Two questions for Stephen Harper

by Aaron Wherry

In light of all this confusion surrounding Mr. Harper’s previous practice and present stance on parliamentary cooperation, there are perhaps two questions that might (need?) be asked of the Conservative leader for the sake of clarification.

1. What “options” did you intend the Governor General to consider when you, along with Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Layton, wrote to her in September 2004?

2. In 1997, you said if the Liberal majority government of the day was ever reduced to a minority government, there would be an opportunity for one of the other parties “to form a coalition or working alliance with the others.” In 2004, during your news conference with Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Layton, you were asked if you were prepared to form government and said such a scenario was “extremely hypothetical.” You and your party now argue that only the party that wins the most seats can form government. Why and when did your views change on the functioning of our parliamentary system?




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Two questions for Stephen Harper

  1. Why and when did your views change on the functioning of our parliamentary system?

    When: January 23, 2006
    Why: His party won a minority government.

    This have been another edition of easy answers to easy questions.

  2. 3. Is giving you a majority the only way to stop you from creating a national unity/constitutional crisis?

  3. No, you can reduce him to rump party status. That would work as well.

    This has been a second instalment of easy answers to easy questions.

  4. 4. If you win a third minority government, will you become more co-operative in the house to avoid another premature election?

  5. In 2004, during your news conference with Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Layton, you were asked if you were prepared to form government and said such a scenario was “extremely hypothetical.”

    I could swear I saw a TV news report (can't recall if it was CBC or CTV) in the last 24-36 hours that claimed all three leaders also stated at that (in)famous 2004 news conference that they were not creating a coalition. There was even a clip of Duceppe stating pretty much those exact words. Which means Duceppe was lying then or is lying now.

    Did any one else with a better memory see that report? If I am not hallucinating, I would expect that this should satisfy many (maybe even Aaron Wherry?) that the trio was not contemplating a governing coalition in 2004.

  6. Aaron, please I’m begging you. Have your Rogers overlords implement a proper mobile version of the site.

  7. This has been a 34,523rd instalment of Liberal "easy answers" that somehow aren't so easy to execute in the real world.

  8. Mr. Harpy will say anything to get elected

  9. In 2004 the majority of the liberal party was on the cusp of doing some serious jail time, but thru the grace of Gomery and an un-enquiring press, they remained the party with the most seats and the need for intervention by the other three parties was not needed.

  10. This pointed questioning would require the other Ottawa journalists to sharpen their skills beyond reporting polls and ‘monotonal hits of Beatles’ performances. There are, of course, reporters who can ask pointed questions – but the rest of the pack seldom solidifies around them.

  11. Harper can't handle a majority. But then, he's done nothing to persuade voters who used to vote against him to change, so why would they?

    But so far, I dont' hear any media asking harper these questions; I just see them bullying Ignatieff into speaking out against a legitimate parliamentary procedure.

    Who says Canadians wouldn't rather have a coalition than a harper majority anyway?

  12. Exactly Patchouli. I'd take a coalition over a Conservative government any day of the week. It's democracy in action and it seems to work just fine for other countries in the World. The press should be grilling Harper on what's so bad about a coalition.

  13. so will every other candidate.

  14. When is the media going to move on from the coalition issue and start focusing on things that really matter to Canadians?

    And what's with Harper's ration of 5 questions per day??? Is this a democracy or isn't it???? What is he hiding????

  15. Fat chance.

    Easy answers to easy questions III.

  16. There are many inaccuracies in your comment but I will point out one by jumping to the defence of the media.

    It was thanks to the enquiries of Daniel Leblanc of the Globe & Mail that all of that came to light.

  17. Who says Canadians wouldn't rather have a coalition than a harper majority anyway?

    There are other options: for example, a Liberal minority government that is supported by enough opposition parties to ensure the confidence of the House. It's not a coalition unless there are members of at least two parties in cabinet.

    In other words, the Liberals could do what the Conservatives have been doing since they were elected: obtain support from one or more other parties on an issue-by-issue basis. And that is what Ignatieff has said he will do.

    Framing it as "Conservatives or coalition" is defining the debate on Harper's terms.

  18. In 1997, with the split on the right, it was reasonable to talk of coalitions. Otherwise, Canada would be a single party state.
    It makes perfect sense – The Liberals seemed unstoppable. There is no parallel today.

    The context of the 2004 letter was the sponsorship scandal. It was reasonable, in those circumstances, to ensure that we got tot he bottom of the issue. With a minority Liberal government, including many of the ministers involved in scandal, still in Martin's caucus, it was fair to question whether they would tackle the issue objectively. It was not unreasonable to look at working with the other parties during such a massive political crisis. But today, there is no such crisis.

    I'm sure the Liberals just want the whole coalition idea to go away. Questioning Harper's supposed flip-flop on coalitions only dredges up the context of the sponsorship scandal. But nevertheless, the only way Iggnatief can become Prime Minister is with a coalition. So, this question won't go away for him. Otherwise the question becomes "why did you bring down the government if everything will stay the same? When voters are faced with that question, I think they might vote for the only change open to them: a Conservative Majority.

  19. Considering they ran a minority parliament longer than any other in Canadian history, it's difficult to say they haven't worked cooperatively. I'd say that's a rather nice feather in their cap.

  20. Ignatieff syays if the Liberals form a minority government that they will do as the Conservatives have done and not form any coalition.

    What he doesn't say is if the Liberals won the second most seats and the Conservatives form a minority government will he try to force on Canadians the "coalition of losers" that includes the separatist traitors the Bloc?

    Iggy and the Liberals are mealy mouthed pieces of work whom I would not trust to manage a manure pile.

    We all remember Chretien promising to abolish the GST back in 1993.

  21. Thank goodness Chretien didn't just abolish the GST (at least without increasing taxes elsewhere to compensate), imagine the tough times that would have left us with considering the deficit problems Harpers GST reduction has created. If only the Harper govt. could remember his education in economics and reduce tax burdens effectively. Well, at least the very rich save a worthwhile amount when they make a big ticket purchase now.

  22. I am all for Canada getting a coalition government, at some point, if the present landscape of one right wing party and several left leaning parties doesn't change. I think Canadians would rightly worry though about inexperienced NDP cabinet ministers. Perhaps some kind of poll could/should be done to see which NDP MPs and in what cabinet positions would be most palatable. I dont think we (Canada) will be ready on May 3 for a coalition though, but all this discussion about it is prepping the ground for one. I also think the Liberals with experience would be great mentors, for lack of a better word, for NDP MP's in handling a cabinet position. Then just maybe someday they could have the policies and experience to win an election all by themselves.

  23. How can Harper go on with this coalition rubbish for five weeks?

  24. Wehre have you been? They started with a manual on how to disrupt committees, have used fear to drive their agenda, have caved in to the DULY-ELECTED OPPOSITION only when they had no choice, and have prorogued P/ment twice. Perhaps we define "cooperation" differently, as Harper does with "coalition"?

  25. You are correct about those comments. Because no one used the word. But the only alternative to being a coalition in name would have been for Harper to be the gov't with the cooperation of the other minority parties. That is exactly what a "coalition" is. If it quacks like a duck….

  26. Harper is within striking distance of a majority – even the most partisan media types can't honestly deny this. Harper's solution and Canada's solution to a good stable government is a Harper majority.You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see what Iggy's game plan has to be – he has no choice. Ignatieff can not form a majority, as polls indicate, and he will require the Bloc's support of 50 plus seats to become Prime Minister. This comes with an extortion attempt of 5 billion dollars from the Canadian taxpayer by Duceppe which failed with Harper but is sure to succeed with Ignatieff because that is the only way Iggy can stay in power from day one. Why do you think Duceppe has made Harper enemy number one for the Bloc?

  27. Making stuff up is fun!

  28. good

  29. that's Harper for you. He's afraid that he will get mixed up in his lies.

  30. I'm sure that you're well aware that what you call the "coalition of losers" could equally well be called the "coalition that represents more votes than the Conservatives."

    This coalition nonsense and near-lies from the Conservatives has become very tiresome.

  31. No, I mean Duceppe actually spoke the words "not a coalition," or something very close to that. And the (modern-day) reporter described that historical event by stating that each of the three leaders specifically denied they were creating a governing coalition.

    And no, that is not exactly what a coalition is. Harper might have tried to govern with a weaker minority, negotiating at every opportunity for confidence in the House. That is not the quacking duck you think it is. There is a world of difference between that and bringing other parties' MPs into your cabinet.

  32. Close to bang-on. Canada's solution is whatever Canadians decide it is. And the 5 billion Bloc extortion attempt would just be the first instalment. Then there would be la deuxième semaine du 41e parlement…

  33. "With a minority Liberal government, including many of the ministers involved in scandal, still in Martin's caucus, it was fair to question whether they would tackle the issue objectively."

    Do you recall who created the Gomery Commission "to tackle the issue objectively"?

  34. Well, not from the opposition benches anyway. Give them a chance to show you what they can do!

  35. I REALLY want to see this one in a Q&A!

  36. You think reducing Harper to "rump party status" will be easy, eh? Free advice, dude: stay away from the bookies.

  37. You are correct – and he has been very careful to avoid saying they were in one. In anything I've seen, he has only said it was discussed.

    But the Bloc didn't have a coalition agreement in 2008 either. Just as in 2004, Duceppe merely pledged to support the other parties should they choose to go to the GG with an offer to form the government after a vote of non-confidence.

    The point being, while the mechanics may differ, the intent was the same: the Bloc was willing to lend support to a party other than the one with the highest number of seats in order to allow that party to govern, should the opportunity present itself.

    Duceppe is pointing out the hypocrisy of Harper's "illegitimate" blathering; if it was illegitimate in 2008 and would be illegitimate now, then why wasn't it in 2004? Or is Harper admitting a willingness to illegitimately take office?

  38. I didn't think CPC candidates were allowed to speak publicly…

  39. The right accuses the MSM of being leftist; the other side says they are Harper sycophants. The truth is likely a combination of the immediacy of today's media not allowing them time to do proper research… and sheer laziness.

    Each reporter should look deep into a mirror and ask him/herself which of these shoes fits.

  40. From here they have always looked like a "rump" party – but I'd be happy with them finishing second this time around.

  41. From here…

    Stop me if you've heard this: I was specifically referring to the real world.

  42. the intent was the same

    Only if you believe Harper's weaker minority requiring horse trading at every turn, with no pledge of peace from the BQ, is exactly the same as Dion-Layton's weaker minority with a two-year pledge of peace from the BQ.

    Actually, now that I think of it that way, you're right, it IS exactly the same. The BQ's two-year pledge of peace was meaningless crap, revocable at any time they felt it might be to their advantage.

    But then there was Layton, who would have been Dion's Deputy Prime (or worse, Finance) Minister, but would have been just another party leader under Harper's weak minority. So, nope, not the same.

  43. LOL!

    I'll laugh WITH you now; but I hope you don't mind if I laugh AT you should Iggy pull it off!

  44. If I minded every time people laughed AT me, I would be a tortured soul. I find it's best to laugh WITH those who happen to be laughing AT me.

  45. "the same" in the sense that the leader of the #2 party was seeking the support of the NDP and BQ to replace the leader of the #1 party as PM.

    That kind of "the same".

  46. If that's the best kind of "the same" people have going for the two agreements, then we have really wasted a lot of energy on the "coalition" debate. Because that is sooooooo not the same the moment anyone starts thinking about the very real differences.

  47. Support of the Bloc is support of the Bloc. Mechanics don't matter; intent does.

    Harper called such support "illegitimate" and "unprincipled". He's either lying now, or making a base admission about his own ethics in 2004.

  48. I seriously hope that the Liberals, NDP and BQ form a coalition government. The Tories will be guaranteed their majority next election after that. It’ll be a landslide. It wouldn’t even be close.

  49. Oh Wherry, you are such a crack reporter! You've got this 2004 story completely covered, and it has only taken you 7 years to do it! Keep up the good work!

    The truth is, the leftist media (hello TO Star, G&M, CBC, Aaron Wherry) is trotting out the story repeatedly in order to provide cover for the opposition parties to have popular support for a coalition today. They realize that arguing for the 2011 coalition is a loser, so they're changing tactics and arguing that Harper loves coalitions. Wow, good work. Once again, the media is trying to set the narrative (this time by talking about the past), rather than reporting the news as it happens.

    Wherry, I look forward to your commentary about the 2006 election which should be arriving a couple of years from now.

  50. I've always thought it was best to laugh last.

  51. And if that happy event should occur, more power to you. I have come to learn that laughter itself is often the best one can hope for. So just go with it.

  52. It takes time to rewrite history before reporting it, darn it! And hey, it's a lot easier for a pundit to predict what's going to happen in the past than in the present future.

  53. Harper was able to get his way in a minority situation the same way Chretian got majorities. The opposition was weak enough to pull it off.

  54. I'm willing to give the other guys a chance if Harper gets a third minority mandate. As a member of the 65% that didn't vote for Harper I think my values would be better represented. Other than for the sovereignty issue the Bloc reflects my values on such issues as the environment and crime better than Harper conservatives do.

  55. In 2011, with the split on the left, it is reasonable to talk of coalitions. Otherwise, Canada will be a single party state.
    It makes perfect sense – The Conservatives seem unstoppable. There is parallel today.

  56. Nice out of context mashup. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to your postings of mashups of Duceppe, Layton and May.

  57. It does look problematic for Harper to have the confidence of the house if he gets another minority mandate. Maybe Harper shouldn't have been so controlling that the majority of elected representatives felt they no longer had confidence in him to wield the mantle of power.
    I'm interested in hearing from the Conservatives what they will do differently to regain the trust of the house. From what I've heard so far they do not propose anything different. If parliament is dysfunctional one can't help but think it might be Harper and if another party governed things might work better. Something about fool me once….

  58. Sarcasm alert;
    Oh but the horror! The chaos! The end of the economy! We wouldn't recognize Canada after they were done!!!!!!
    Could even Harper save Canada after this!

  59. Here is a third question to ask Mr. Harper:
    Saskatchewan has legislation that allows married people to take common law spouses while married to others, yet does not allow married people to take civilly married spouses at the same time. How is this equal treatment under the law for all Canadians?

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