Ten Points on The Madness - Macleans.ca
 

Ten Points on The Madness

BY ANDREW POTTER


 

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Go away for a few days and all hell breaks loose. I’ve spent the last 12 hours trying to catch up, here are my thoughts, for what they are worth, though I’m sure most of these points have been made already:

1. My overwhelming sense of all this is that it is a case of an entire coop of chickens coming home to roost. For the Tories, especially Harper, he is getting exactly what he asked for. He called an election based on various contrived and entirely spurious reasons. He ran for re-election not on policies but on leadership, then decided to cut the public subsidy to his opponents. What did he think would happen?

2. For the Liberals, they should be careful what they ask for. Under Dion, they have spent the last two years tacking leftward, and are now poised to enter into a coalition with a party whose economic views are not just obsolete, but dangerous. This is very reckless for both the country and for the party’s brand. My views on this have not changed since I wrote a column in the mag a few issues ago about the notion of uniting the left: This coalition could well destroy the Liberal brand.

3. For Canada, the oldest of the roosting fowl were conceived during the sponsorship scandal. You can draw a direct line from the sponsorships to Chretien’s frantic, dying efforts to fix his legacy by changing the role of money in the federal political system. Of all the changes to the financing of political parties, the per-vote public subsidy has had the most perverse consequences, the worst of which is the flourishing of a four, now five, party system. The sponsorship scandal will continue to wreak havoc with this country’s politics for years, if not decades.

4. What is going on right now — the backroom negotiations, the Tory campaign to save themselves, etc. — is actually a symptom of the disease caused by the public subsidy. Which is (one reason) why I think Harper was right to suggest getting rid of it. Great idea. Too bad he didn’t feel like making it an election issue.

5. The behaviour by the opposition parties on this is disgusting. The closest analogy I can think of is the behaviour of Canada’s student movement since the mid-nineties. Once upon a time, students protested various social, political, and military injustices. Now all they do is complain about tuition levels. Similarly, the opposition, especially the Liberals, has spent the last 2.5 years supporting Harper in what was effectively a Grand Coalition, a point Wells has made repeatedly. Nothing worth taking the government down over, until their own financial interest is at stake. Nice work guys.

6. To a large extent, we are seeing the Europeanization of Canadian politics. I’ll be honest: I frigging hate it. But a lot of people out there have been asking for this for a while, ever since the whinging about the “democratic deficit” took off at the tail end of the Gritlock era. Majority parliamentary rule is probably the most accountable political system that exists. We are moving about as far as possible away from that ideal. The country will be worse off for it. You think we had a democratic deficit before? Now you’re soaking in it.

7. I don’t understand why various pundits keep saying that Harper’s reputation as a strategic genius is in tatters. Harper has gone through three phases over the past 10 years: Sulky ideologue, job-seeking compromiser, and pure-tactical machievel. In that period, he has faced off three times, losing once to Paul Martin, barely beating Paul Martin, and barely beating Stephane Dion. What genius? What strategy?

8. Nevertheless, I agree with Coyne: Harper’s best bet still might be to just walk away from this and let the Liberals wear this. They want to govern with the commies and the separatists? Fill your boots.

9. I think Stephen Harper’s remaining time in federal politics is numbered in weeks or months. I say 50-50 he’s gone from the leadership and gone from parliament by March.

10. All things considered, I’d rather see an election than see the coalition take power.


 
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Ten Points on The Madness

  1. Under Dion, they have spent the last two years tacking leftward, and are now poised to enter into a coalition with a party whose economic views are not just obsolete, but dangerous.

    Uh, Andrew? The cold war is over, and Keynes won.

    Screeching about “OBSOLETE DANGEROUS SOCIALISM” seems a bit backwards when it’s governments bailing out the business sector.

  2. No. Really. “Commies”?

  3. I love this post. Good job.

    To point #9: I’ll say it again: Harper is like the Emperor from Star Wars. When he’s down and cowering and pleading for mercy that’s about 10 seconds away from you being blown to bits as soon as he has a nanosecond of opportunity. If he ever gets a Majority, and i hope he does, it’ll make Revenge of the Sith look like a PG movie. I’d suggest all liberals in Ottawa move far away and change their names if that ever happens.

  4. I love this post. Good job.

    To point #9: I’ll say it again: Harper is like the Emperor from Star Wars. When he’s down and cowering and pleading for mercy that’s about 10 seconds away from you being blown to bits as soon as he has a nanosecond of opportunity. If he ever gets a Majority, and i hope he does, it’ll make Revenge of the Sith look like a kids movie. I’d suggest all liberals in Ottawa move far away and change their names if that ever happens.

  5. As I posted on Kady’s thread before you reopened comments, fantastic post. You nailed this one.

  6. Demosthenes your point is just plain wrong. They aren’t bailing out the financial sector because they believe in Keynes-esque bailouts, they are bailing them out because the financial system is the lynchpin of everything else. If they could let it fall they would and not bail out anything. Keynes is still a rejected old nothing, as is socialist dogma.

  7. Thank you for this post. I hope there is an election. The choices have changed, Conservative or Coalition. We should have the right to make that choice.

  8. Andrew, as you note, this how most of the world that we pay attention to governs itself.

    Public funding and coalition government. And they don’t seem the worse for it.

    Also, I fail to see the superior accountability in four year dictatorial majorities.

    I guess there’s obsolete and there’s obsolete.

  9. Despite any views they may have, it seems that the NDP’s actual economic policy has been to return Canada to its income tax levels circa 2002. Hardly the worker’s paradise, comrades! Power has a great way of centralizing the policy of political parties, as we’ve seen with Harper. The chances of an NDP gov’t doing anything dangerously leftist are quite low.

  10. Understatement of the Day:

    “The prime minister and myself need to have a conversation,”
    -Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean

    I’d post the link, but I figured the post would get put in moderation.

  11. Hey, if Potter’s wrong, he’ll owe us a coke.

  12. Harper’s pre-emptive wars.

    The Liberal plan was to hold no-confidence vote at HoC right after results of US election were announced and ride into Canadian elections with the momentum of electoral victory of US Democratic Party.

    Harper pre-emptively called for Federal Elections in Canada in October to prevent US spin masters helping Liberals to win election in Canada as they were busy with US elections helping Democrats.

    After Obama won the new Liberal plan was to trigger no-confidence vote at the end of spring session of Parliament and have another federal election in summer 2009 with Obama as US President and US Democratic spin masters working full time on Canadian Elections.

    Harper pre-emptied them again by causing current crisis while George W. Bush is still in the Oval Office. That was a last minute call as President Elect Barrack Obama and US Democrats are unable to assist three stooges to establish their legitimacy before Obama moves into the White House.

    Now Three Stooges and their US backers want to force gullible Canadian public to accept “the urgent need” for another federal elections in Canada.

  13. the “Europeanization of Canadian politics” = the democratization of Canadian politics

    “Majority parliamentary rule is probably the most accountable political system that exists.”

    Sure Andrew, nothing like a system that vests complete power in the leader of a party supported by a minority of Canadians. Sounds democratic and accountable to me!

  14. “Majority parliamentary rule is probably the most accountable political system that exists.”

    Yea, Andrew.. nothing like letting the opposition parties keep the majority government “accountable” in Parliament’s QP, and then the government ignore virtually every objection or suggested amendment the Opposition parties give, no matter how worthwhile or with merit they might have (which come to think of it, is how Harper has been acting WITH a minority government the last 2 1/2 years).

    Seriously, where did you come up with that argument?

  15. Potter, I want to give you some credit, having not been too pleased with your posts on several occasions,

  16. Let’s be clear folks, your choices are NOT the conservatives or the coalition. This is the same Us vs. Them attitude that the conservatives would like us to take.

    The coalition is not a choice. It hasn’t been and won’t be, because it is three parties with separate interests trying to work together for the betterment of their constituents (aka the majority of Canadians) which is what our parliament is SUPPOSED to be, no matter what Mr. Harper would like us to believe.

  17. Go away for a few days and all hell breaks loose. I’ve spent the last 12 hours trying to catch up, here are my thoughts, for what they are worth, though I’m sure most of these points have been made already:

    FYI, most of your points have NOT been made; at least not here. Coyne made a few of them, but the rest of your colleagues are giddy with excitement at the prospect of this travesty of democracy.

    Where have you been anyways, Conservative camp? This is a breath of fresh air here.

  18. Coyne made a few of them, but the rest of your colleagues are giddy with excitement at the prospect of this travesty of democracy.

    Travesty of democracy? Oh, my…

    I can’t wait until I don’t have to care what people like this say anymore.

  19. “A coalition with a party whose economic views are not just obsolete, but dangerous.”

    What danger? That someone you disagree with will have some say in governance for a change? Danger that a government might try something you don’t agree with?

    I can see actions that might be “dangerous” like when a minority government in power disregards election laws, spies on other parties electronically and seeks to shut down everything from parliamentary committees to parliament itself when it doesn’t get its own way. That might be approaching danger, but not someone’s views.

    Reactionary claptrap.

  20. It would have been quicker to write “All I want is the status quo”…

    Because quartley elections are exactly what we need. We can elect a minority as majority government that will bully and steamroll the paliamentary system in this country… until next season, when we do it all again.

  21. fascist!

  22. You know, Andrew Potter actually makes some good points here when it comes to public financing of political parties. But his rhetoric is laughable. Commies?

  23. “The behaviour by the opposition parties on this is disgusting.”

    You know what’s disgusting? Here’s how the Globe describes it: “The Tory ad suggests it’s unacceptable in Canada to take over a government without an election, even though Parliamentary rules allow it.”

    THAT is disgusting. It’s beneath the Office of the PM to run a campaign that lies to the Canadian people.

  24. I can’t wait until I don’t have to care what people like this say anymore.

    Here’s a hint Ti-Guy…you don’t have to care now. You didn’t have to care yesterday either. Or the day before that. You can just ignore the insects that bother you and continue onwards with your complete lack of any substantial contribution to this board other than ad hominem attacks.

  25. “Majority parliamentary rule is probably the most accountable political system that exists.”

    Did Potter type this one with a straight face?

  26. I don’t entirely agree, but good post. Nonetheless, please reconsider an inconsistency in your argument.

    “Under Dion, they have spent the last two years tacking leftward”, does not agree with “[T]he opposition, especially the Liberals, has spent the last 2.5 years supporting Harper in what was effectively a Grand Coalition”.

    Thank you.

  27. “They want to govern with the commies and the separatists? Fill your boots.”

    Commies?!?!?! Potter is serious, isn’t he?

  28. “You can just ignore the insects that bother you and continue onwards with your complete lack of any substantial contribution to this board other than ad hominem attacks.”

    That one coming from john g is just rich.

  29. you don’t have to care now. You didn’t have to care yesterday either. Or the day before that. You can just ignore the insects that bother you

    How can I? They currently control the government of my country.

    I’m not criticising you for parroting the over-the-top rhetorical nonsense you get handed to you from your political masters. It’s just a shame that you’re so willing to repeat it uncritically.

    What I am also looking forward to is being in a position of criticising the government on issues of policy and not have to waste my time paying attention to this revolting circus Harper’s locked us into for the last three years.

    I’m watching QP right now. Apparently, the Tory brain trust has settled on “Coalition of the Separatists.” What did Canadians ever do to deserve a government as stupid as this one?

  30. Well, I think there is a good chance that you are right about Harper’s career as Conservative leader, at least, being over if this coalition takes power. And it’s nice to see some analysis of the situation over a longer term. But it seems to me that many of your points are debatable. Admittedly I don’t follow politics nearly as closely as you and I’m not a professional. But for what it’s worth:

    Point 1 is unclear. He asked for this by running an election campaign based on leadership rather than policy? If you mean that this is largely a personal repudiation of Harper, you may well be right, but I don’t see the direct link between that and the “public subsidy to his opponents.”

    With respect to Point 2, I agree that the Liberals have more to lose, and the NDP much more to gain, by anything like a merger of the 2 parties. No doubt they are all aware of this. Rae is going to be in an odd, probably awkward position.

    Point 3 is interesting, but I don’t believe the party landscape has changed that drastically since the sponsorship scandal and the Chretien funding reforms, so I’m not sure your linkages hold up. The NDP has retained its support, Quebeckers have continued to vote for the Bloc. The scandal hurt the Liberals in Quebec, but that was an existing trend.

    Again, the current situation as a “symptom of the disease caused by the public subsidy” — that’s a strong assertion is pretty much unsupported. Maybe you’ve written about this in the past, I haven’t followed your work.

    Point 5 is valid enough, though I think the analogy with student politics is weak.

    Point 6 – “Europeanization” – At best a metaphor, it sems to me. We’re prisoners of our own history. Regionalization and the lack of strong national parties is more the core problem at this point, imo.

    I don’t disagree much with 7, 8 or 9. I think Mr. Wells has written well about Harper’s strategic vision. But he has certainly made big tactical blunders before. This is the biggest.

    With respect to preference (10) I can’t say I have one. I’m just watching the train wreck, hoping there aren’t too many destructive shenanigans around the GG, and wishing Harper hadn’t screwed up so badly. It’s a terrible time for such a crisis.

  31. TJ Cook
    Cool it a bit of you could suffer a stroke when Harper finally pulls out the baseball bat from behind his back and plays hard ball.

  32. PolJunkie I challenge you to find even one ad hominem attack I’ve leveled at another poster here. Just one.

  33. Spot on Andrew, agree with all your points except #5 needs amendment. Students also want to stop raising money for cystic fibrosis research because it’s a white man’s disease. So on top of being self-absorbed, as you point out, they are ignorant as well.

    TJ Cook

    Unacceptable and against the law are not the same thing so there are no lies being told.

    Scott Tribe

    I think “Majority parliamentary rule is probably the most accountable political system” because the voters have the final say of whether a government continues or not every 4/5 years and we know who was responsible for whatever laws are passed.

    Not that this will ever happen with lefties, but what will you do if the Coalition passes a bill that you absolutely can’t support? How will you know who was responsible for the law you really don’t like and how will you show your displeasure during the next election?

  34. Go troll some more feminist blogs, Karol.

  35. Karol – He’s gonna have a hard time swinging that bat, what with all the blue-handled knives in his back.

    Hey john g – is Karol’s post the sort of “substantial contribution” you were talking about?

  36. Hey Potter…if Harper and the CPC wish to use every imaginable loophole and tactic to shove its agenda down the throat of Parliament, the opposition has every right to come to the realization that the only way to achieve its agenda is to act and play the same games that they are.

    Why is that so freakin’ hard for everybody to understand? Anyone can play fast and loose with the rules, it is just a matter of ethics whether they choose to engage in this behaviour. The Harper conservatives have demonstrated time and time again that they lack the ethics to govern. But of course the freakin crybabies they are, when the same tactics are shoved back in their faces, they blubber about the unfairness of it all.

    So, given Harper’s penchant for being the political equivalent of a schoolyard bully, there is only one response: to smack him down hard until he sulks in his corner and takes his toys home. It is a very sad statement to the character of Harper that this has to be done, but at some point a stand must be made.

    And that point is now.

    Austin

  37. “They aren’t bailing out the financial sector because they believe in Keynes-esque bailouts, they are bailing them out because the financial system is the lynchpin of everything else. If they could let it fall they would and not bail out anything. Keynes is still a rejected old nothing, as is socialist dogma.”

    Hmm, yes, there’s nothing Keynesian about big stimulus packages and partial nationalization of the banking system.

  38. Lots of people say every Tory MP may resign in protest if this goes through.

  39. That would mean 45% of the country would have no representation in parliament. A good idea if this travesty happens – Dion would be a laughing stock to the world.

  40. Lots of people say every Tory MP may resign in protest if this goes through.

    Lots, eh?

  41. jwl: Fair enough, when you thread the needle finely enough that statement is technically not a lie. Merely misleading, especially in an atmosphere poisoned by Cons throwing around words like “coup”, “undemocratic” and “taking power”.

    I think the effect will be the same, and that’s beneath the leader of our nation.

    Kinda like Bush never quite said Iraq was responsible for 9/11, but up to 70% of Americans believed that for years. Was any individual statement a lie? Probably not, but the overall effect was the same. Is this the standard we should hold our leaders to?

  42. Lots of people say every Tory MP may resign in protest if this goes through.

    Lots of people says JFD is a dunce.

  43. TJ Cook,

    WTF? What does Karol’s nonsense have to do with Ti-Guy’s inability to write anything other than personal insults and smart ass remarks to anyone that doesn’t share his point of view?

    Ti-Guy, please. I get nothing handed to me by anybody. My opinions are my own and I don’t check conservative.ca for talking points. Scroll back a few days and you’ll find me blasting Harper for trying to pull the plug on party financing, as well as inviting the Queen to fire him. I didn’t check but I doubt that was on the recommend list at Conservative Talking Points Central.

  44. Wow.

    You should go away and come back more often, Andrew.

    While the rest of the commenters (both professional and politicos) are lurching from one event to another, one rumour to another, one flip flop over getting support from separatists and calling for a switch in government without an election to another… you’ve been able to take a step back and give us a short and powerful and frankly quite accurate summary and assessment of the last 5 days.

    Especially Points #1 and #2. Harper blew this big time and showed his contempt for Parliament. But that does not mean the coalition is the best and right choice to move forward. It is a very difficult and dangerous beast to be riding for all three of the coalition parties.

  45. “The coalition is not a choice. It hasn’t been and won’t be, because it is three parties with separate interests trying to work together for the betterment of their constituents (aka the majority of Canadians) which is what our parliament is SUPPOSED to be, no matter what Mr. Harper would like us to believe.”

    Har har har har har hardie har har! This is all about $1.95.

  46. While we’re trying to take a slightly longer view of what’s going on (in between personal snipes), I wonder what all of this means for the Liberal leadership race, and Ignatief in particular? It would seem to me that this coalition arrangment – should it come to hold power – will rather constrain the nature of debate and positioning the three candidates can take. Thoughts?

  47. john g – it was an empty, doofus, macho comment that made no substantial contribution to the discussion here.

    Which is what you accused Ti-Guy of doing. Or are doofus comments only a problem from people you disagree with?

  48. Wise guy so what would YOU DO What a whiff of superior Judgment ON ALL SIDES!!!
    Jurnalist armchars In Full Throttle … I hate the All Know jurnalists speweng nonsenses.
    Life Goes on sometimes in a new way..
    I Trust the Goodwill and the Common sense what the Coalition is offereing.
    Harper is a sicko. Kick him out.

  49. JFD: would they refuse to run CPC candidates in the by-elections? If so, in the words of Warren Kinsella, they are god-damn crazy.

  50. It dawned on me: Harper has shown himself to be very tactically adept over the past few years. He has usually taken a disciplined, long-term view of events. He must, therefore, have foreseen the consequences of a confidence fiscal update that undermined opposition party funding, prevented public unions from striking, etc. *Of course* the opposition was going to vote it down, and of course it would get people talking about a coalition government, even if he gave the brief appearance of backing down on some the provisions of the update.

    I think that he saw all of this coming. Stewing in the weeks after the election, he probably thought something like, “If I can’t get a majority facing Dion, I’m never going to get one.” Two weeks ago it likely occurred to him that a term in opposition, watching a weak coalition government with socialists and separatists face an economic crisis, might not be such a bad thing. He’s betting that such a coalition won’t last more than a year or two, and in the meantime, he can sidestep responsibility for the tough times. When the coalition government falls, or even if it somehow lasts for a full term, the conservatives would return with a massive majority.

    This question of whether such a coalition is “fair” or “democratic” is moot. It’s constitutionally legal, and with precedent, and any claims of engineering “Bloc support” are disingenuous by virtue of the Conservatives depending on Bloc support in 2006 . My point is this: the coalition is not good for the Liberals. If we have a coalition government now, we’re probably facing a conservative majority in 2010 or 2011. The left needs to adopt Harper’s talent for the long view.

    Thoughts?

  51. as well as inviting the Queen to fire him.

    Why can’t Conservatives be serious? Don’t they care?

  52. I think it’s patently clear that Harper did not intend for this situation to come about. Either he didn’t see it coming or he thought it was improbable. Either way, we’re here.

  53. Great work: right on. Potter’s analysis FTW!

  54. When we reach the point where 90% of Karol’s posts are nothing more than a personal insult like Ti-Guy then I would probably object. Until then I have no opinion of Karol’s posts.

  55. This is a great post. I don’t agree with all the points, but it’s always great to get Potter’s always grown-up view. He’s a great asset to this magazine and to public discourse in this country.

  56. Welcome back.

    I agree with many of your points. Something like this was bound to happen sooner than later. I don’t know what to think anymore. Yesterday I liked the idea of the coalition government but as the day has gone on, I’m back to being split on it.

  57. Steve: The coalition is taking the long view. Without Harper, it’s vanishingly unlikely that the Conservative coalition (heh) will be as unified and stable as it was under him. No other Conservative has the talent to hold things together; most haven’t demonstrated enough wit to tie their shoes.

    The Liberals under Rae or Ignatieff would probably be a lot more unified and able than the Conservatives under any candidate I can think of.

  58. This is not the Europeanization of Canadian politics – it is European politics with Westminster rules. Why does this matter?

    In an FPTP system, a 3 point shift in the polls can make or break the difference in an election, yielding dozens of seats. In a PR system where coalition governments are the norm it can – at the most – yield an extra cabinet seat. In fact, if that 3 point gain comes at the expense of coalition partners, it means the coalition is no more likely than before to form a government. In other words, PR creates settings that enable stable coalitions, FPTP does not (which is why they are extremely rare, even when there IS minority government).

    There are a few solutions, that should really be explored more by somebody, and soon. We need to break the cycle of minority governments, or come up with rules that make them workable.
    1. Electoral reform: either Australian style (which I favour) or PR – one will bring back majorities (probably Liberal ones), the other will make coalitions work.
    2. Split the right into a western and old PC camps. Don’t run competitively in the same ridings (like the May-Dion deal times 308), but as sister parties. This would guarantee minority governments but make more coalition combinations possible, without compromising the political strength of the right. For instance, in the present quagmire, a coalition between the old PC’s and Liberals might be possible.
    3. Reform campaign finance: specifically, the subsidy has to go (the Bloc’s resurgence is directly linked to the subsidy in 2003), and secondly, caps on party spending need to be demolished (the problem is that they make small parties more competitive). Frankly bringing back corporate/union donations wouldn’t be so bad – lets take an oversight route instead of a banning route.

  59. “My point is this: the coalition is not good for the Liberals.”

    Steve C

    I am conservative and I agree with this 100%. I think the Coalition is going to be a disaster for our economy and society. I can think of a few reasons why this will be bad and if I cared more about the Con party than the country I would be quite happy with this turn of events.

    In all likely hood, we are entered into a recession and the Coalition is going to make it much worse than it has to be if they implement the policies they are proposing. And the Libs will be wearing that in 2/3 years when next election comes around.

    Secondly, if the Libs are known for anything, it is for being supporters of strong central government and the destruction of separatism but that’s going to be greatly diluted now they have decided to jump into bed with BQ.

    The Lib braintrust is not seeing further than a few inches beyond their noses.

  60. Cool blog Potter. I’d much rather see an election too. The people should decide the fate of this and certainly not the ‘GG’. No one can tell me that THE MAJORITY of Canadians who voted actually had this coalition in mind as an acceptable outcome. I just hope we don’t see any further consequences that are unthinkable today, come out of this situation, which in turn was unthinkable a week ago…

  61. Commies and separatisits. Gee I thought we were all Canadians. Some with funny ideas but still Canadians. Have to ask myself what you are. Not a tolarable pundit for sure. How do they let you write a blog? Looks like you hate the system? Get a life. Its only politics after all. Bad politics but just politics. Go back to real life.

  62. Stephen B
    Dec 2, 2008 14:58 Thanks for your thoughtful input.
    My take:
    #1 Yes Stephen Harper is reaping the seeds he sowed with the early election and his lack of any ability to compromise in the LAST Parliament.
    #2 What’s wrong with changing tack to reflect the ever changing global situation? Why do the political parties have to stay LOCKED in their ideology. What the heck is a “party brand”?
    #3 I agree with ending direct subsidies to political parties from the public purse, but it is not the time to bring this change forward.
    #4 Yes, there are a lot of things going on now that should have been election issues. Instead we got a personality contest, at the expense of issues.
    #5 See point #2 and add that the “Grand Coalition” was in place until the issues got be be unpalatable.(point #1)
    #6 I disagree that a government run by any political party with a majoriy of seats is more accountable. It seems to me that, having a minority government based on a consensus of opinion SHOULD be more accountable, IF the Members of Parliament listen to their constituents and NOT the Party Whip.
    #7 Yes, Stephen Harper’s style leaves something to be desired.
    #8 Commies and Separatists? Surely you jest. Definately you insult.
    #9 Stephen Harper and his advisers needs some humility. They were NOT given a majority in the House. It is their responsibility to form some sort of governing coalition of their own….which means compromise.
    #10 What would change with another election? What we have is not working, maybe we should try to see if something else WILL work. Hope against hope, we may have a government who can reach a consensus of opinion and leave their egos at home.

  63. I must be really bored….

    Hey john g, did you mean something like this?

    “john g
    Dec 2, 2008 11:26

    TJ Cook you are a naive fool. Do you think he provides this support to Dion, his arch enemy on separation, for free???

    Quebec has just taken Canada hostage, and we’ve handed their chief negotiator a veto on every bill that comes out of Parliament.

    We’ve also ensured that the BQ will pretty much run the table in Quebec from now on. Why would Quebecors want to give up this gravy train?”

  64. “2. For the Liberals, they should be careful what they ask for. Under Dion, they have spent the last two years tacking leftward, and are now poised to enter into a coalition with a party whose economic views are not just obsolete, but dangerous. This is very reckless for both the country and for the party’s brand. My views on this have not changed since I wrote a column in the mag a few issues ago about the notion of uniting the left: This coalition could well destroy the Liberal brand.”

    Working with the NDP is the least of the Liberal problems. The Liberals are the party of Trudeau, and of a version of hardline federalism that now has no representative in parliament. What is interesting is that both the NDP and Tories have a large gap between the views toward Quebec of their English Canadian and French Canadian members. By trucking and trading with separatists, the Tories have a long-term opening to become the federalist party (this is also more likely because they no longer dominate the provincial governments, and have the best hope of anybody at forming a majority government).

    It is horrible for the country because it means Canadian politics become more overtly French vs. English. Moreover, Dion’s own core argument as a professor (and part of the basis behind his arguments against decentralization) is that by giving more power to Quebec, you increase the perception that Quebec can govern alone and thus aid the cause of separation. Dion’s coalition does just that – it gives the Bloc a critical role at running a national government and strongly harms the case that Quebec cannot go it alone – even if it brings some short-term goodwill in Quebec (generally speaking appeasement of Quebec has failed to extinguish separatism – I couldn’t get enough data points to test that empirically, but the descriptive statistics are pretty compelling on that point – certainly Mulroney’s beau risque was all risque and no beau).

  65. The oppostion is putting the GG into a position she should never be, substituting her judgement for the peoples.

    Harper can offer her a way out and put her on the spot at the same time. He needs to pre announce his advice to the GG, for an election, and state that if the conservatives dont win a majority then the answer from the canadian public is clear and he and his party wont fight it, thus clarifying resolution. The choice is between conservative majority and the coalition, a new development that was denied in the last election when each party shut the door on a coalition, conservatives agree to give up government even if they win 153 seats.

    The GG either accepts the advice to get the advice and consent of the people and prevents herself from putting her thumb on the scale or she rejects it….everything that follows from rejecting the advice is predictable and sadly avoidable, you are seeing the beginning of it now. Bottom line, Harper offers her a way out and offers Canadians resolution that ensures legitimacy and presents the oppsoition with one last chance to back out.

    The deal with the Bloc was the blunder, not in Quebec where this kind of accomodation is a requirement to not go insane, but everywhere else. And it might be the NDP seats out west that deliver the cons their majority. Cons will keep their 10 seats in Quebec, which were effectively two way fights with the Bloc…how Montreal will go, thats another question.

    The oppsoition doubled down thinking the GG has to give them the keys, she might but Harper could make it incredibly difficult for her to do so. I dont think Dion and Layton can contain the pressure that is building, no credibility to do so. Duceppe is laughing his ass off….

  66. PolJunkie – high five, I was wishing I’d had time to dig up that little gem!

  67. stephen: “The oppostion is putting the GG into a position she should never be…”

    You mean the position of having to do her job? Reconciling a Parliament that is unable to form a government on its own?

    Yeah, shame on the opposition parties. Of course, if Harper had followed through with his plans in 2004 for a coalition government (with the “commies” and the separatists), you’d still be crowing about his tactical genius and his chess-playing.

  68. TJ Cook…I’m bored.

  69. I have heard that at the Conservative Christmas party there was already grumbling that Harper should be dumped before he spends all the conservative money undoing this mess.

  70. “You mean the position of having to do her job? Reconciling a Parliament that is unable to form a government on its own?”

    The GG has been largely a ceremonial post for years, like a knighthood. Nobody expects Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney to go galloping off on horseback to protect the Queen.

  71. Re: Coalition is bad for the Liberals

    There are advantages to each member of the coalition as well as disadvantages. The risk to each player is huge as well as the rewards. It is just a matter of how well they navigate through this collectively that will determine their individual political futures. And they have started on the right foot by doing everything in full view of the public.

    The loser on all fronts is Harper and the CPC, and that in of itself is worth the effort.

    Austin

  72. “If he ever gets a Majority, and i hope he does, it’ll make Revenge of the Sith look like a kids movie. ”

    Sounds like a great guy to have as a prime minister. Isn’t this why he’s in this position?

  73. “Yeah, shame on the opposition parties. Of course, if Harper had followed through with his plans in 2004 for a coalition government (with the “commies” and the separatists), you’d still be crowing about his tactical genius and his chess-playing.”

    And you would be attacking him a la Martin’s 2004 ads which attacked Harper simply on the notion that he might work with the Bloc.

    Can we get beyond the partisan blame games and start thinking about the roots of this whole thing? We are being presented with two utterly horrible choices (election or unstable horrible coalition), and instead of suggesting alternatives, or ways to fix the system that is providing those choices (and is likely to in the future – I don’t see minority governments going away), and folks on both sides have decided to cheer for why they prefer jumping off a cliff as opposed to shooting themselves.

  74. Okay, my previous post might be little harsher than I meant. Mme Jean seems like an intelligent lady. But I think most Canadians think of the GG and our continued allegiances/references to the Queen as quaint formalities and just part of what makes us Not the Americans. They expect actual governing to come only from our elected representatives.

  75. “The loser on all fronts is Harper and the CPC,”

    I agree about Harper (and probably Flaherty), but I think the CPC (under a different leader) will likely benefit from this in the long term. Why? Because I believe there are a lot more right-leaning Liberals voters who will be disgusted by this coalition than there are left-leaning Conservartive voters intrigued by it.

  76. From my understanding, the GG’s primary concern at this point is a working government with minimum delays given the crisis situation.

    This suggests the end of the line for Harper, as prorogue or election both come with significant delays.

  77. Steve M – thanks for softening your message a bit, I find it distressing when Canadians turn on the GG, of all people.

    And while her role is now largely ceremonial, she has not lost the responsibility to ask the opposition of a minority parliament if they can form a government. That’s how parliamentary democracies work.

    hosertohoosier – rule of thumb: in a political context, when someone uses the phrase “blame game”, they’re to blame and are trying to redirect the conversation. (I’m referring to Cons here, not you personally).

    We can suggest all the alternatives we want, but the rules are clear about what’s going to happen.

  78. The GG’s job is cermonial….She has lots of powers and ISNT supposed to use them. She is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Fores…..dont see her doing that job either.

    The opposition has banked on it, too much. She shouldnt have to substitute her judgement or we wouldnt go around using telegenic ex journalists as the criteria for choice.

    Sitting at a table with the Bloc to sign a formal deal for 2.5 years…..what a stupid, stupid mistake, legitimizing the Bloc as chooser of Canadian governments, nice going Mr Clarity. Dion and Layton have ignited a firestorm all by themselves, can’t say I didn’t warn you.

  79. TJ, when are we going to get over her responsibilities….she has no responsibility to ask the opposition anything. The GG only ever formally speaks to the PM….one government at a time. She then decides whether or not to follow his advice.

    She isnt a camp counsellor.

  80. Stephen – there’s just nothing else to say. You can assert till you’re blue in the face, but that just doesn’t change the functioning of Canada’s democracy.

    You’ll see.

  81. Uhh…Stephen…it’s 18 months with the BQ and 2.5 years with the NDP.

    The BQ (as per Duceppe) wanted a more formal recognition of Quebec’s nationality and didn’t get it.

    But you see…even he recognized that economic stability trumps all things.

    And a challenge for all of you against the coalition:

    Which is more stable?

    1. a CPC led government that threatens to make all bills as confidence measures
    2. an LPC-led government troika that has a written agreement that there will be no measures of confidence for at least 1.5 years, and maybe as long as 2.5 years.

    Austin

    BTW… Steve M…you may be right, but this will likely occur after the Harper faction within the CPC vanishes and the old venerable PC party returns. As a left-leaning Liberal, I have no problem with that.

  82. “BTW… Steve M…you may be right, but this will likely occur after the Harper faction within the CPC vanishes and the old venerable PC party returns. As a left-leaning Liberal, I have no problem with that.”

    That would only happen if Western Canada were to separate. More or less because many in the west now have an aversion to nanny statism.

  83. Sure BDJ…how’s that $50/barrel crude doing for Alberta? Tar sands are belly-up and Alberta is going to pay for the clean-up for generations.

    Let’s just see who has nanny-state-itis…

    Austin

  84. “Sure BDJ…how’s that $50/barrel crude doing for Alberta? Tar sands are belly-up and Alberta is going to pay for the clean-up for generations.

    Let’s just see who has nanny-state-itis…”

    Actually that was the state of things in the early 90’s as well. The difference is that unlike statists such as yourself, Albertan’s tend to favour the free market and individual initiative, unlike people like yourself who think that a bureaucrat should be in charge of all of our economic decisions.

    However given the fact that you’re obviously anti-business, I won’t indulge your little machinations.

  85. Andrew Potter is the kind of bad columnist it makes me question myself when I agree with him. This isn’t one of those times, luckily.

  86. Austin, if you want to continue this discussion, then I suggest you look at the provinces of both BC and Saskatchewan, two provinces which have adopted the idea that the best way to spur economic growth is in fact by encouraging investment. Something which has done far more for this country then Universal Childcare or giving funding to crappy art ever will.

  87. Andrew Potter, sir, I echo Jack Mitchell. Excellent post, even if I don’t align squarely with each argument. It’s Parliament, a minority falls on confidence, so GG can certainly hunt around for confidence elsewhere. I hate this ménage-à-quoi? three-way-of-convenience, but for different reasons. You see it as damaging (well, you say destructive…) to the Liberal brand. I see it as terrible for the country. But we must agree it is legal and democratic because them’s the rules we have democratically not-changed in generations.

  88. BDJ, I’m amazed at your ability to conjure up strawmen. It’s almost like the bars are there to keep everyone out rather than to keep you in.

    Please continue…it’s not often I see people smacking themselves in the face with such…fervour…

    Austin

  89. >Let’s be clear folks, your choices are NOT the conservatives or the coalition.

    If we have an election right now, those are exactly the choices. If a CPC minority is elected, in a few days we will have the coalition in its place. I don’t see a majority for the Liberals as even a remote possibility. Now that we know all the parties have ideas up their sleeves they didn’t bother to mention during the last campaign, let’s have a campaign during which they can discuss those ideas (and go into more detail on how $30B will be accumulated and divided).

    If the NDP/Liberals are scared to face the voters right now, all the more reason to have an election to prove this isn’t just about sitting in the big chairs and allowing the NDP to conduct their first cabinet apprenticeships during a significant economic downturn. That would be in line with the pro-democracy principles which got this whole thing rolling (funding cut = attack on democracy, remember?) – the people get to affirm their Parliament based on what the parties are doing, not what they didn’t say they’d do or what they said they wouldn’t do.

  90. But if we have another election, how will the citizenry stop Harper and the Conservatives from lying to us, like they did in the last campaign? Conservative supporters…do you have any ideas on how to stop Harper from lying?

    And it’s a serious question, so stop lying for a bit and help me out here.

  91. All the parties lied, so it’s a bit of a wash there. Who knows what else is up the sleeves of the Conservatives and the Coalition; the latter haven’t said much more than that they expect to spend a lot of money, assuming they can muster the decisiveness to act on what their external advisors tell them to do. There is lots of latitude to make it up as they go along, while the NDP cabinet ministers learn on the job. Think of it as a Training Parliament, and try to forget about whatever pressing real-time concerns might go down the sewer pipe.

    But we don’t need to worry so much about the lies this time around; we just need to send a clear answer to the question: Conservatives or Coalition?

  92. All the parties lied, so it’s a bit of a wash there.

    Not a wash. Conservatives lie more. Harper lied in the House, today, remember.?

  93. “BDJ, I’m amazed at your ability to conjure up strawmen. It’s almost like the bars are there to keep everyone out rather than to keep you in.

    Please continue…it’s not often I see people smacking themselves in the face with such…fervour…”

    Don’t worry loser, if you can’t defend your half-baked beliefs than as I stated before you can stick with you can go back to stroking you’re ego.

    “But if we have another election, how will the citizenry stop Harper and the Conservatives from lying to us, like they did in the last campaign? ”

    You mean the Liberals never lie, or the Bloc and NDP who planned this coalition before the fiscal update.

    So what you’re essentially saying is that you don’t like elections because politicians lie, which is laughable to say the least. However, given the left wing belief that Canadian’s cannot take care of themselves and require a bureaucrat to make decisions for them when it comes to what they read in the press or how they spend their money, I can’t say I’m surprised.

    “Conservative supporters…do you have any ideas on how to stop Harper from lying?

    And it’s a serious question, so stop lying for a bit and help me out here.”

    The difference is that the NDP started the idea of this coalition approximately a month ago before the fiscal update, and then used the “economic crisis” as a reason to topple the government. However given the general left wing viewpoints on here which basically argue that if we only throw enough money in a burning barrel that everyone will magically have a job, I shouldn’t be surprised.

  94. “Not a wash. Conservatives lie more. Harper lied in the House, today, remember.?”

    As did the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc, who all lied about their intention with this coalition. Not to mention their inability to even recognize that the points of contention on the fiscal update was actually later taken out due to outrage from the opposition. Now the coalition is stating they want a coalition to bring about a “stimulus,” however they have no idea what exactly this stimulus will do, or which particular businesses will get rewarded and which ones will be left out.

  95. But I will say this, the only MP in Parliament who seems to have a lick of sense is Keith Martin.

  96. BDJ, Harper lies every time he takes a breath. He did, or at least tried to pull together the exact same coalition in 2004.

    Does that make him a traitor or is this the part where you ignore my question

  97. As did the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc, who all lied about their intention with this coalition.

    No., that was just the lie Stephen Harper told you.

  98. “BDJ, Harper lies every time he takes a breath. He did, or at least tried to pull together the exact same coalition in 2004.

    Does that make him a traitor or is this the part where you ignore my question”

    I enjoy the leftist rhetoric, however said coalition did not have any conditions and simply requested that the opposition be consulted if the PM were to call a snap election.

    “No., that was just the lie Stephen Harper told you.”

    This is the main reason why I distrust Liberals [who are more inline with social democrats than liberals] simply due to their belief that a government can do no wrong as long as it’s a Liberal in power. That’s not true, and as much as you may dislike it the fact is that you’re party is only in this situation because of the fact that the former leader left a parting gift for Paul Martin, and with a lack of corporate donations the LPC is in dire straights.

    But it seems to be the folly that I haven’t even seen a single defense of this coalition, outside of those who are stating that they hate Stephen Harper and the Conservatives which is about as much substance as one can expect these days.

  99. Hey Macleans moderators, you can break the tiny links. They are not necessary.

  100. >He did, or at least tried to pull together the exact same coalition in 2004.

    He did not. Go read the letter again. It is a request to be consulted by the G-G in the event the PM requests dissolution following a non-confidence motion. The opposition leaders signed the request, and then the government went on to govern for over a year. At some point the Liberal/NDP cheerleading squad is going to have to admit that it is possible to draw a distinction between opposition parties being prudently prepared, and opposition parties making concrete deals to force an outcome.

  101. “The sponsorship scandal will continue to wreak havoc with this country’s politics for years, if not decades.”

    And think about this: the crooked, sleazy sponsorship so-called “scandal” was nothing – I repeat NOTHING – but business as usual in Ottawa. Politically motivated, stupid and pointless spending in key cities, regions and provinces, accompanied by kickbacks, is the norm and not the exception.

    AFAICT the only reason why you heard about this particular “scandal” is that a certain would-be Liberal leader with a network of loyal, um, let me use the polite term, rat cuffers, needed a lever with which to dislodge a certain sitting and fairly popular Liberal leader from his position at the helm of the political pork machine. Letters were written. Phone calls were made. Wallah. A “scandal” is born.

    The only thing really surprising about it is that anyone in the media noticed it at all. They barely said anything about the $1B HRDC scandal out of which, from the sound of it, whole rafts of people should have gone to jail for writing and authorizing fake job subsidy applications. And many other disgraceful and crooked “programs”. Maybe the media literally couldn’t stomach the thought of untangling the HRDC affair – because in their guts they knew that pulling on the thread of the crooked jobs program would expose the purposelessness and essentially corrupt nature of that entire department, which is nothing but a typical department among many others. That would lead to a shaking of their worldview for which they were simply not prepared. Trudeau’s children, and all that. Nanny knows best.

    So technically it’s not the “sponsorship scandal” which is wreaking havoc on the country, it’s just the plain, old, thieving, socialist, business as usual that’s doing it. And that crooked business doesn’t have a “Liberal” or “Conservative” brand name. It comes out of a nauseating barrel labeled “Really Big Government”.

    As the government keeps getting bigger there will be fewer opportunities for success outside of government. The power and wealth will become more and more concentrated in the hands of the leader and his closest cronies in the capital, and the people on the outside looking in will become more desperate to (a) win the leadership of their party and then (b) seize control of government, or at least a powerful position at the cabinet table. So get used to it – you are going to see a lot more “scandals” pop to the surface and a lot more conniving and deal-making over who’s the leader and who forms the government. There’s a lot at stake.

  102. I would love to debate a number of these points, but i will stick to one for tonight.

    6. To a large extent, we are seeing the Europeanization of Canadian politics. I’ll be honest: I frigging hate it. But a lot of people out there have been asking for this for a while, ever since the whinging about the “democratic deficit” took off at the tail end of the Gritlock era. Majority parliamentary rule is probably the most accountable political system that exists. We are moving about as far as possible away from that ideal. The country will be worse off for it. You think we had a democratic deficit before? Now you’re soaking in it.

    I am not sure what exactly you mean when you say Europeanization (could be a few things), but I am more concerned with the second half. You claim, that “Majority parliamentary rule is probably the most accountable political system that exists.” I disagree. and with everything that follows.

    While I genuinely like the Westminster system, and think that some of the democratic deficit critiques were overstated, or at least in their severity, there are some challenges to ‘how accountable’ majority Westminster governments. but more to the point you make, minority Westminster governments are far more accountable. and this is precisely what is being seen in here with the Harper Government. Without going in to a long winded summary, of the Westminster system (which clearly you do not need), majority governments rely on only themselves to hold the confidence of the house. And, through ratcheting up party discipline and use f the three line whip, leaders have been able to manufacture confidence, even when it might not have existed within a party’s own ranks.

    In contrast, a minority government, must retain the confidence of those who they have not ability to control (as distinct from coerce). As such there is a greater likelihood that they could lose power, and thus should be a greater likelihood that they will govern in a manner that reflects the interests (or at least wishes) as the representatives of a greater block of Canadians. To the degree that the Harper Government has ignored this basic reality, he has risked that he will be held accountable for not doing so and fall. Had he had a majority he could have implemented the same update and continued to govern unabated. Time will tell if he falls or not, but, there is little doubt his feet are being held much closer to the fire then they would be if had a majority (regardless of how you or I as individuals feel about the substance of the economic update and what is inspiring the lack of confidence).

  103. @Poljunkie; the comment you provide is not an example of ad hominem. Click my name for an essay by stephen bond.

    “The mere presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem…Put briefly, ad hominem is “You are an ignorant person, therefore your arguments are wrong”, and not “Your arguments are wrong, therefore you are an ignorant person.”
    This insult levied by john g arises from the TJ Cooks previous comments, and the follow up points debate TJ Cooks arguments.
    “john g
    Dec 2, 2008 11:26

    TJ Cook you are a naive fool. Do you think he provides this support to Dion, his arch enemy on separation, for free???

    Quebec has just taken Canada hostage, and we’ve handed their chief negotiator a veto on every bill that comes out of Parliament.

    We’ve also ensured that the BQ will pretty much run the table in Quebec from now on. Why would Quebecors want to give up this gravy train?”

  104. Why would Quebecors want to give up this gravy train?”

    You mean like Harper and the CPC giving Quebec $700 million that Charest promptly converted into a tax cut for each and every Quebecer?

    You guys are walking around with your heads up Harper’s butt.

    Austin

  105. During the election, Harper wanted to win the Quebecois heart in mind. Now they are the evil SEPARATIST. The NDP are the commies. What kind of evil plan are the socialist going to hatch. I hope it will not be putting more money into the working class or assisting the people that are loosing there jobs. Oh god please NO. I was hoping that the conservative would shine during these hard time and shoe leadership an innovation. What I see now is a minority government that tried to kill the check and balance that would protect Canadian citizen against undo hardship under a power hungry PM.

    The sad thing is, Harper will not show any sportsmanship, except that he drop the ball on trying to choke the democracy (cutting the funding to political parties) out of Canada. In an addition to doing almost nothing while the global meltdown is at are heels.

    What is happening here is the check in balance to power. Coalition could bring together the best ideas for all the citizen of Canada.

    But that will not happen, why you ask? Because political party loyalty is the number one priority, not the country. Canada is not a political party, its a collection of different people, with different background and some unique and common aspiration, conviction and religious belief.

    What the point of being part of Canada if you can’t defend what Canada is supposed to stand for. The right to not be single out base on, sex, religion, color and all that jazz.

    SO now we have a group of elected officials standing up to a minority government that tried to act like a majority. This is what the constitution is supposed to do. Protect the rights of everyone, even the ones that did not vote for the party in power.

    The danger of modern democracy and liberties , it is not to get adsorbed in our on individual independence, freedom and personal pursuit of happiness without renouncing to our common citizen duties to defend everyone right to these liberties.

    Do not forget that each citizen that cast a vote in our representative democracy is doing so to elect fellow citizen to represent and defend what we do not have time to defend ourselves. We must respect the fact that not everyone voted for the party in power and see the bigger picture when in fact we live in a country that can challenge the party in power when they do NOT represent us in fair and equal matter.

    Loyalty should be to Canada, not party. That is the essence of Democracy.

    A Proud Bilingual Métis Canadian