The democracy election

by Aaron Wherry

The Star sizes up a potential campaign.

The swirling ethical questions were enough to prompt Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to say he would be “delighted” to challenge the Tories’ democratic record in an election.

Parliamentary expert Ned Franks said issues around the government’s approach to democracy should get an airing on the campaign trail, especially given Harper’s dismissive response to the findings his government has abused parliamentary procedure. “Ultimately what you’re saying as prime minister is ‘I don’t give a damn what Parliament does. I’m going my way,’ ” said Franks, a professor emeritus at Queen’s University. “You can get away with it for a time but we live in a democracy, not a dictatorship,” he said.

A majority of respondents to a recent Ipsos Reid poll put “honest, open and trustworthy government” ahead of “economic recovery” as the top issue.




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The democracy election

  1. I'm just wondering what Harper will say for every day of the 35 days.

  2. "Coalition."

  3. Supposed to be a reply to Anon.

  4. You seem to have stopped this post rather abruptly. Did the poll say anything else?

  5. I'm wondering what the "leader" of the liberals will do when he gets spanked in the election.

  6. something like:

    28% of Canadians believe the Conservatives, if re-elected, would do the best job of “providing honest, open and trustworthy government.”
    22% believe the NDP would do the best job of this.
    Just 15% say the Liberals would be best at providing honest, open and trustworthy government.

    perhaps?

  7. Aaron Wherry. You gotta love him.

    Here is what Ned Franks also had to say about Parliamentary democracy:

    If the opposition parties find Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government in contempt of Parliament for the sake of political theatre over documents not provided to the House, the vote will mean nothing, says one of the country's leading experts on Parliament who is calling on MPs to reform what constitutes "Cabinet confidences" in order to prevent today's historic events from ever reoccurring.

    "If the finding of contempt is purely the result of a political game, it's not super serious. If the finding of contempt is something really went wrong, then it is serious," retired Queen's University professor Ned Franks told The Hill Times last week. "I have wrestled with this, and I'm not convinced that there actually is a contempt of Parliament and I don't think it's the important issue. I think the important one is identifying a problem, and the solution is not for the government to overload Parliament with documents at the end of the process."

    And here is what the poll that Mr. Wherry linked to also said:

    Canadians believe political honesty should trump economic recovery as the main issue in the next election but — in a major blow to the Liberals — voters rank the Tories as the best party to deliver a government they can trust.

    But why even pretend to be a journalist when you're so much better at being an outright liberal hack?

  8. These numbers are dismal for Conservatives, who've had five years to deliver on the main issue they were elected first – openness, transparency, but are down to their hard core (28%) of supporters who are still buying this. Neither Ignatieff nor Layton have ever governed (and both are not implicated in the sponsorship scandal), so they couldn't really be tested on those issues. Given that 72% of Canadians don't believe that Harper provided an open and transparent government, I believe they'll give Ignatieff a benefit of doubt if the election will be called over these issues.

  9. yes, 28% is dismal, and 15% means you've got a lot of room to grow. it's all good news for the Liberals, no really Im serious.

  10. Not disagreeing, but the Franks quote is wonky to me. "If the finding of contempt is purely the result of a political game, it's not super serious. If the finding of contempt is something really went wrong, then it is serious."

    Who is answering that 'if' question? Is it MPs? Is it the committee? Is it Canadian voters? Who? Does it come down to the wording of the contempt finding? I'm a dummy… I don't get it.

  11. Ned Franks is answering the question. After all, he's the parliamentary expert Wherry keeps citing, isn't he?

    Yes. Parliamentarians can ultimately cite anything for contempt, and people like Franks can say it's bunk, can't they? Or does his opinion only count when it favours Wherry's preferred party?

  12. To be completely fair, the top vote getter at 29% was "None of the above". I'm legitimately surprised that "None of the above" wasn't the runaway winner.

    Also to be fair, this poll was likely completed before anybody knew who Bruce Carson was.

  13. He seems to be suggesting that it is reasonable for Harper to take the position that the opposition is just playing games, so the government's attempts to defend themselves aren't an attack on democracy. However, it is also reasonable for the opposition to see things differently, so maybe we need the voters to step in and clear things up.

  14. Thinking about which party would “keep taxes under control,” 36% believe the Conservatives are best able to do this, while fewer believe the Liberals (17%), NDP (16%) or Bloc (6%) are best positioned to do this. Twenty-five per cent think that some other party would do a better job with this.

    One in three (33%) believe the Conservatives would do the best job at “spending taxpayers money wisely,” while others believe the NDP (18%), Liberals (16%) or Bloc (6%) would do the best job of this. Another 27% don't believe any of these parties would do the best job at spending taxpayers money wisely.

    as to the open gov't etc issue – checkout the poll says it all folks – the Lib's still suck worse tha the CPC even with all the mud flying around right now – so as a Conservative – LET'S GO FOLKS off to the polls :) ! – so so bad

  15. I respect Franks' opinion, whatever party it happens to favour… and my question had nothing to do with Wherry or partisanship. As I said, I wasn't taking issue with your opinion, I just wanted some clarification of the quote from you or anyone else who could give it. But I think I have it figured out on my lonesome… in the first part of the quote, he was talking in generalities, then he got more specific. At first blush, I thought he was specific from the get-go.

  16. I agree that the quote is a bit vague. He basically sets up two scenarios. One is when the opposition plays games with charges of contempt. The other is when there is something genuine to act upon and cite contempt for. In the current case, he believes that the former scenario is more likely.

    Methinks the writer should have done a better job of framing his quotes from Franks. Nevertheless, he's obviously questioning the seriousness of the current contempt charges being contemplated by the opposition.

  17. I've questioned the seriousness of the charges, too… particularly in light of the gong show that was the committee hearing last week. It's disappointing. I'm no fan of the Harper government, and I don't think the Oda affair or the withholding of information should have been ignored. At the same time, that contempt hearing was a joke. I would have been much more impressed with the opposition parties if they had at least tried to be objective instead of acting as both judge and prosecutor, sniffing out for something to hang on Harper going into an election. I guess that's how the system works, but… if you're going to criticize somebody (the Conservatives) for putting partisan interests over the country's interest, you might do well to heed your own advice.

  18. The poll shows how entrenched Conservative support is and the challenge the Opposition leaders face in giving people a reason to vote for them. I've always found the notion that Canadians vote against, rather than for someone a bit off. Granted we haven't seen an Obama-like figure in decades that really captures the public imagination from a personality POV, but still, when push comes to shove simply being 'not the other guy' is rarely enough to win power (ask the Conservatives about this in 2004, they subsequently changed track and started the 2006 campaign focused on policy as much as slamming the Liberals on ethics.

  19. Cont'd:

    In that vein, it makes an election centred around ethics a potentially dangerous game for the Opposition. Granted they have a lot of ammunition to go after the government on, but if it becomes a case of Canadians thinking all pols are corrupt, it's advantage Conservative has they have, by far, the most commited base. I think in order for this to be a win for the Opposition, in particular the Liberals, they're going to have to find a way to strike a policy proposal that links back to Canadians' concern for Parliament and gives them a reason to look to the Liberals as an alternative, simply attacking the government won't be enough.

  20. Interesting poll. I wonder what the numbers will be when the election is called on the basis of the government being in contempt of parliament, and their many failures on this point are highlighted in an election campaign.

    I guess we will see tomorrow how much the CPC want an election.

  21. Especially since 29% chose none of the above.

  22. Considering how important this issue was to Conservatives in 2006, I don't think they would want to draw any attention to these numbers.

    As dismal as the numbers are for the Liberals and the NDP, it has to be worse for the Conservatives. They are the ones who campaigned so hard on the issue.

    These numbers suggest that the emperor has no clothes…

  23. I generally agree with your comments, but I would modify your sentiment slightly: "if it becomes a case of Canadians thinking all pols are corrupt," then they go to ballot question number 2, which is likely to be the economy. "My concern is corruption, but they're all corrupt, so my other concern is the economy. I trust the Tories more than others on economic matters, so I'll vote for them."

    Proposals for reforming parliament are welcome, but if voters don't trust politicians to begin with, then why would they trust the Liberals to implement such proposals? I don't know. I'm just thinking aloud here, not trying to sound cynical.

  24. "What are they going to put in their platform? What's there to vote for, besides a clever parsing of Conservative shortcomings?

    In the sunroom at Stornoway, Ignatieff gave a pretty detailed answer to that question. The Liberals have been refining their platform for more than a year. “There are two fundamental issues for the country,” Ignatieff said. “One is, ‘Does this Prime Minister respect the democratic restrictions placed on the authority of a prime minister? Yes or no?'

    “Issue number two is, ‘Can this Prime Minister be trusted, as we move forward, with the key sources of economic success?' Which are: a health care system you can count on; a pension system you can count on; child care when you need it to get into the job market.”

    I remembered this section from Wells article last week on how Liberals are doing everything right.

    I wonder how that's going to work out for the Libs next election? We hear lots of talk about how smart Liberals/liberals are but I am more of a believer in proof is in pudding, and that says Liberals are not nearly as clever as they think they are.

    —–

    "Canadians believe political honesty should trump economic recovery as the main issue in the next election but — in a major blow to the Liberals — voters rank the Tories as the best party to deliver a government they can trust.

    Moreover, while the Liberals are hoping to make political ethics a main theme of the election, they are the last of the three main parties — ranking behind the NDP — that are trusted by Canadians in this area." Ipsos Reid poll, Postmedia News

    ——

    "A new international survey shows Canadians are in a very positive mood about the state of the economy, suggesting the opposition parties face an uphill battle pushing for change on the eve of a possible federal election.

    Describing Canada as a “superstar,” an Ipsos online survey of citizens in 24 countries finds 68 per cent of Canadians are feeling good about the economy." Globe/Mail,February 22, 2011

  25. This was another legitimate surprise…I don't like the Liberals but even I'll acknowledge that after years of running surpluses and a giving large personal income tax cut, they have a rather enviable economic record; however the Liberals are now even with the NDP on best positioned to "keep taxes under control" and "spend taxpayers money wisely", with the CPC at roughly double the approval rating of the opposition parties.

  26. But even if the polling was done before the Bruce Carson story, why would Wherry decide to stop the posting so abruptly?

    I think your initial observation was a good one. I wondered the same thing. It seems Wherry cannot, cannot, mentions anything positive for the Tories.

  27. Excellent post, gottabesaid. You are asking the right questions. For who is Franks to speak on our behalf. It's just an opinion – his. We all have our own.

    And my opinions about Pat Martin are none too favourable right now. He should be the one to be held in contempt. Pat Martin doesn't even serve regularly on the finance committee and there he was , inserted to be the attack dog!

    Pat Martin won't let Bev Oda speak, but Pat Martin takes his sweet time to talk about 'tribunals' and 'Conservative regimes". Does Franks have an opinion about such things democratic???

  28. Describing Canada as a “superstar,” an Ipsos online survey of citizens in 24 countries finds 68 per cent of Canadians are feeling good about the economy." Globe/Mail,February 22, 2011

    I believe that the goal of the massive Economic Action Plan advertising buy was to achieve precisely this goal: to get Canadians feeling better about the economy, and hence better about the Conservatives' stewardship of it.

  29. So I guess you are proud of Pat Martin's behaviour? I bet a lot of Canadians won't be too impressed by his behaviour.

    But then again, we won't be seeing footage of Pat Martin's behaviour on CBC news any time soon.

  30. Oh you crazy person you: he's an expert on Parliamentary procedures, its inner workings. HIS opinion has education and analysis behind it — yours and mine, not so much.

    Typical conservative supporter — pi$$ all over expertise, never met anyone who knew something you didn't, eh?

  31. The LIberals have been trying to pitch daycare now for well over ten years. The voter is well aware that even when the Liberals were in power, as a majority government no less, they did nothing meaningfull in regards to daycare. Yet, they keep on promising the same stuff over and over again. The Liberals really think the Canadian voter is a bit dense. They're counting on it!

  32. It seems Wherry cannot, cannot, mentions anything positive for the Tories.

    Your list of Harper accomplishments goes here:

    ?

  33. This is why I like you, you often try to be fair.

    Also, you're a great drummer.

  34. Thanks Halo_Override! On both counts. :)

    It's not the clearest picture but I can assure you on the drumming, I studied at the feet of a master.

  35. I do not know Pat Martin nor have any affiliation to him, and therefore have no reason to be proud or ashamed. Nor do I understand what on earth his conduct has to do with my comment.

    That said I am not disturbed by his conduct. Oda is a Minister of the Crown who mislead Parliament. If she cannot take the heat she probably should resign.

  36. Ned Franks is the new Jack Mintz: another professor of something or another that NO ONE outside earshot of the Peace Tower carillon gives half a rat’s ring about.

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  38. If you think he's bad now wait for the campaign.

  39. This is really nothing more than wishing. The Tories are doubling the marks of their primary opponent on the issue the Liberals hope will be their ace in the hole. The issue was important to the Conservatives in 2006 because of how untrustworthy the Liberals were perceived to be, an image that has apparently lingered on them through 5 long years of not providing dishonest government and two switches in leader. Trust me, it's worse for the Liberals.

  40. Maybe your missing my point. You can't ignore that the Conservatives rated at 28%, even if it is almost double the Liberals numbers.

    28% suggests that they have failed miserably on one of their central planks in 2006. 28% means even the core supporters of the Conservatives doesn't believe they will provide honest, open and trustworthy government, given that their supporters are around 35%+/-.

    Damned by fain praise…

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