D?

  50. “…look forward to eating Dion”…?
    “…the name course of Dion fricassee”…?

    Er…sorry guys, the uber-machismo really won’t make up for the fact that you have small political penises…

    And do keep those “Harper is fer sure like one of us” ads coming…yeehaw!…that’ll galvanize the voting public.


  51. I eat Dion wit nife and ferk, like he eat hotdog. Grrrrr!

  52. Yeah, Jarrid, it’s weird that point keeps coming up. I wonder where he could have gotten it from?

  53. Wow, don’t know about you, but that press release makes it totally clear that there are plenty of areas of agreement from which to advance the government’s business in the Fall. ;-)

  54. Dunno about others here, but when Dion regularly tells 80 of his own MP’s to stay away from the big crucial votes in Parliament, I can’t for the life of me call that Parliament “functional”. Has anyone ever seen such an ongoing spectacle in any other Westminster parliamentary democracy, anywhere??? Purposely denying a quarter of the electorate representation on the big crunch questions of the day, just to maintain the Parliament and continue to slag the government? Such a strategy must fall under the weight of itself soon enough.

    This Parliament owes its weird dynamic to the circumstances of the previous Parliament. In a totally neutral situation, we might possibly have had a Lib-NDP coalition form from the last election results, but the Liberal’s AdScam necessitated a timeout from government for the Liberal party. Instead we got the smallest minority gov’t in the history of Cdn electoral politics, but with no one opposition party holding the balance of power. That has made this minority Parliament remarkably stable (either 1st or 2nd longest ever), even more remarkable as it’s a Conservative minority, with no natural junior parliamentary ally.

    We’re at a point now where all three opposition leaders think they are onside with the electorate, and are prepared to harass the gov’t at every turn. Such a scenario cannot long last in our system, and an election is the mechanism for clearing the air. It’s time.

  55. Yes, it’s time. But it’s not Harper’s perogative to call it. At least, not if his word has any meaning whatsoever. Oh wait..

  56. Blues Claire, Wow. Just wow. That was awesome.

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