Will suspending Parliament really settle anything? - Macleans.ca
 

Will suspending Parliament really settle anything?

Experts say the break could actually deepen the tension


 

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Will an extra week of vacation alter Canadian history? Governor-General Michaëlle Jean’s decision Thursday morning, to accept Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s request to prorogue Parliament does guarantee a longer Christmas break for MPs. (The House had been scheduled to adjourn on Dec. 12. The scheduled return-to-work—Jan 26—hasn’t changed, but the first order of government business will now be the tabling of a new budget.) Whether it has any greater significance depends on who you ask.

Allan Tupper, the head of the University of British Columbia’s political science department, worries about the precedent. Governments in danger of Parliamentary defeat appear to have been granted a new escape route, he says. “They now have a capacity to avoid the most basic accountability that our system has to offer—the one that allows for its peaceful transition. Whether it’s six months, six weeks, or six days, it means they do not have to face the House. That’s the crucial point.”

The big winner, says Tupper, is Harper, who has managed to buy his embattled Conservatives more time to undermine the fledgling Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition. Over the coming weeks, the Tories can continue to court public opinion, painting their opponents as undemocratic, hammering the unpopular Stéphane Dion, and casting doubts on his and Jack Layton’s “dangerous” alliance with Quebec sovereignists. Even if the Tories fail to drive a wedge between members of the “Gang of Three,” he says, they may well succeed in weakening the coalition, increasing the likelihood of an another election rather than a change of government. Tupper says he wasn’t surprised by Jean’s decision: “There weren’t many options here. And she took the one that many people thought she had to.” But he wonders whether it is healthy for Canadian democracy, and the future of her office. “If there was ever a time you would have expected a Governor-General to judge this another way, this was it,” he says. “There could be considerably deepened tensions and partisanship in Canadian society over the next six weeks. Just look what we’ve seen in the past six days.”

However, Ted McWhinney, a Constitutional expert and former Liberal MP, who wrote the 2005 book, The Governor General and the Prime Ministers: The Making and Unmaking of Governments, says Jean made the entirely correct decision. “I think it’s almost a textbook example of a Governor-General understanding the Constitutional parameters of her office,” he says from his Vancouver home. “There isn’t any issue with prorogation. It’s 100 per cent routine. The Prime Minister requests it and he receives it.” McWhinney says he knows of no precedent in the world’s Westminister-style Parliamentary democracies where such a request to adjourn the House was denied. With Harper having committed to a firm, and relatively rapid, return date, it is hard to make a case that he is somehow abusing the system. The next federal budget and its expected stimulus package, he notes, will actually be delivered in a much shorter time frame than usual, an almost certainly more quickly than if the coalition were to take power in the coming days. And now Canadians, and their government, will have the benefit of knowing exactly how Barack Obama’s administration intends to tackle issues like the auto industry, before committing to costly interventions.

But while McWhinney maintains that Jean has embraced a “reasonable solution,” her choices going forward will be no less difficult. If the Harper government falls in a confidence vote, she will be required to carefully scrutinize the coalition before offering Dion the opportunity to form a government. At present, says McWhinney, the agreement between the Liberals and their would-be partners doesn’t pass the Constitutional test. “The document that has been submitted is an agreement between two parties [the Liberals and the NDP] with 114 seats. It really isn’t satisfactory.” The Governor-General will need a more formal assurance that the Bloc and its 49 MPs will support the new government. Something like the very detailed agreement struck between the Ontario Liberals and the NDP in the mid-1980s, which even spelled out the coalition’s legislative agenda. “This document just doesn’t take the Governor-General over that hurdle.”

The Canadian people it seems, are no less divided on the current political crisis. An Angus Reid survey, released Thursday, found that 47 per cent of respondents wanted Jean to prorogue Parliament, while 37 per cent wished she would leave the Conservatives to their fate and give the opposition a chance to govern. And following Stephen Harper’s prime time address to the nation, the same percentage, 37, said their opinion of him had worsened. Forty-two per cent said they thought less of Dion following his speech, which was marred by community-access television production values. On the other hand, another poll show the Conservatives actually gaining electoral support. An Ekos survey, also released Thursday, has the Tories at 44 per cent, up substantially from their 37.6 per cent share of the popular vote in Oct. The Liberals trail at 24 per cent, says Ekos, with the NDP at 14.5 per cent.

Errol Mendes, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa, says the adjournment is at best a temporary lull in what promises to be a nasty political battle. “It’s a victory of tactics. But the greatest victim in all of this is the country. This was so totally unnecessary.” Harper, he says, must take the blame for precipitating a crisis by so nakedly seeking partisan advantage—his proposal to strip his opponents of their funding under the guise of budgetary restraint—during a time of global economic turmoil. Mendes believes the atmosphere in Ottawa is so poisoned now that the government’s failure is inevitable; Harper having not just lost just the confidence of the House, but its trust. And the academic expresses his sympathy for the woman caught in the middle. “I feel really kind of sorry for the Governor-General. Whatever she decides will not satisfy a large percentage of the public.” Should the Tories fall in late January, it will be just four months since the last federal election. Lord Byng denied Mackenzie King’s request for a vote because it had been a “too short” eight months. “Michaëlle Jean will be placed in the same dilemma yet again,” says Mendes.


 

Will suspending Parliament really settle anything?

  1. Ted McWhinney (great name! he should start a blog) doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If it ever did come to appointing a new Cabinet after the Tories lost a vote of non-confidence, all the GG would need would be an avowal by Duceppe that the Bloc would support a vote of confidence in the Coalition. They don’t need to “spell out” anything. This isn’t the 19th C. This guy is out to lunch.

  2. Bob Rae has twice betrayed himself. The first time was moments after winning his seat in his Toronto riding, when he mused about bringing down the government in the event that Mr. Harper didn’t do as he was told. The self centered Rae didn’t recognize the reality that the people gave Harper a stronger mandate than he had before the election.

    The second betrayal occurred today on Mike Duffy live. A highly agitated Rae wanted to spar with Duffy over semantics, in this case the meaning of the word, ”gift” But the betrayal came when Duffy asked Rae if the coalition would back down providing Harper capitulated on every single coalition demand. Rae’s testosterone got the better of him and he firmly said no, that it’s a done deal and that Harper is history.

    This thing was never about the economy as the conspirators would like us to believe. This thing has always been about a reckless pursuit of power at any cost. Well, the cost is beginning to add up in the form of a national unity crisis.

  3. GRPF: “Well, the cost is beginning to add up in the form of a national unity crisis.”

    Thanks entirely to Harper’s ham-fisted approach to government, so it is. And now he’s got Grass Roots Protesters chanting “Death to separatists!” (I paraphrase) to help ensure calm and national unity. Wow, thanks, Tories! Thanks for putting country first!

  4. Well, if we have a new referendum on Quebec’s place within or without Canada in two years or less we don’t have to look much farther than Stephen Harper. The Bloc is getting closer and closer to sweep Quebec, maybe 60 seats or more…

  5. Jack Mitchell: Saying Ted McWhinney doesn’t know what he is talking about is beyond absurd. Anyone that has listened to him through the years discuss important Constitutional matters (he was particularly popular with Peter Gzowski during the Meech Lake discussion) would agree he that he brings well thought out comments and opinion. The inane comments on both sides of the aisle over the past week is enough to drive one insane but commenting on the worthiness of a credible constitutional expert is a new low. C’mon Jack. If you were a constitutional expert you’d be in the column and not giving your lame two cents worth.

  6. OK, maybe McWhinney was misquoted. From the post above:

    “The document that has been submitted is an agreement between two parties [the Liberals and the NDP] with 114 seats. It really isn’t satisfactory.” The Governor-General will need a more formal assurance that the Bloc and its 49 MPs will support the new government. Something like the very detailed agreement struck between the Ontario Liberals and the NDP in the mid-1980s, which even spelled out the coalition’s legislative agenda. “This document just doesn’t take the Governor-General over that hurdle.”

    It is absolutely not for the GG to judge the agenda of her Government. Are you suggesting it is? Perhaps you’d like to back that up? C’mon, ron, if your opinion were worth anything you’d post it under your real name.

    No, funny, I’m not a polisci academic and I was never on Peter Gzowski’s show. Guess that means I don’t know anything about Westminster government, eh? Must be. Must be.

  7. We now have a precedent that the Governor General should not take into account any of the context of a request to prorogue. Essentially, nothing stops a Prime Minister who is about to go down to defeat, and who doesn’t even have the support of his own caucus to prorogue for up to a year and to continue to govern. Some might say that the Governor General might refuse a lengthy prorogation, but what evidence exists to support that? As has been said here, a prorogation requested is a prorogation granted.

    We now have a system whereby a Prime Minister who does not have the confidence of the House can act as dictator for a year and we have no legal recourse to pry him from office short of storming the PMO with pitchforks.

    Thus, it is clear that any future prorogations of the House of Commons should only be done based on a successful motion in the House of Commons (which ought to have supremacy over the Prime Minister, who is not elected) requesting such prorogation for a defined period of time. Until this is rectified, Canadian democracy is at risk from a rogue executive branch who could operate with dictatorial powers.

  8. Mich,

    Your logic is surprisingly simple.It’s like saying the reason the Leafs lost is because the Oilers showed up-it would have been much easier for the old Toronto gang if no one challenged them.

    The coalition fellows wanted to drive a stake through Harper’s heart no matter what the cost.

  9. GRPF: “The coalition fellows wanted to drive a stake through Harper’s heart no matter what the cost.”

    Yeah, well, no argument here. But can you deny that Harper started it with the FUFU? And once it got rolling, it was his choice to play up the separatist rhetoric.

    Look, you can’t say that the Bloc is illegitimate, or pure evil. You can say their attitude is puerile, counterproductive, deeply harmful, etc., but the fact of the matter is that they represent virtually all the non-Montreal, non-Quebec City ridings. If you say they have no right to participate in choosing the Government, you’re basicaly saying that that huge chunk of the country should be excluded. How is that democratic? How can it fail to stir up resentment? The Liberals weren’t doing that. They were letting sleeping dogs lie — just as the Tories had done umpteen times in the previous Parliament. Harper has deliberately chosen to rekindle the bonfire of Meech. It’s incredibly irresponsible. His supporters may just be naive but he is guilty of risking a whole new national unity crisis for nothing.

  10. Mitch,

    There’s no shortage of blame to go around and this whole thing is a classic case of cutting of one’s nose to spite one’s face.

    I think the nation was hoping for more cooperative federalism, which certainly wasn’t the case. So, yes Harper errored by ignoring the reality that there are opposition leaders who have a legitimate right to be heard. But now the coalition seems equally wrong in saying it doesn’t matter what Harper does because they want him gone. The ramifications for this will be enormous becue of the payoff to Duceppe and the other powers he will have. This is unacceptable and would be akin to having a party of neonazis involved in the operations of a Jewish state. Well, not quite that bad, but you get the picture.

    There are only two solutions which will not trigger a full national unity crisis: figure out a way to work together or have another general election. Anything else will be a sure sign of a quest for power at any cost.

  11. “This is unacceptable and would be akin to having a party of neonazis involved in the operations of a Jewish state.”

    That is terribly inflammatory and you should apologize to Quebec sovereignists. Suggesting that a desire for an independent Quebec state is akin to wishing death to Canadians is vile.

  12. >We now have a precedent that the Governor General should not take into account any of the context of a request to prorogue.

    Your evidence that the G-G did not take any account of the context is…?

    The G-G can grant prorogation. Interestingly, the G-G also has the power to summon parliament (break prorogation). Do you think a request to recess for a year will be granted? Do you suppose a PM who promised to return in 3 months won’t be summoned if he doesn’t show up first?

  13. If the GG will grant prorogation to stave off the defeat of a government, could it be reasonably argued that the GG would exercise the right to refuse prorogation requests of any nature, given they fall within the requirement that Parliament be reconvened within one year?

  14. Jack Mitchell: “Ted McWhinney (great name! he should start a blog) doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If it ever did come to appointing a new Cabinet after the Tories lost a vote of non-confidence, all the GG would need would be an avowal by Duceppe that the Bloc would support a vote of confidence in the Coalition. They don’t need to “spell out” anything. This isn’t the 19th C. This guy is out to lunch.”

    Resume of Ted McWhinney:

    He has held professorships at Yale, the Sorbonne, Toronto, McGill, Indiana, College de France, and at the Meiji University in Tokyo. He has been a legal consultant to the United Nations; constitutional adviser to the Premier of Ontario and to the Premier of Quebec; chief adviser to the Canadian government’s Task Force on National Unity (the Pepin-Robarts Commission); Royal Commissioner of Enquiry to the Government of Quebec; Special Commissioner of Enquiry for the Government of British Columbia; special adviser to the Canadian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, as well as constitutional and international law adviser to a number of foreign governments.

    The author of 24 books (two of them in French and one in German), editor of 11 symposium volumes, and author of several hundred scientific articles, he is the first jurist from Canada to be elected to the century-old Institut de Droit International. He has been a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and is a member of the Institut Grand-Ducal of Luxembourg, and of the Académie Internationale de Droit Comparé in Paris.

    Glad you’ve straightened this out, Jack.

  15. Thanks for adding yet another post endorsing Ted McWhinney, sf, without addressing the issue of whether or not we want the GG — who totally lacks democratic legitimacy — deciding on policy.

    I don’t care how many friggin’ articles, books, professorships, whatevers this McWhinney has to his name, he is way out of line in saying that the office of the Governor General is political. That is simply outrageous. If you don’t see that then I question your commitment to democracy — and his.

  16. This blog post is sooo December 2nd.

    1. Polls after the prorogue had something like 60% support for the measure (the Angus Reid poll came out before Thursday).

    2. Suspending parliament gives more time to consider the long-term implications of what is about to happen.

    3. So does Mr. Tupper honestly believe the best way to deal with major constitutional crises is to make decisions while emotions are still flaring, and where the situation is as unclear as possible? I am a phd candidate, but frankly I have been disgusted by a lot of the analysis from academia. My profession is overwhelmingly left-leaning (except for economists) and is more used to arcane debates than genuine policy ones because so few people engage with them.

    (and no liberals are not smarter, the Liberal party happens to be the party that defends the INTERESTS of the creative class).

  17. “I don’t care how many friggin’ articles, books, professorships, whatevers this McWhinney has to his name, he is way out of line in saying that the office of the Governor General is political. That is simply outrageous. If you don’t see that then I question your commitment to democracy — and his.”

    So you care more about the proper application of rules (and that is dubious considering we have no written rules for parliamentary procedures, like the British) than you do about seeing that the PURPOSE of those rules is adhered to. Actually I think that may be a source of a lot of ideological divide – liberals tend to be detail-oriented, while Conservatives are big picture folks (liberals see ten different government programs and figure each is good so we should do them all, conservatives see a deficit and distortions to the market).

    Why do we have rules of parliament in the first place? To ensure stability, to preserve the country, and to produce legitimate governments. Legitimacy evolves over time, and it is plausible to argue, considering the reaction, that democratic sanction is a major source of legitimacy. Look at the response to Meech – when we engage in macro-constitutional changes we turn to the people. Why do otherwise with constitutional crises? That is the sense in which McWhinney means that the governor general’s office is political.

  18. Oh and as for Allan Tupper, here are his most cited publications (he is a political scientist, speaking as one myself, political scientists do not generally cover the minutiae of parliamentary procedure). His research interests are not especially related to this crisis.

    “Allan Tupper (Ph.D. Queen’s) joined the department in 2002 after 26 years at the University of Alberta. He has research interests in the areas of Canadian politics, public management and public policy as well as on ongoing research program in North American higher education, the Supreme Court of Canada and Canadian provincial politics. He is editor of Canadian Public Administration, Canada’s premier journal for the analysis of public management and public policy.”

    Nor is the fact that he is head of the department. The head of the department is an elected position not based on academic merit (I’m not saying Tupper is a bad scholar – he isn’t – I am saying that the authority you are lending him with the “head” title is inappropriate). When a fairly young professor takes it on it is usually because nobody else wants the job, though it may also be because he is able to represent the interests of a majority of faculty members (internal university politics can be insanely bitter). He does get a nice raise though.

    Nor are his main publications:

    No Place to Learn: Why Universities Aren’t Working (37 citations)

    Public Corporations and Public Policy in Canada

    Intergovernmental Canada: Towards a Redefinition

    Corruption, Character, and Conduct: Essays on Canadian Government Ethics

    Government and Politics in Alberta (4 citations)

    Huh, so, where is he a constitutional expert again?

  19. hosertohoosier:

    “Why do we have rules of parliament in the first place? To ensure stability, to preserve the country, and to produce legitimate governments. Legitimacy evolves over time, and it is plausible to argue, considering the reaction, that democratic sanction is a major source of legitimacy. Look at the response to Meech – when we engage in macro-constitutional changes we turn to the people. Why do otherwise with constitutional crises? That is the sense in which McWhinney means that the governor general’s office is political.”

    Actually that’s not what McWhinney was saying: he said that the GG should require the Coalition to spell out its agenda in detail before (post non-confidence motion)

    But as to your point about legitimacy evolving . . . (Man, I love how radically unconservative self-styled conservatives are.) I’m sure it does, but that is no reason to base a decision on whether to suspend Parliament on polls!

    Look, we don’t have a checks-and-balances system in Canada like they have in Indiana the States. The PM has extraordinary power. The only check on that is Parliament. Even if we were to adopt merely an Israeli-style de jure elected PM system, he could virtually reign unchecked; what you’re proposing is a de facto presidential system in which the PM’s authority stems from election vote percentages and/or yesterday’s polls — not just his moral authority but his real authority, since if the GG is to take the PM’s election percentage and/or popularity into consideration then the weight of her office is thrown behind the PM. A PM with all the authority of the GG and a helpless Parliament — it’s a recipe for tyranny. One which McWhinney is apparently quite cool with.

    Besides, if we’re talking Canadian practicalities, a presidential system (de jure or, worse, de facto) just wouldn’t work here — it’s winner-take-all, and the only reason this country has endured so long is that we get ideological and especially regional balance in the House. What if there were five parties in the House and the “winner” had a plurality in the popular vote of 30%? Is that sufficient for presidential rule? What if the PM’s poll numbers drop to 25%, can he give constitutional Advice to the GG then?

    These are not the ravings of a “details-oriented” liberal. As the last few days have demonstrated, it comes down to real people making real decisions. We cannot afford to have those decisions made on a McWhimmy.

    Speaking of which, I’m going to go get one of those great breakfast sandwiches.

  20. Jack – In my opinion GGMJ would do well to request a platform from the coalition government before granting them power. This is not a politcial thing, it would be improper of her evaluate the platform, but rather to prove that the coalition has a common interest beyond being the government. Simply the act of putting the coalition platform together without splintering would go a long way to proving they can be a stable government.

    I’m not sure why you think evolving institutions are non-conservative. Any reading of Burke would suggest that politcal instituations must be able to evolve, albeit relatively slowly and with due respect for traditions, etc.

  21. Joe Canadian, what you’re saying is that the Coalition (or any takeover government from a fresh parliament — could be the Conservatives next time around) needs to have a plan. Well, I’m ok with that (though my strawman antagonist McWhenney was saying they needed a lot more than that), but isn’t that what a confidence vote would be for? I.e. a budget? If the Bloc (or any kingmaker party) announces that they’re going to support the new government’s budget (which is exactly what the Bloc said they were doing — see Duceppe’s speech), that’s enough assurance for the GG to appoint the new government. Presumably they would vote ASAP on the new budget. According to the post above, McWherry said, “This document [the Coalition agreement] just doesn’t take the Governor-General over that hurdle.” I fail to see why, or why the GG should be entrusted with the duty of determining what is and isn’t adequate when it commands the support of a majority in the House of Commons.

    Having the GG make her decisions based on opinion polls would be much more than an “evolving institution.” It would be the introduction of a totally new political force into our constitution. How that could be called “conservative” is absolutely beyond me. Populism is not conservative, it’s radical.

  22. I’m gobsmacked that no one (on the right, at least) is concerned with the demonstration this week of the unchecked power of the executive branch to unilaterally suspend the operation of the legislative branch, even when it is obvious that the legitimacy of the executive flows solely from the legislative branch.

    Putting aside your view of what has happened this week, I think we should all be able to agree that this power is too great to trust in the hands of one person, especially since that person is not democratically elected (they are installed by their party). A strong Parliament is a vital part of our democracy, and we have seen this week that on the most critical issue our Parliament can express itself, confidence in the government, it is powerless before the executive.

  23. Didn’t we refute Dion and the Liberals last election?

    We kicked him out the front door and he sneaks in the back, with a little help from his friends. Course this is using legitimate parlimentary rules and precident, unlike seeking perogue of Parliament, which according to our leftist friends is very naughty and Cuba-like (yep, right out of Fidel’s booklet entitled “Pulling a Fast One on Cuban Parliamentary Democracy”)

    No my friends this is just classic Canadian politics – Conservatives shooting themselves in the foot to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory…. vs the Liberals, who would sell their first born child to get or stay in power.

    Finally I heard a great line from a west coast journalist the other nite – “Don’t these four fine leaders realize that there are villages somewhere in need of IDIOTS”

  24. Andrew nPnC, I feel the same way, I guess. I mean, I think the GG made a good (though rather unimaginative) decision, but it’s one she should never have been forced to make — choosing between the PM’s Advice and the unofficial but blatantly obvious desire of Parliament. How dare Harper use the GG as a political tool. It’s beyond cynical. Meanwhile, as these comment boards and (apparently) the polls show, Canadians — even intelligent Canadians — don’t heartily support the supremacy of Parliament. It’s mind-boggling. It’s next door to revolution.

    I think people confuse “the people” with democracy. Democracy means that “the people” wield the power; but “the people” can also come out in favour of authoritarianism, i.e. they can be against democracy. We’re not quite at mobs in the streets demanding “all power to Caesar” but that’s the logic of Harper’s populism. How intellectually bankrupt are we when, in the eyes of our pundits and editorialists, “the people” can do no wrong.

  25. Harper in his a blind ambition to become the modern day Dictator has now the GG in his tool box to save his hide and to use and abuse the Parliament. This time it was the last resort or was it and next time it may not be the last, but a convenient first one.
    What does this say of our system of checks and balances, when the GG is simply his rubber stamp? Was she acting in quid pro arrangement, her granting Harper prorogation and Harper agreeing to extend her term in office when it is due to expire.
    If Harper can run the country like he has Majority then what is the point of earning a majority. We may as well officially declare us as banana republic.

  26. Harper will have his majority when the dust settles and if the coalition sticks together untill Jan and has the nerve to defeat the government. I am thinking with the Tories up by 20 points the Liberals are looking how the hell to get out of this deal with the NDP and Block without looking any worse than they do now. The cracks have already formed in the coalition and with Layton involved for the next month I am sure it will crumble. I would hope the Liberals will let Jack break up the coalition to save face as they are the natural governing party in Canada and its a shame to see it in shambles like this. Leave the NDP on the far left where they belong, catering to special interest groups and unions.

  27. And Charles, a banana republic is a country with a government that has been put together with backroom deals and without the approval of the public. Oh that would be the coalition that wants to grab power after we just gave the Conservative Party a stonger mandate. If the opposition wants to defeat the Government thats fine, then take it to the people for a new election. That is how it works in a democracy. This is also why, although allowed by the constitution, this has not been done in Canada. Let the people decide.

  28. Nelson: “Let the people decide.”

    Yeah, and if the people don’t decide again? If they return another minority government, as is 99% likely? What do we do then? Ask the people again? Just have a perpetual election?

    Well, I guess “the people” will learn how this works after the fifth or sixth straight new minority in one year. Eventually even Tory partisans will quit screeching.

  29. Jack – Check the latest polls…Canadians do not want the coalition. Its done. Sorry but the public does get to decide, not a back room deal with the devil.

  30. I don’t deny that the Coalition’s goose may be cooked, Nelson. But the public gets to decide at election time. The MP’s (presumably checking the polls) get to decide if they want to be defeated at election time. That’s how it works.

  31. Yes Jack, it looks like Harper will give the Liberals what they want and they will back down and wait until Dionne is gone before trying anything like this again. They can proclaim victory in the fact they pressured the PM to the stimulus package proposed by the coalition. There will be no change in Government, no defeat of the budget at least until next fall. Layton may cry but the Liberals are way to smart to get in any deeper.

  32. Nothing has been settled. East-West/French-English/The Left-The Right/The Haves-The Have Nots/ the Yes Side-The No Side/Socialists-Capitalists…Seems everything’s been said, everything’s been tried, and it ain’t working. What if this place is way too big and diversified for its own good. Let’s face it. In order for a Quebecois politician to be popular in the ROC, he or she has to forget where he or she is from, and , of course, the same is true for any English-Canadian trying to win votes in Quebec. What does it say about the viability of living under the same roof? In the meantime, Stephane Dion keeps on singing O’ Canada while the French and the English have tuned him out for good. I don’t know whether this mainly sad or entertaining.

  33. There are only two solutions which will not trigger a full national unity crisis: figure out a way to work together or have another general election. Anything else will be a sure sign of a quest for power at any cost.

    There is a third solution which we’ve been yelling at the top of our lungs. If the Conservative Party would simply get rid of Harper as leader, since he is the one the Liberals, NDP and Bloc do not trust, they most likely would be able to work with the next leader–at least willing to work with that individual if all sides can genuinely try to work together. The thing is, Harper has completely lost their trust. They can’t believe a word he says–and even his actions require intense scrutiny. You cannot work with somebody you cannot trust–not you don’t want to, you can’t.

    Harper decided (after making the house a bit dysfunctional) that he needed an election. The idea was after two years of not rocking the boat too badly, people would trust him and give him a majority. He’d already ruined the opposition, after all. But the people didn’t give him a majority. So, spouting words of good cheer and compromise, Harper began this new session. He smiled, spoke softly and appeared to listen as the opposition made sincere and helpful suggestions on what they thought should be in the budget. Then he attacked women, workers and the opposition–Wham, from out of nowhere! Hah! They could never accept it, they’d have to vote non-confidence! Harper would be back to the polls! Now the opposition parties had ZERO funds to mount a campaign. And on top of that, people would be so sick of elections, only his strong Conservative supporters would even show up! Now he’d get his majority! But they didn’t do exactly that. Instead they came up with a scheme that would take his power away altogether. WHAT??? No, no, this isn’t how its supposed to be! My power, MINE! I’ll destroy the country before I give it up. I’ll set one side of the country against the other–I’ll question EVERYBODY’s loyalty (except my Conservative Western Separatists, of course, they make up a large portion of my supporters). No trick is too dirty to keep me in power!

  34. Nelson, I wouldn’t bet on the Liberals being that smart, to be honest.

    And incidentally, the public did decide. They decided when they did not give Harper a majority, thus telling him that he explicitly needed to work with someone else. If you want to take someone to task for not following the will of the people, you need look no further than Mr. Harper, who, on rejecting Canadians’ decision that he must work with at least one of the three groups across the table, essentially demanded the formation of a coalition that reflected the will of the majority of the people — government by parties working together.

    Bottom line, Harper did not get a majority, and he attacked the democratic will of the people when he attempted to govern as if he did.

    Now he’s managed to convince many of his supporters that the will of the whole of Canada be damned, all that really matters is the will of his own party. It’s an easy line to swallow.. at least, while you’re the one in power. The precedent he’s set is atrocious, and I do hope it bites him in the ass sooner rather than later.

  35. I hope you all take a few moments to read the entire discussion/debate/diatribe and then you may realize that Dr. Owen Anderson et al in “the Unfinished Revolt” had it right some time ago. This country may no longer be functional… The people west of the Manitoba border, if they joined with Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon & Alaska would likely have a nation with a GDP in the top ten (10) of the world. And probably the Maritimes, if they returned to their original formative state, could make a decent small country work. Quebec on its own would find very quickly that they would have to put up bi-lingual signs to get anyone to come to visit. And Ontario would look like a slightly richer Michigan because of Honday & Toyota still producing cars.

    The discussion also shows the results of educators downplaying the need over the past thirty (30) years of teaching “Canadian Civics” let alone an indepth examination of Canadian economic geography and real politik. As well, the make-up of the country has changed dramatically in the past three (3) decades with a large proportion of this country never having a full understanding of how the Westminster “responsible government” system work — they just know that the country is a good deal better than that which they left.

    The Prime Minister has acted in a rather petulant fashion. He should be taken to the woodshed, spanked and then returned to the classroom. If he hasn’t learned his lesson, he should be expelled — but by his own party (and replaced with a smart politician, preferably from Calgary to balance the over-representation of Toronto & Montreal — both examples of economic downturn whereas Calgary still seems to be able to pave its streets). As for the coalition, the Bloc has (other than building up individual pensions) only one (1) goal — the separation of Quebec from the national fabric. Therefore, its participation in any partnership must be interpreted as advancing that goal. No matter what is said, the expectation of the Bloc is that the coalition will hasten the demise of the confederation. As for the Liberals, if they place Dion in the PM’s chair and shortly replace him as their leader, what guarantees do they have that he will step down as PM. He didn’t immediately resign after he lost the election; and nothing he has done since, suggests that he would necessarily accept his successor at the Liberal Party’s “head honcho” position, as his successor at 24 Sussex — nor would he have to… It could be a most interesting scene come May, with Iggy leading the Liberals but stuck in a twenty-four (24) month coalition with Stephane as PM…

    Thanks for all the ranting and the all the thoughtfulness… It is what makes Canadian politics so much more interesting that the two (2) sided, money’d wars to the south… And what is even more exciting, even including the country to the south, is that we can do all this debating / discussing / “diatribing” without fear of someone coming to our door in the middle of the night and hauling us away, never to be seen again…

    But for now, why not take a moment and simply be thankful that we have a few weeks where government will continue (the public service is working very hard, many in conversations with their peers in the USA, to try to come up with compatible plans that will neither violate NAFTA or re-open the soft-wood lumber or AutoPact agreements that we have) and we can enjoy if not the Christmas sesaon, at least a collection of days where we can be nice to our neighbour, be kind to our children & pets, take friends out for a good time, and look up at the heavens on clear night and wonder if there might just be another planet out there that has a country quite like Canada as we currently know it…

    Merci, et bon jour/nuit

  36. Well written article. I am glad that someone has asked cooler heads their opinions. It seems that everyone has an opinion on this but it is cloaded with feelings that range from angst to extreme hatred for Stephen Harper. I wish that the Conservatives had held their ground on the issue of the $1.95 per vote that would go to all political parties. It is a sound statement, even if it really is just a drop in the bucket, that say’s to everyone that they would be the first to take cuts. The Conservatives would be the ones taking the biggest hit on this as they would have lost the most dollars. If the other political parties are so in need of these funds then perhaps they need to get in touch with those who work for every dollar that they have. No one gives us a free hand out just because of the position that we hold.

  37. You mean your employer doesn’t pay you, Steven N.? Wow.. does he ever have you duped.

  38. TThwim, that’s why Harper found it so easy.

    I like Sinc’s take. First he pretty much throws out the country. According to his post, we shall now be four countries–oh no, he and his Western Separatists are going to join the U.S. What a laugh! Do you think some people in the West haven’t thought things through? They are STILL mad from when Trudeau or whoever it was tried to make money off Alberta oil. The first thing the U.S. would do would be to take all the oil. The second thing they would do is kill the entire cattle herd (full of BSE dontcha know). The third thing they would do is build water pipelines from the West to the parched U.S. states, and finally build pipelines for natural gas. And they don’t have to buy the property these pipes are going through–they can just ‘annex’ them.

    Then, Sinc blames Quebec for destroying our country–like that MATTERS to him when he’s all in favour! He attributes Harper’s lack of honesty to Dion (one thing you can say of Dion is he’s sincere). He then puts in a lovely blue sweater-vest paragraph or two that would be wonderful if one could believe a word of it–which I can’t,.

  39. Wouldn’t it be interesting if all the political parties were to form a Cabinet made up of Ministers from each of the parties to help the country navigate its way through this economic turmoil. The percentage of Ministers in the Cabinet would be determined by the percentage of popular vote each party received in the last election and they could work together to come up with a working set of ideas to put in place.

  40. Jann, yours is the most sensible post I have seen yet. If there is atime when all parties doff their idealogical googles this it. Perhaps this couldd be the smal beginnig down the path for truly representative and responsible government. Worth a try don’t you think? Jenn’s post on the crucial departure of Harper as PM is bang on. His display of naked ambition for absolute power should be blinding to everyone, even through the dark idealogical goggles that GRPF seems to be wearing.
    Sinc, your comments about how ignorant people are as to how their government works shoudl be a national discussion. How about a 1 day refresher course before you can vote? Just kidding, but we must do a better job of educating our young people on our system of government and how to make it work. It starts by being involved, something that 41% of the voting populace failed to grasp.

  41. I am just a lawyer without Mr. McWhinney’s sterling curriculum vitae, but the King-Byng precedent says that he is wrong about the constitutional hurdle. First, the GG allowed King to form a government after an election despite his Liberals being only the second largest party in the House of Commons, based on quite non-specific assurances of support from the Progressives. Then, after King lost the Progressives’ support, Meighen was asked to form a government based, again, on non-specific assurances of support from the Progressives.

    It is clear that a would-be PM requires nothing more than convincing evidence that his government can survive its first confidence vote in order to earn the chance to form a government. The coalition not only clears that hurdle, but is assured of the confidence of the House for at least 18 months.

  42. I am very surprised how people get caught up in the rethoric and selectively forgot many of the details.

    “Bob Rae has twice betrayed himself. The first time was moments after winning his seat in his Toronto riding, when he mused about bringing down the government in the event that Mr. Harper didn’t do as he was told.”

    EXACTLY – this is Bob Rae and his old friend Jack Layton at work… It has now become very clear that this whole mess had absolutely nothing to do with the economy, people losing their jobs, can’t work with the conservatives, Dion’s fault, etc. etc. All smoke and mirrors. The plot was hatched before the election.

    Mr. Duceppe was the first to get on national TV and talk about how this was going to advance his cause for quebec, the only province he works for, and their ultimate agenda. This was fueled the very next day by the former premier of Quebec, a firm and very outspoken separatist. They were all gleefully counting the money…and how it would propel their cause. We can and do read the french papers in Quebec. No one has fought this longer and harder more than the Liberal Party itself.

    Harper is not a stupid man and I must say far more polite than most, he was well aware of what was brewing from the first day he stepped into what too many feel is Liberal territory and their god-given right. I use to be one of those people myself. Harper went back for an election to prevent this.

    Mr. Dion is now the official scapegoat, used and abused and trashed. The only way for the Liberals to now save some face (not deserved) is to blame it on Harper, Dion and insist on two new leaders, always by third party, and try to forget it ever happened.

    Had the GG done anything else but what she did I wouldn’t be supporting her position. To turn the government over to Bob Rae, Jack Layton, S Dion and yes the Bloc…god help us all.

    While the last thing I need is another election – bring it on it will end up being the cheapest thing on the ticket.

  43. Linda: Even if the coalition is a plot that goes back years, so what? Are you suggesting that the opposition parties should not be allowed to discuss strategy?

  44. 1963: Liberal minority with 41.52%

    1965: Liberal minority with 40.18%
    
*1972: Liberal minority with 38.42%* – 61.58% did not vote Liberal
1974: Liberal majority with 43.15%

    1980: Liberal majority with 43.15%

    1993: Liberal majority with 41.24%

    *1997: Liberal majority with 38.46%* – 61.54% did not vote Liberal
2000: Liberal majority with 40.85%

    *2004: Liberal minority with 36.73%* – 63.27% did not vote Liberal
2006: Conservative minority with 36.27%

    2008: Conservative minority with 37.65%

    Again, please note Chretien’s MAJORITY in 1997 with a mere 38.46% of the popular vote.
    Only 0.81% separates that result from the result obtained by the Conservatives on Oct. 14 (37.65%), so the “62% didn’t vote for Harper” mantra is still BOGUS.

  45. Does anyone else think that since parliament will be closed for awhile that maybe we should just have an election anyways? Gotta have something to fill the void.

  46. The coalition was a good idea when Harper first introduced his objectionable ideas.

    The continuance of the coalition became a bad idea after Harper conceded on every one of his objectionable ideas.

    Both sides are to blame. Mr. Harper started the fight, but Dion and Layton continued it, even after they’d won what they wanted.
    .

  47. “Stéphane Dion announced his departure as Liberal Leader today, paving the way for Michael Ignatieff to take over as interim chief on Wednesday.”

    Finally this cloud shows a silver lining.

    .

  48. Has anyone seen or heard from the GG as of late? I mean 2 hours in a room with a bully???Someone check on her please!! On the other hand hmmm spending a couple of hours locked up in a room with a good looking woman like that…I’m jealous.