She’s coming home


The Governor General is returning to Canada tomorrow. The last day of her schedule in the Czech Republic and her state visit to Slovenia have has been cancelled.

Slight correction. She will stop in Slovenia for a few hours and meet with the Slovenian president before returning home.


She’s coming home

  1. And she decided this on her own, according to the CBC.

  2. Can’t wait. I am so happy the cbc reporter and her separatist husband, with the help of a few anon eggheads, get to decide the fate of our country.

  3. Well, jwl, we work with the Constitution we have, not the one we’d like to have.

    On that subject, some quick Googling dug this up:

    HH Asquith in 1923 on whether Ramsay MacDonald was entitled to dissolve Parliament:

    “It does not mean that the Crown should act arbitrarily and without the advice of responsible ministers, but it does mean that the Crown is not bound to take the advice of a particular minister to put its subjects to the tumult and turmoil of a series of general elections so long as it can find other ministers who are prepared to give it a trial. The notion that a Minister – a Minister who cannot command a majority in the House of Commons – is invested with the right to demand a dissolution is as subversive of constitutional usage as it would, in my opinion, be pernicious to the general and paramount interests of the nation at large.”

    Marshall, Geoffrey Constitutional Conventions: The Rules and Forms of Political Accountability. Oxford, 1984, p. 38.

  4. Shush jwl. I don’t know that you can really predict what she is going to to do at this point. She has to return home as no matter what happens, someone will be banging on her door by Monday night.

  5. Good find, ajb!

  6. I’ve sometimes thought I’d like to get into politics, because I have ideas and opinions and I am good with people, blah blah blah. But one of the biggest things that stop me is the incredible anger everyone has. Watching the comments on macleans.ca (since most other sites are not even readable) I see so many people just drop into a frothing seizure on almost any topic at all.

    I understand how upsetting a shocking / unwelcome political change can be. And the continuing intelligent debate is fantastic. But for the love of all we hold dear, what is gained by simple tantrums? It’s so exhausting for all involved and accomplishes nothing.

    So I guess the short version of my comment is also “Shush jwl”, but there are much worse commentators probably just about to join us.

  7. ajb: Is there any writing to suggest that the GG would be wrong in granting prorogation of Parliament should Harper request it? It seems to be the law of the land that the Prime Minister reserves that prerogative. That seems vaguely unconstitutional.

  8. As usual, jwl has his head so far up the exhaust pipe, that he can’t think clearly. Carbon monoxide can kill in large enough quantities, jwl — so think before you spew those points of view.

  9. Andrew, can’t find a quote right now, but my general sense in reading around online yesterday was that those who’ve written on the subject take a dim view of PM’s requesting dissolutions (and probably prorogations) whose intent is to evade a vote of confidence. But I think the prorogation trick hasn’t been tried terribly often.

  10. “The new Government is supported by parties that share a commitment to fiscal responsibility, a progressive agenda and a belief in the role of Government to act as a partner with Canadians and Quebecers.” Preamble, Coalition Government Plan, released yesterday.

    Not sure why I am being told to shush or accused of ‘spew those points of view’ because I agree with ajb.

    I have no idea how GG is going to decide but I find it odd that a cbc reporter, with a separatist husband, gets to rule on whether a Coalition cooked up by the 3 Quebecers can take power. According to the Coalition, Canadians and Quebecers are different, and I would prefer it if Canadians were deciding the fate of Canada.

  11. If PM Harper asks to prorogue Parliament, the G-G has no choice but to approve. If the combined Opposition defeats the government in a confidence vote, the G-G should heed an eleciton call.

    Whatever she does, she must not hand government to this coalition (the buck ninety-five putsch). Canadians did not vote for this unholy coaltion because it was not an option at the last election. While it might be constitutionally valid to hand power to the coalition, it would betray the spirit of Canadian democracy to do so. In our democracy, the governing party is chosen by the people in open elections, not through closed-door deal-cutting.

    This is nothing more that a manufactured Parliamentary crisis sparked by Stephen Harper’s stupid blunder over party financing. There is no pressing reason here to subvert Canadian democratic practice.

  12. jwl, would you mind not insulting the GG? She’s the representative of the Queen, for crying out loud.

    I swear, the patriotism of the Right is only skin-deep.

  13. Andrew,
    A Prime Minister has never asked for prorogation under these circumstances. Whatever her decision, the GG would be setting a new precedent in British parliamentary democracy. That, in my opinion, would weigh most heavily on her decision.

  14. jwl writes: “I have no idea how GG is going to decide but I find it odd that a cbc reporter, with a separatist husband, gets to rule on whether a Coalition cooked up by the 3 Quebecers can take power.”

    Michaelle Jean’s husband will play as much a role in determining whether the coalition will take office as Laureen Harper plays in determine the federal budget.

  15. JMD, that’s quite wrong. The PM only gets to form a Government with the confidence of the House of Commons. Otherwise it’s an illegitimate government, since legitimacy (this being a democracy) flows from the elected representatives of the people, namely the House. If Harper prorogues, he’s evading his duty to confront the House.

    As to calling an election, the GG is not supposed to grant dissolution when the Government has only been in office for a few weeks.

    Lots of handy background reading here. Money quote: “In very exceptional circumstances, the Governor General could refuse a request for a fresh election. For instance, if an election gave no party a clear majority and the Prime Minister asked for a fresh election without even allowing the new Parliament to meet, the Governor General would have to say no. This is because, if “parliamentary government” is to mean anything, a newly elected House of Commons must at least be allowed to meet and see whether it can transact public business. Also, if a minority government is defeated on a motion of want of confidence very early in the first session of a new Parliament, and there is a reasonable possibility that a government of another party can be formed and get the support of the House of Commons, then the Governor General could refuse the request for a fresh election. The same is true for the Lieutenant-Governors of the provinces.”

  16. Jack Mitchell – thank you.

    As irritating as this right-wing primal scream is getting, insulting the GG is way, way, way over the line.

    Just imagine how nasty it will get if she makes a decision the right-wing doesn’t like. Sickening.

  17. Even if Harper were to ask the GG to porogue, it would be a political field day for the Liberals. And probably the end for him within his own ranks. You have to admit, he’s lost all control he may have had. Dissidents everywhere, within the Cons, within the House… Tories who once feared him, are no speaking up against him, mind you it’s anonymously, but they are speaking up none the less.

    Right now, Harper in trying to hold on to power by his fingernails.

    Some nobler Tories, like Joe Clark, must be ROTFL-ing right about now.

  18. There are also serious questions about the Harper government having the moral authority to do anything, as it has all but formally lost the confidence of the House, the government is not longer legitimate. Harper would be playing a very dangerous game to prorogue.

  19. TJ Cook, Jack M et al How have I insulted the GG? You guys are projecting your own neurosis’.

    And why is my patriotism being questioned. The Coalition, made up of 3 Quebecers, says Canadians and Quebecers are different so I don’t think it’s unreasonable of me to want a Canadian to decide the fate of Canada.

  20. jwl: “I have no idea how GG is going to decide but I find it odd that a cbc reporter, with a separatist husband, gets to rule on whether a Coalition cooked up by the 3 Quebecers can take power. According to the Coalition, Canadians and Quebecers are different, and I would prefer it if Canadians were deciding the fate of Canada.”

    Gosh, jwl, it sounds like you’re questioning her credentials as GG, questioning whether we can trust her to make the decision that’s best for Canada (in light of values her freakin’ spouse might hold), and declaring that, as a Quebecer, she’s not really Canadian.

    I see more than one insult there – if you can’t see that, maybe you should turn your crack psychoanalysis inward.

  21. jwl, aren’t you being hypocritical by making the issue about the province each of the coalition leaders were born in? I mean, Jack Layton hasn’t even lived in Quebec for many, many years.

  22. Not to mention that the leader of the fourth (and currently governing) party, that Ontarian Stephen Harper, is the one who introduced the motion recognizing Quebecers as a nation. So we’re kind of stuck with people who think that to be the case being our leaders!

  23. AFAIK, the most recent similar crisis in a British parliamentary system occurred in Australia in 1975 when the GG there dismissed the sitting Prime Minister after money bills failed to pass in very messy circumstances. The GG stuck by his decision even after the Prime Minister managed to get a confidence motion passed. There was much ballyhoo at the time, but democracy survived and the business of the country continued.

    Not a very exact parallel but instructive in the leeway that the Australian GG found to effectively dismiss a government. In that case, his decision was followed immediately by an election which was the correct outcome. In this case, the coalition can lurch along for a while.

  24. Canadian remake of “The Wizard of Oz”

    In all of this political crisis we keep forgetting Elizabeth May, the Leader of the Green Party. Harper’s proposal to cut government subsidy affected Not only LPC, NDP and Bloc but also the Green Party (to the tune of almost two million dollars a year). Considering that Dion, Layton, Duceppe (and May) are on their way (yellow brick road) to visit Governor General (Good Witch of the North) their journey more and more resembles the plot of the movie “The Wizard of Oz”

    The Wizard of Oz (2008 political farce)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Wizard of Oz is a 2008 Canadian political farce mainly directed by Jean Chrétien and based on the 1900 children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.[1] The play features Elisabeth May as Dorothy Gale, Jack Layton as the Scarecrow, Gilles Duceppe as the Tin Man, Stéphane Dion as the Cowardly Lion, Michaelle Jean, as Glinda the Good Witch of the North, Stephen Harper as the Wicked Witch of the West, George W. Bush as the Wicked Witch of the East and Barack Obama as the Wizard.

    The play follows schoolgirl Dorothy Gale (Elisabeth May) who lives on a Hartford, Connecticut farm with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, but dreams of a better place “somewhere over the rainbow.” After being struck unconscious during a tornado by a window which has come loose from its frame, Dorothy dreams that she, her dog Toto, and the farmhouse were transported to the magical Land of Oz. (Canada). There, the Good Witch of the North Glinda (Michaelle Jean) advises Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road to Emerald City (Washington DC) and meet the Wizard of Oz, (Barack Obama) who can return her to Hartford, Connecticut.

    During her journey, she meets a Scarecrow, (Jack Layton), Tin Man (Gilles Duceppe) and a Cowardly Lion (Stéphane Dion), who join her, hoping to receive what they lack themselves (a brain, a heart, and courage, respectively), all of this is done while also trying to avoid the many plots of the Wicked Witch of the West, (Stephen Harper) in her attempt to get the ruby slippers that Dorothy received from the squashed Wicked Witch of the East (George W. Bush).

  25. ajb,

    My own interpretation of the passage you cite is that it deals only with dissolution, not prorogation. It’s a fine line but I think an important one (and I support the Coalition). The passage refers to sparing the people the tumult and turmoil of frequent general elections, not of sparing them the relative calm of kicking everyone off Parliament Hill.

    The passage is an EXCELLENT argument in favour of the notion that if the government falls on a confidence vote this early, the GG simply MUST give the opposition the opportunity to form a government if they can reasonably demonstrate that they can command the support of the House (and the current Coalition can clearly do that). Furthermore, political considerations (They’re separatists! They’re socialists! Stephane Dion’s a weenie!) really can’t and shouldn’t play a role. Short of actual violence in the streets, the Governor General shouldn’t be concerned, frankly, about how Canadians feel about their government; she need only concern herself with how their elected representatives (Parliament) feel about the government (or potential government). If Parliament demonstrates confidence in the government, or expresses a clear desire to, that’s more than enough.

    So, from my point of view, the GG probably has to acquiesce to a request from the PM to prorogue Parliament, if it’s made, but she would probably also be obliged to NOT dissolve Parliament should the government fall on a confidence motion this soon after an election. In other words, in this scenario, I believe the Governor General is obliged to ignore the advice of the Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament and call an election if he loses a confidence vote in the House and a coalition of MPs can reasonably demonstrate that they are capable of commanding the confidence of the House and forming a government (which the current coalition clearly can); however, she is NOT obliged to ignore the advice of the PM to prorogue Parliament prior to such a confidence vote loss in the House.

    The Governor General must give the opposition the opportunity to form a government if they can defeat the government on a confidence vote, but she’s not obliged to ensure that they’re given the opportunity to defeat the government on a confidence vote (as circular as that seems). Now, if the PM prorogued Parliament and then just kept refusing to bring it back into session, presumably eventually the Governor General would have to do something about that (you can’t just refuse indefinitely to let Parliament sit), but that would be a while off.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

  26. Oddly, I find myself thinking this is where Mr. Harper’s fixed election date law could come back and bite him in the rear. That bit of dealing must have been rather embarrassing for Mme. Jean, and the point being her response to Mr. Harper asking for parliament to be prorogued along the lines of:

    “Mr. Harper, it is my understanding that the majority of the House has lost confidence in you, though this is not official. If you choose to prorogue parliament, what assurance do I have that you will bring it back into sesssion at some point? Your word? I am afraid that lost currency when you had me sign a bill affirming fixed election dates and then ignored that. No, I think the risk is too great. I will not prorogue this sesion, until it can be determined if you truly have the confidence of Parliament or not.”

  27. As to the notion of “who gave her the right to decide…”

    Well, we did. Our constitution is there for all to see. Don’t like what’s in it? Elect governments to amend the thing. Until then, suck up and deal with what’s written.

    That a single citizen is burdened with representing the Sovereign is just how we’re built. Twelve citizens appointed from a randomly plucked pool get to (must) sit on a jury, with no advance training whatsoever. One citizen gets to (must) decide on these heavy matters of state. The worst time to be re-writing the rules is when things get tough.

    Your Excellency, good luck as you deal with what’s coming. Get the best advice you can. As I can imagine any citizen who might be in your shoes, the predominant feeling is likely “don’t blow this — get it right.” Your country awaits your decision(s).

  28. All the points you talk about are useful. But is there a way to make a quick and generic comment which could be useful and fast.

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