A retrospective


 

May 26, 2006Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he plans to introduce a bill to set fixed dates for federal elections, as part of a wider movement towards democratic reform. “Fixed election dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar,” Harper told reporters in Victoria, B.C. on Friday. “They level the playing field for all parties.”

May 30, 2006The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform today introduced in the House of Commons a bill providing for fixed election dates every four years … “Fixed election dates will improve the fairness of Canada’s electoral system by eliminating the ability of governing parties to manipulate the timing of elections for partisan advantage,” stated Minister Nicholson.

May 2, 2007The Senate has passed a bill that will require federal elections to be held every four years. The proposed legislation, Bill C-16, which is scheduled to receive royal assent on Thursday, would mean Oct. 19, 2009, is the date of the next general election.

May 18, 2007A secret guidebook that details how to unleash chaos while chairing parliamentary committees has been given to select Tory MPs. Running some 200 pages including background material, the document — given only to Conservative chairmen — tells them how to favour government agendas, select party-friendly witnesses, coach favourable testimony, set in motion debate-obstructing delays and, if necessary, storm out of meetings to grind parliamentary business to a halt.

Oct. 3, 2007. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper challenged the three opposition parties on Wednesday to either give the minority Conservative government a broad mandate for its policies or force a general election.

July 31, 2008Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday dared the Liberal opposition to defeat his government and precipitate an election in which the Grits’ proposed carbon tax would be the defining issue.

Aug. 15, 2008. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday he will not govern over a “dysfunctional” Parliament and warned for the first time he could take matters into his own hands and force the country into a fall election. Mr. Harper’s made his threat as he and other government officials grew increasingly testy over four days of rare summer hearings into the Conservative Party’s “in-and-out” advertising scheme in the 2006 election campaign.

Sept. 7, 2008. Canadians will go to the polls Tuesday, Oct. 14, the day after Thanksgiving, to vote for a new federal government.

Dec. 2, 2008Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion of betraying Canadian voters with the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition to replace the Conservative minority government, saying Dion is “turning his back” on the results of the recent federal election … “Mr. Speaker, if the leader of the Opposition thinks he has support for this, he should have the confidence to take this to the people of Canada, who will reject it.” … Talk of a coalition government was triggered when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered his controversial fiscal update last Thursday.

June 17, 2009Under the pact, Harper agreed to give the Liberals an opposition day motion within eight days of the start of the fall session of Parliament — a key opportunity to trigger an election. But the prime minister warned a fall election that he said “nobody wants” would bring “pretty dangerous results” for the country which is already struggling with a recession.

July 5, 2009Prime Minister Stephen Harper dared opposition parties on Saturday–namely Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff–to topple the Conservative minority government, arguing it will trigger an election Canadians don’t want and leave voters with a stark choice at the ballot box. “Let the opposition parties threaten to get together to defeat us and replace us,” Harper told about 800 Conservative supporters during a barbecue at Heritage Park. “Canadians have been clear that they do not want another election.”

July 5, 2009When Liberal Senator Dennis Dawson introduced a private-member’s bill this spring, it was instantly denounced by the governing Conservatives as an “unCanadian” and anti-democratic assault on free speech. So he was taken aback to discover a few weeks later that a Conservative MP had volunteered to sponsor his bill once it makes its way to the House of Commons. Dawson’s bill is one of 28 private-members’ bills proposed by Liberal or independent senators that Tory MPs hastened to sponsor last month – a novel procedural tactic that Liberals suspect is designed to stop the bills dead in their tracks, despite government denials.


 

A retrospective

  1. I take it there's a point here somewhere?

    • I doubt anyone expects you to see it.

    • There certainly is.

    • Right there between the lines.

      • I don't get it either. The first eight snippets replay Harper's disregard for his own fixed election date–shame on him and all, but that's old news. The next snippet refers to the specific case involving the coalition. The following two snippets are Harper saying that he doesn't think there should be an election this fall. Last snippet, totally different subject.

        I don't see any contradiction between the first eight snippets and the two regarding an election this fall–the others being just plain irrelevant. It's not as if Harper has been calling for a new election every week for the last four years. It's not as if Harper is now saying the opposition shouldn't call an election BECAUSE OF the fixed election date law.

        Harper wanted an election in September 2008–nearly three years since the previous one. Does that mean he always has to want an election? Like, right now–one year into a new parliament and in the middle of a recession?

        The only thing that's contradictory about these citations is Harper's initial violation of the spirit of his fixed election date law–and that's not news. Is there something I'm missing?

        • I think Mr. Wherry was implying that the excuse Harper provided for calling the October election and violating his election law was that the opposition was not allowing Parliament to function (snippet 7); the last snippets are evidence that the Tories, far from wanting Parliament to work, are intentionally gumming up the works.

        • I think Mr. Wherry was implying that the excuse Harper provided for calling the October election and violating his election law was that the opposition was not allowing Parliament to function (snippet 7), whereas the last snippets are evidence that the Tories, far from wanting Parliament to work, are intentionally gumming up the works.

          • Fair enough, but I think it was obvious at the time that Harper was intentionally gumming up the works of the 39th parliament to provide himself with the pretext for calling an election. That is gauling, but–once again–old news.

            Perhaps Wherry is suggesting that it is hypocritical for Harper to call an election based on the supposed depredations of the opposition, but then exocriate the Liberals for (hypothetically) doing the same thing when Harper is the one using disruptive parliamentary tactics. I think that's a fair point, but it's unconvincing since Harper's current tactics are aimed at POTENTIALLY disrupting the agenda of the SENATE–as opposed to actively disrupting the agenda of the House of Commons.

            The much more important story here is how Harper created the "committee chaos" back in '08 that he later used to justify the need for an election. But the press largely missed that story back when it mattered.

          • Quite right, and very well put.

        • I will point out that RayK, as a left-leaning individual who feels no love for either the Tories or the Liberals, can often be relied on to provide a neutral assessment of various Liberal vs. Conservative narratives. In this case, RayK clearly feels the "retrospective" has failed to establish whatever Mr. Wherry intended it to establish.

        • I will point out that RayK, as a left-leaning individual who feels no love for either the Tories or the Liberals, can often be relied on to provide a neutral assessment of various Liberal vs. Conservative narratives. In this case, RayK clearly feels the "retrospective" has failed to establish whatever it was that Mr. Wherry intended to establish.

        • I will point out that RayK, as a left-leaning individual who feels no love for either the Tories or the Liberals, can often be relied on to provide a neutral assessment of various Liberal vs. Conservative narratives. In this case, RayK clearly feels that the "retrospective" has failed to establish whatever Mr. Wherry intended it to establish.

        • I think the point was to demonstrate how often the gov't attempted to draw the opposition into a non-con. When they wouldn't go, he finally called it despite the spirit of the law.

  2. Let's hope we can form a strong national dialogue not focused on CPC talking points but of fact and media outrage over the entirely dangerously anti-democratic Harper CPC.

    • Media outrage? They're more interested in games/strategy/games/strategy then what Harper's doing to kill our democracry.

      Oh ya, and Iggy – is he/isn't he/is he/ isn't he……..all write the same stuff – and they wonder why people have no faith in media – headlines first, voice of the people about 25th down the line.

  3. Harper shouldn't count on voter outrage to help him when the election eventually happens. Voters never want an election (save maybe in 1993), but tend to move on about it after the first week of the campaign.

    I am suprised at what the timeline shows, a tendency for Harper to repeat his classic errors. What is that old line about people who don't learn from history destined (or cursed) to repeat it?

  4. The fixed election law wasn't respected by the opposition parties from the start. They said it applied only to the Conservatives but not to them. Since when does a law apply to some but not others? You want to be credible folks, you gotta be consistent. Consistency is not Wherry's strong suit.

    The fact is folks, that the fixed election law doesn't work in a minority context. Although if the opposition agreed to be bound by it even in a minority situation, I'm sure Harper would reciprocate in kind. Should we hold our breath that the opposition will do this?

    • "the fixed election law doesn't work in a minority context."

      Why then was it proposed, debated, and passed in a minority context?

      • Why won't the opposition be bound by the law? If they agreed to be then Iggy wouldn't be making all of his idle threats.

        Again Jack, all I ask of my left/lib commenter friends is a little logical consistency. That's really all I ask.

        • Man, I'm starting to like this "jarrid" character you've created. I admit, at first I didn't understand the joke–it was a little too realistic, you know? But now, I think you're really starting to get into a groove with him. I look forward to future performances.

          • We all know "jarrid" is actually Warren Kinsella.

        • Well, I've been consistent, for one. The law was meaningless to begin with, since under our system the Government must fall if it loses the confidence of the House of Commons. All it could conceivably mean — and I don't think it meant even this, I think it was purely a sop to the Americanising Tory base — would be that the Government is bound not to exceed a mandate of 4 years and won't call an election in the meantime. Harper blatantly violated the second half of that. Since it's a nonsense law to begin with, I'm sort of glad he did, because now no one can take it seriously; but it certainly showed that he values power more than his own law, assuming that were news.

          • Jack is correct that the only possible interpretation is "that the Government is bound not to exceed a mandate of 4 years and won't call an election in the meantime."

            It was a blatant example – among a range of others – that Harper thinks Canadian institutions need not be respected and that he is willing to denigrate any Canadian institution to erode Canadian confidence in parliament and government.

          • Jack is correct that the only possible interpretation is "that the Government is bound not to exceed a mandate of 4 years and won't call an election in the meantime", as much as Harper would love stripping the ability of the opposition to vote down his government and reduce his accountability.

            It was a blatant example – among a range of others – that Harper thinks Canadian institutions need not be respected and that he is willing to denigrate any Canadian institution to erode Canadian confidence in parliament and government.

          • "he is willing to denigrate any Canadian institution to erode Canadian confidence in parliament and government"

            Another notch on this Alberta Agenda.

        • Well, I've been consistent, for one. The law was meaningless to begin with, since under our system the Government needs to confidence of the House of Commons. All it could conceivably mean — and I don't think it meant even this, I think it was purely a sop to the Americanising Tory base — would be that the Government is bound not to exceed a mandate of 4 years and won't call an election in the meantime. Harper blatantly violated the second half of that. Since it's a nonsense law to begin with, I'm sort of glad he did, because now no one can take it seriously; but it certainly showed that he values power more than his own law, assuming that were news.

        • The opposition parties do not have the power to call an election. They do have the power to vote against the government on confidence matters–and that can RESULT in an election–but the opposition does not have the power to call an election.

          So, a law mandating that the prime minister ask the Governor General to issue a writ of election on a particular date cannot possibly "apply" to the opposition since they don't have that power in the first place.

          Put another way, Harper's fixed election date law was never meant to change the fact that the government can be defeat in the House and that that can result in an election. Harper's fixed election date law was meant to prevent a government from simply calling an election whenever they so choose regardless of whether they've been defeated on a matter of confidence. Thus by calling an election despite the fact the Liberals were passing every piece of legislation he proposed was a violation of the spirit of his law.

          • It was also evident in the numerous attempts Harper and gang tried and prayed that the opposition would fall for it and call an early election during the Dion days. That would have avoided the whole breaking-of-his-own-law bit. After a while, however, he just tired of that game and decided, what the hay! Income trusts, accountability, what's another log on the fire anyways? He was pretty confident he could pistol-whip the francophone professor, non?

          • he also had to get out ahead of the oncoming recession. you knew if he waited much longer he was done for.

          • And it's important to note that the government was quite explicit about this when working to pass the law. Why isn't the opposition bound by the fixed election dates law? Because the fixed election dates law doesn't bind the opposition, was never intended to, and more importantly, would likely be GROSSLY unconstitutional if it even attempted to.

            I've said before that the fixed election dates law is meaningless on it's face, so we really shouldn't spend too much time worrying about it (and there's no point getting up in arms about Harper supposedly "breaking" his own law, as the law he supposedly "broke" is legally meaningless… it's as though we're accusing Harper of breaking a law making it illegal to abuse leprechauns!).

            What WOULD have made the law meaningful is if it had attempted to put some sort of constraint on the powers of the opposition. In that case it would have been "meaningful" in that it almost certainly would have been unconstitutional.

        • How has the opposition done anything to break the (spirit of the) fixed election dates law?

          I'm with Jack in that I've always maintained that the fixed election dates law was meaningless on it's face, doesn't do what the government kept claiming it did, accomplished nothing in law, and wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. That said, to whatever extent the law had any meaning whatsoever, it placed a constraint on the GOVERNMENT, not the opposition, and government rhetoric at the time CLEARLY displayed that this was their intent for the law.

          Leaving aside the fact that the law is basically meaningless and has no practical effect as written, how exactly would you like the opposition to act "bound" by a law that explicitly does not bind them? To me, your first question is meaningless, as it amounts to you asking "Why won't the opposition be bound by a law that doesn't bind them". Uhhhh, because it doesn't bind them?

    • The law specifically stated within it that the first election under the act was to be October 19th of this year. The only possible way that could have happened was if no election had been called until now. This means that the act was specifically designed to apply to minority governments, because that was the government in power at the time.

      And incidentally, the bill was never intended to stop the opposition from bringing down the government, as pointed out by none other than Tom Lukiwski on June 18, 2007: "We have seen, for an example, very important democratic reform initiatives such as fixed election dates which is Bill C-16. It passed and has come into force. It states that the third Monday of October 2009 will be the date for the next general election unless of course by some strange occurrence the combined opposition determines that it wants to have an election before that date. That was the first initiative that we brought in to try to ensure Canadians that there would be some consistency and regularity in the timing of federal elections. Far too often we saw political parties in power manipulate the voting system to their advantage. In other words, we saw parties in previous years take a look at the polling numbers and if they determined that it would be to their advantage to have an election earlier rather than later, because the polls happened to be advantageous for them, they would call an election at that time."

      Peter Van Loan was even more clear that the purpose of the act was to prevent the government in power from being able to set the election date as suited their political motives, as he said on Feb 12, 2007: "As I indicated, we have passed Bill C-16 on fixed election dates through the House of Commons. Never again will the government of the day be able to play around with the date of an election for its own crass political motives."

      Wait.. wasn't he part of the government of the day, jarrid? Or are you saying that Harper's MPs don't even know which side of the floor they sit on?

    • I think I finally get the point of Aaron's post – to provide fodder for a Left/lib b*tch session.

      It's summer, we've all got to do something with all this idle time.

      • Ya want to read bitching – try the Blogging Tories. And, like it or not, we have democratic right to complain if we don't like the way Harper is tearing away at democracy.

        Are you just doing this to pull strings and create anger and havoc – because you can't be serious with your comments – can you?

      • Heh. Completely ignoring how you were soundly refuted. I take it then, that you still have learned nothing?

  5. Wherry is probably the only person in Canada who actually tracks what the PM says in search of consistency.

    I doubt if Harper or his PMO check their prior pronouncements on any subject before spouting off. When you're making things up as you go, there's really no time for that kind of nonsensical due diligence.

  6. "”Let the opposition parties threaten to get together to defeat us and replace us,” Harper told about 800 Conservative supporters during a barbecue at Heritage Park. “Canadians have been clear that they do not want another election.”"

    …and he did take that military salute. Hmmmm….

    • Also, he's meeting the Pope in a few days. Coincidence? I think not…

    • If I'm not mistaken, about 70% said they didn't want an election last fall and that didn't stop Harper.

  7. I don't know if it's the intended point, but I personally see a pattern:

    Pre-2008: Harper goes to great lengths to demostrate that an election should not happen, even making it into law. Shortly after, Conservative MPs get instructions on how to short-circuit Parlaiment. Then Harper begins to dare the opposition to bring him down and have an electionl. When this doesn't work, he does it himself (contrary to his own law that passed only a few months before.)

    Post-2008: Harper goes to great lengths to demostrate that Canadians don't want an election. Shortly after, Conservative MPs get instructions on how to short-circuit Parlaiment. Then Harper begins to dare the opposition to bring him down and force an election.

    Anyone else see the pattern?