The Commons: ‘Unbelievable’


Prime Minister Dion had a question. “Does the Prime Minister,” he asked, “still believe that he enjoys the confidence of this House?”

Prime Minister Harper would not tolerate such a tone in this place. “When the honourable gentleman speaks about playing politics,” he said. “I think he is about to play the biggest political game in Canadian history.”

The Conservative leader sounded envious.

Mr. Harper had entered the House at precisely 2:13pm, his frontbench leading a standing ovation at his arrival. Several opposition members clapped along. A couple minutes later, Mr. Dion stood to ask the first question and received a bipartisan ovation from both the Liberal and NDP benches.

Half a dozen suited young men from the PMO watched from above. The press gallery was near capacity. Prime Minister Elizabeth May took a seat in the visitors gallery.

Prime Minister Gilles Duceppe took his turn, Liberals and NDP cheering him on as the Conservatives taunted. Mr. Harper invoked Laurier. Peter Van Loan, that euphoric look returned to his face, took to heckling Justin Trudeau’s father.

“There’s Justin Trudeau, son of Pierre, going along for the ride,” yelped Van Loan.

Prime Minister Jack Layton stood to applause from the Liberal and NDP caucuses.

“Why should anybody have confidence in the leader of a party who would agree to fold his own party into another party?” scoffed Mr. Harper, repudiating his own history of political leadership.

“Why in the world would Canadians put any trust in him now?” begged Liberal Michael Savage of Harper.

“They would rather make a deal with the devil,” cried Jim Flaherty, referring to the Liberal flirtations with the NDP.

Prime Minister John Baird was positively giddy. Prime Minister Peter MacKay fiddled with his blackberry. Prime ministers Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff lounged in the corner. Prime Minister Dominic LeBlanc arrived sporting a sharp new haircut.

Prime Minister Layton reminded Prime Minister Harper of discussions the two had once had about working with Prime Minister Duceppe. Prime Minister Harper accused Prime Minister Layton of offering no advice on how the government might handle our minor economic crisis. Prime Minister Layton reminded Prime Minister Harper that the NDP had tabled such ideas in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Harper dismissed all who would commune with separatists. Jim Flaherty thanked the Bloc for its economic suggestions and promised to consult them in drafting the next federal budget.

“How can Canadians trust the finance minister,” asked Liberal Scott Brison, “a finance minister who cooks the books?”

“Mr. Speaker, there is something cooking and it is a new-found friendship and some strange bedfellows over here,” sniffed Flaherty, “these clueless people that he is making arrangements with about economic policy.”

Prime Minister Jim Prentice had been working to appear stoic throughout, furrowed brow and pensive look and expensive suit. Then the Bloc’s Bernard Bigras ventured a question about government economic policy. This, Prentice obviously figured, was his chance.

“Mr. Speaker, I do not agree with much of that,” he said, squaring up to the Speaker and thrusting his left hand into his pocket, “but the real question for the House is how this poisonous and temporarily happy alliance will advance Canada’s interests at all, specifically in the context of international conventions.”

Glasses in hand for studious effect, he waved his right arm all about, stabbing at the arm and gesturing wildly. His voice groped for gravitas.

“The NDP has a policy supporting a cap on trade. The leader of the Liberal Party supports a carbon tax. The Bloc supports only the breakup of our country,” he proclaimed.

“Leader! Leader! Leader!” the opposition benches cried.


A couple hours later, just short of 5pm, the deal was signed. Seated beside each other on a small riser, Jack Layton, Stephane Dion and Gilles Duceppe put their signatures to Canada’s first three-way marriage. Layton looked typically enthusiastic, Dion typically awkward, Duceppe typically nonchalant.

A Liberal officiated the signing. An NDP official presided over the press conference that followed, two Liberals at his elbow. In one corner of the room stood three of Dion’s closest aides. In the back of the room, the braintrust of the NDP. Senator David Smith, that breathing emblem of the Liberal family trust, took a seat beside Olivia Chow, the NDP MP and wife of Mr. Layton.

“Unbelievable,” murmured Liberal Mark Holland. Rookie MPs Bonnie Crombie and Frank Valeriote snapped pictures of the three leaders with their blackberries. Liberals Mario Silva and Marlene Jennings sat close up front.

“We are ready,” Mr. Dion announced, “to form a new government.”

Behind him stood the flags of each province and territory. In the corner, a carefully manicured Christmas tree. Overheard, two massive brass chandeliers. On the south wall, a large painting depicting the fathers of confederation.

Dion explained the terms, Layton made sure to be seen listening intently. Twenty-four cabinet ministers—18 Liberal, six NDP. A coalition between Liberal and NDP sides until June 30, 2011. Support from the Bloc until June 30, 2010.

“We have not made these choices lightly,” Layton said. 

He called on the Prime Minister to accept that the Conservative government has lost the confidence of the House. He asked him to “accept this gracefully.” To the credit of all in attendance, the room did not then descend into laughter. Indeed, the room was notably quiet. As if even so much as a raised voice might scuttle this fragile thing.

All seemed hesitant to appear overly excited. “It’s a great privilege that I will receive,” Dion managed at one point.

There were questions of detail and intention and process, few details and specifics beyond the written agreements already signed. Finally, someone raised Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Dion’s rather obvious differences on the future of the country and asked the most pertinent question of the day: How is this going to work?

“We have an agreement,” explained Mr. Duceppe, succinctly enough.

Mr. Dion repeated his commitments to national unity.

Layton could not resist imparting his analysis.

“If I might add,” he said, “I think a lot of people in Canada have been looking for politics to be done differently.”

This is without doubt.

“To me, this is an expression of enormous optimism,” he continued. “I think it’s likely to produce very good government.”

This resolutely remains to be seen.


The Commons: ‘Unbelievable’

  1. Well put. I can’t make heads or tails where you stand from reading this, but I await the CONtorters blathering to point me in that direction…

  2. I love it all. It certainly beats the old and tired pattern of being either a Liberal or a Conservative. Canada is more complicated and sophisticated than that. Let the games begin.

  3. Wonderful writing, Aaron, thanks.

  4. Aaron,
    I love your take on all this.
    Did anybody bothered to take samples of water coming out of a Liberal, NDP and Block water coolers and took it to a lab to have it analyzed??? In this day and age it is quite easy to spike it with Prozac or some other psychodrug.
    I would hate to read one day that this moment of collective madness was due to water contamination.
    I would hate to read that LPC, NDP and Bloc were once again duped and fell victims of psychodrug poisoning by evil Conservatives.

  5. Hey Aaron. Are you trying to be ironic? Prime Minister Dion, PM May, and PM Layton? This move is joke and will never work. Why can’t the Conservatives have one term after 13 year of Liberal stupidly?

  6. Mr. Wherry – you make this sound like a gathering of the Mjonty Python Upper Class twits!
    I hope Kady smacks you with her little ladder the next time she passes you in trhe corridors of power!

  7. Jacob, ask Harper that question. He wasn’t satisfied with being a minority PM. Heaven forbid he has to work with anyone, but I guess you can’t refashion Canada’s political spectrum into the USA without napalm.
    Better bury that sweater, big guy, because no one’s going to want it now.

  8. Jacob: they had one term. Now it’s over.

  9. This is great day for Canada – the uniting of the progressive centre. Thank you Mr. Dion, Mr. Layton and Mr. Duceppe. I did not recognize my country in the government led by a neocon wanna be. Let’s reclaim our place in the world as a voice of moderation and a model of compassion. Canadians – do not buy the Orwellian talking points of misinformation that are being actively planted by the Conservative war room. Now is a time for hope and co-operation.

  10. Although AIUI the YouTube segments are being pulled from the web, a “Downfall” takeoff of this last few days is quite fascinating to picture.

    “Dion?? You mean Prime Minister DION???”

  11. dan in van speaking of napalm;
    We do not need any napalm as all it takes is an old fashioned Russian or China style defilade. All we need couple of Leopard tanks driving thru downtown of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa and all Helium balloons that lefties are clinging to with burst sending them crashing to the ground.

  12. Nice piece of writing, Aaron. Just enough skepticism to keep it real.

  13. This coup has nothing to do with helping Canadians. It is about money, money and money:

    1. First Nations will get their $5 billion of unaccountable money;
    2. The vested auto trade will get billions to continue mismanaged enterprises;
    3. The Child Care alliances will be supported by the Liberals again.
    4. The three opposition parties will keep their $1.95 welfare handouts;
    5. “Big Business” will have $50 billion of new taxes;
    6. Tens of billions more will be dispensed to “buy” votes for the next election.
    7. Canada will be held economic ransom by the Bloc, for many more tens of billions;

    This is all a very concerted plot by vested interests. The Think Twice coalition, Maude & Buzz and company. The unions. The Liberals, who couldn’t convince voters to elect them, the NDP ditto. You name it. And all these billions are not going to do anything for the economy, but will put us, our children and our grandchildren into further debt. Stop this coup!

    Has anyone noticed that the “coalition’s” position is to save Canada, deal with the economic crisis (debatable much can be done beyond what has been proposed by Harper), but the coalition (any opposition party, in fact, especially the Bloc) has failed to present a plan that is better than the government’s? Moreover, let’s see this “agreement” and how they are going to carve us up and screw us. Don’t we, the voters, deserve better than this?

    The coup hopes to move quickly before these questions start getting asked, with no answers. Stop this coup, this rape of Canada, and our loss of democracy. This is worse than Bush’s attack on rights and freedoms.

  14. A seperatist has been given veto power on all major policy decisions (just breaking).

    The man with the lowest vote percentage any Liberal leader has gotten in 100 years believes he has moral authority to be the leader of the country.

    This after the Harper government had made significant gains just weeks before in virtually every region in the country save for a handful of eastern city ridings.

    The result:

    The single largest one day drop in TSX history.

  15. Bridget from Durham.
    Darling please, stop injecting and or inhailing whatever it is that you use now. You fly way to high and you could hurt yourself falling to the ground. Open up this Helum valve very slowly and try to make it a soft descent.

  16. I agree with Sisyphus – well done Aaron. I almost felt like I was there. Kudos.

    As for this: He called on the Prime Minister to accept that the Conservative government has lost the confidence of the House. He asked him to “accept this gracefully.”

    Whatever you think of Harper, graceful is about last on his list of character traits.

  17. BTW, just told my wife (who’s generally apolitical) about this backroom deal to make Dion PM,

    to which she responded (as virtually everyone who isn’t a highly partisan leftist will do):

    “Didn’t the public just decide that they DIDN’T want Dion to be PM?”

  18. Not so bold prediction:

    This will be the end of the Liberal party.

  19. kody – does your wife sit alone in a back room without tv, radio or internets? Perhaps in front of a spinning wheel or possible doing macrame?

    Does “generally apolitical” = “completely, utterly unaware of the world around her”?

    I call bullshit on your story.

  20. kody – along with the TSX did today’s events also cause the huge losses in the DOW and S&P500?

  21. The junta can prove they’re not a bunch of greedy scumsuckers in one simple step: remove the legislation that steals $1.95 of our money per vote themselves.

    Say “it’s not about us wanting our perks, it’s about Canada and Harper being craptastic.” Prove the point by doing something that almost every non-partisan observer is in favour of and that seems to be the reason for the entire coup.

    It’s just that easy.

    Also, there’s no chance that it’ll happen.

  22. “The result:

    The single largest one day drop in TSX history.”

    Not to mention a similar decrease in the S&P500 and Nasdaq. Those pesky coalitioneers have ravaged stock prices the world over.

  23. I’m amazed that the ConBots haven’t shorted out, what will all the crying.

  24. @kody: Canadians don’t vote for a president. We vote for Members of Parliament in various political parties, and each has a leader. You and your wife may want to review your high school History notes.

    Today parties representing about 62 percent of voters said enough to ideological blundering and incompetence. A welcome change in my view.

    @Aaron: Thanks for a fair summary of a fascinating day.

  25. I haven’t checked the Globe and Mail’s talking points list yet… so have kody and company been using some of them in their shrillness on here.. or have they managed to come up with some new ones?

  26. Ti-Guy
    What happend to your upbeat predictions and gloating?? Is there something wrong with three stooges’ attempt at power grab? Please do not say that you are loosing your faith in them.

  27. What predictions? I never predict anything.

    As for the gloating, meh. When someone from this gang of juvenile delinquents finally gets sent to reform school, I’ll gloat.

  28. D, you’re saying what’s in the constitution. Kody is saying what people actually do.

    Unless, of course, you sincerely believe that every vote cast in the election was for the local candidate and all those ads which we’ve had for the last hundred and forty years talking about hidden agendas and Gomery and soldiers. with guns. in our cities. in Canada. was just a bunch of white noise, but I doubt that.

    I don’t think anybody in the know is saying that this is an illegal coup. I think the question is whether it’s an unethical coup, and I’d argue that it is. You can’t just add up numbers and say “okay, then, that’s a government”. How many Canadians who voted for Dion think that Layton is a pie-in-the-sky ideologue? How many Canadians who voted for Layton think that Dion is an out-of-touch professor in the pocket of business interests?

    We just don’t know. An election is the only proper way to determine a new government; if the New Liberal Bloc wants to run under a coalition platform, let them, but don’t pretend they have some right to rule just because they’re not the Conservatives.

  29. I’m frankly amazed that anyone believes this hodgepodge of dying breed liberals, socialists and seperatists, would be able to organize ANYTHING together let alone a proper functioning government.

    If the GG allows it (which is unlikely given that the government has been “set” following support from the throne),

    it won’t last five weeks.

    Either way, it’ll be a Harper supermajority, with the only one issue being relevant: “Do you want a stable government or another hodgepodge trying to gain power through backroom deals?”

    Loving this.

  30. Kody is saying what people actually do.

    Kody? He’s a notorious fabricator and sock-puppet. I can get a more accurate read on reality talking to my cat.

  31. Kody,

    ““Didn’t the public just decide that they DIDN’T want Dion to be PM?”

    I hope you informed your wife that in fact the Liberal Party did not want Dion either.

  32. Many thanks for this outstanding piece of reportage. You have to collect these at some point.

  33. Well its now onto the procedural stuff, the actual loss on a vote of confidence now or later, the meeting and the recommendation to the GG, whatever that may be, and whether Harper will make it easy, go ahead take the keys, or hard, call an election. The GG’s response, I look forward to how it gets worded and polls that preceed her pronouncement.

    I can only imagine the confusion if she actually accepted his advice and called an election, is it 4 parties or 5 parties running in each riding or 2?

    Assuming all unfolds according the SJG’s meister plan then we get to see whether this thing was built for speed, pressure distance or show. And we all await Steve’s decision on his whether he’ll watch or leave…

    All the meanwhile, the tory media room starts the carpet bombing campaign on the first mistake of the SJG show…..oh this just wont end.

  34. Stephen: “Is it 4 parties or 5 parties running in each riding or 2?”

    It’s between 4 and 5, depending on the riding. The opposition parties are forming a coalition, not merging.

    This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions

  35. Stephen: “I can only imagine the confusion if she actually accepted his advice and called an election, is it 4 parties or 5 parties running in each riding or 2?”

    Heaven forfend that she accept such advice, but it hadn’t occured to me that the 2-party scenario might happen. Interesting prospect! If the Coalition ran as an entity, not opposing each others’ incumbents and divvying up the Tory ridings in some fair way, imagine the brutal shellacking the Tories would get at the polls. They would practically be reduced to an Alberta / SK / rural Manitoba rump. Since all bets are off and harmony reigns as between the Coalition parties, I wouldn’t be surprised if they supported each other in what they could pitch as a “Tory election of choice.”

  36. Did anyone watch the press conference where the three literally laughed off the pesky little fact that Dion only got 25% of the vote,

    and they brushed aside as a mere technicality (one that Duceppe confirmed right then and there) that one of them wanted to detroy our nation.

    Sort of like it being a technicality that one of the people on your surgical team wants to kill you.

    No big deal.

  37. Now, with three leaders of opposition parties commiting poilitical suicide I just wonder who is going to take over after they are gone??

  38. You know.. if its such a big suicidal pact for all these parties as the Conbots on here claim, then they should be willingly going along with itm and stop handing out concern-troll advice about how it will be the end of the Liberals or the end of the nDP.. or whatever.

  39. Jack Mitchell and Stephen
    I hate to burst your bubble guys but this thing is not going to progress even to a point of no confidence vote in House of Commons. Don’t you see that this whole initiative is already being ridiculed at Macleans’ Blog and by week’s end; Dion, Layton and Duceppe will become buts of every political joke in North America for years to come??

  40. I dunno, Karol, I think this Headless Chicken Revue, in which most of the Tory front bench is now starring, might be a sign of, well, disquiet on their part re: the possibility of their being voted down next Tuesday.

  41. Scott Tribe,
    Going along they will as this way they could get as many of their political enemies as they can, just one big flush of political toilet.

  42. Karol, 2008: “Going along they will as this way they could get as many of their political enemies as they can.”

    Napoleon, 1814: “Another year of this and we’ll be on the Vistula.”

  43. Jack Mitchell
    If Harper were to sweat you would know it and the rest of us would know it as well. There are so many vacant seats in Senate, so many judicial appointements to be made, so many government boards to fill with conservative partisans and he just sits on his hands and does nothing, just ask yourself why??

    In my opinion he is watching this fiasco with an utter amazement at the stupidity of all these people.
    All these sezoned politicians turning out to be so utterly dumb and so devoid of any thoughts about tomorrow, and days, weeks and months after that.
    Does greed really make people that stupid or were they that way all along and managed to fool all the rest of us for so long??

  44. [i]The single largest one day drop in TSX history[/i]

    I gather that disquiet over the new coalition was so severe that it resulted in oil dropping below $50 a barrel on global markets, which caused the DOW to plummet almost as much as the resource-weighted TSX.

    It’s amazing how closely world markets, and even the oil cartels, follow what’s happening on Parliament Hill.

    Yeah, sure.

  45. He [Layton] called on the Prime Minister to accept that the Conservative government has lost the confidence of the House. He asked him to “accept this gracefully.” To the credit of all in attendance, the room did not then descend into laughter.

    Glad I wasn’t there. Don’t think I could restrain myself.

    Give credit where credit is due. Steve Harper may also have the record for the shortest Parliament in Canadian History if this comes to pass. Joe Clark, move over. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.

  46. Lord Bob, the majority of the population voted for parties that supported the creation of an environmental economy, nearly 38% voted for one that believes in Tar Sands economics. The mandate of the coalition comes from the majority.

    And here’s a comment from my son:
    “Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused the Liberals of playing the “biggest political game in history”

    Well, gee, I don’t know, I’d say that probably belongs to Caesar’s assuming the role of dictator perpetuo, or even the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, but what do I know, Stephen.

  47. I used to be a Liberal and then, in the last election, voted Conservative for the first time. Do I always like Stephen Harper? No. Frankly, I think his attitude is deplorable and that his disdain and blatant hostility for his rivals is beneath the dignity of the office he holds.

    However, the spectacle of watching two federalist leaders (Dion and Layton) breaking bread with a man whose party is dedicated to splitting up this country is truly beyond the pale. I can not believe that we are at the point in our country where the Liberal-NDP and BLOC QUEBECOIS will be in a position to run this country, despite having no mandate from voters.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand how the constitution works and will not (as seems to be happening with some Conservative Ministers, MPs and members) blame the Governor General if and when she exercises the reserve powers of the Crown to give the reins of government to Dion and Layton and Duceppe. I will, however, hold that trio of traitors completely responsible for everything they will do to screw this country up. It is disgusting what they are doing.

    As for PM Harper: his attitude has been deplorable and you reap what you sow. There is a lesson in his behaviour that should be heeded by Prime Ministers (and Ministers and MPs… in fact, everyone): it is that you can not behave as a tyrant and petulant child and then expect friendship and understanding when bad things befall you. Whether it is Jim Prentice or Lewis MacKenzie or Diane Ablonczy or someone else, the next leader of this party has to have a better appreciation for the diversity of both this country and its Parliament and be willing to work in collaboration to achieve the greater good.

    This is truly a sad day for our country — not as a partisan Conservative, but as a Canadian. We are truly at a low ebb in Canadian politics when the seperatists are partners (however, unofficially official they may be) in a federal government.

  48. Lord Bob, the majority of the population voted for parties that supported the creation of an environmental economy, nearly 38% voted for one that believes in Tar Sands economics. The mandate of the coalition comes from the majority.

    And one of the only concrete policies we have from the New Liberal Bloc is that they will massively subsidise the money-losing, heavily-pollutiong Ontario manufacturing sector, especially the part of it that turns out decadent, high-pollutant American automobiles.

    So I hope that’s working well for you!

  49. Subsidize the dying industries,

    and tax the hell out of the thriving ones.

    Up next, the collectivisation of Western farms.

  50. I wonder how many Libs would have sat at home or switched to the cons,

    had they known they were voting for a coalition with the seperatists.

    One thing is certain: the Liberals will fight like hell to deny the voting public the opportunity to tell us.

  51. kody, I think Col. Harper has sufficiently antagonised enough ABC’s with his FU shenanigans that it makes up for the queeziness of seeing Dion snuggle up to Duceppe. We’re down the rabbit hole now; all bets are off; between Col. Harper’s attempt to kneecap his opponents to this Grand Satanic Bargain, Canadian politics has officially shed its last shred of morality. Welcome to the Machiavellian orgy.

    “One thing is certain: the Liberals will fight like hell to deny the voting public the opportunity to tell us.”

    The voting public rejected Harper in October in a way that kept you off these comment boards for two weeks, moping. Somehow I think his image has not improved since then.

  52. TJ,

    Thanks for the clarification I am glad you are so connected. So as the old SNL skit went “Its not a gang its a club”

    Thats fine, makes the argument for an election stronger. Conservatives pop up over 40% in the polls, if they do, they can quite reasonably argue that an election yields a majority.

    Oops, now I hear the turning of the page and the argument will but 60% are against…..thats “a gang” not a “a club”

    I have my sympathies, but this is just how its going to play out, Caons may lose, GG might call it one way or another….but lets not kid ourselves about the path we are on and one of the contributing factors is the opposition certainty that they could avoid an election, which they may.

    I indicated that this was going to start a fire, and there was a liklihood this was going to turn into a firestorm, it may yet. There were other options, for all parties. Historic doesnt even begin to describe what happens next….

  53. Anyone else think we’re going to be living in a banana rebulic … whatever happens…

  54. Great article! Full of great nuance and irony.

    Reading along, I started to think, Heck! maybe we should just have, like, 10 Prime Ministers!

    But then that dang question popped up: How is this going to work?

    True supporters of any of the Grits, Greens, NDP or Bloc cannot accept this coup,. The parties have diametrically opposed agendas. It will not work. Even less will get done.

    If you support this random alliance only because you are anti-Tori, that’s not a very good reason to encourage a stalemate that will prolong any forwarding governing of this country for the next number of months or years.

    With a minority government, the accountability is already built in.

    I did not vote Conservative, but I still say let Harper lead.

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