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Democracy, it haunts us still


 

John Baird objects to Michael Ignatieff’s suggestion that the country might somehow survive an election this fall.

“This guy was a university professor at Harvard, I don’t know a single person with any experience in (government) who would believe him…of course, elections will cause instability,” Baird said…

Baird said “everyone knows” government grinds to a halt during an election campaign. Decisions are not only delayed until the election is over but until a new cabinet is sworn in and politicians get settled into their new jobs, he said. “We are seeing some positive economic signs, but they are fragile…The last thing we need is the political instability an election would cause,” Baird said.

Indeed. Mind you, Canada has, against all odds, so far persevered through the instability of 40 national elections and, depending on the accuracy of my math and Wikipedia’s record keeping, something like 423 provincial or territorial votes.


 

Democracy, it haunts us still

  1. There you go again, Aaron, paying attention to what Harper & Co. have to say. You might as well start chronicling inconsistencies in the random sputterings of bloggers.

  2. Where was Baird this time last year?

  3. Elections don't cause instability. Ethically-challenged politicians, such as Baird, spreading untruths and fabrications about how the Canadian political system works causes instability:
    "I think what we want to do is basically take a time out and go over the heads of the members of Parliament, go over the heads, frankly, of the Governor General, go right to the Canadian people."
    (Baird, during that wee pre-Christmas, proroguing kerfuffle in late 2008).

  4. Baird is absolutely correct in that the government grinds to a halt during an election, but how bad can that be?

    I heard Minister Raitt state that some 80% of the stimulus funding was out the door. (I didn't believe it but she said it) Mr. Harper is on record as being opposed to both more stimulus funding, or introducing new taxes. In other words, steady as she goes. So perhaps John could be a bit more explicit about the good stuff we would miss out on if an election were held.

  5. Don't get Baird upset, or he'll go over the head of the Queen again.

    • There's a ripe answer here – containing the words Baird and Queen it's on the tip of my tongue – no – it's gone again….

  6. during elections Ministers are still Ministers…. this govt doesn't care or respect what Parliament decides or passes anyway …. a writ wdn't change anything….

    • Hey, a real live MP on Aaron's blog.

      I'll bet you a box of virtual donuts, Aaron, that a Conservative MP never posts on your blog under his/her real name.

      Ever.

  7. Unless you are in fantasyland and think Liberals will win a majority,
    the likelyhood of another coalition is high.
    A rookie academic leader, having to appease Dippers and the Bloc so he can stay in power,
    is just as unstable now as it was when MI said:

    “There was also a question concerning the legitimacy of the coalition that troubled me,” he confided.
    …Moreover, it would have been very difficult to assure the country of the certainty and stability it needed in a time of crisis “with three partners in a formal coalition,” he said,
    likening it, CP reports, to a rickety three-legged stool. “That was my first doubt.
    I couldn't guarantee the long-term stability of the coalition.”

    • Mr. Baird? Is that you?

      • That's a good one

      • Na, it's just Wilson who goes all over the blogosphere with her/his PM talking points Post-It notes bringing up past stuff that's already been gone over and over.

        We could do the same to Harper.

  8. I imagine John Baird IS afraid of an election – the one in the Municipality of Ottawa comes to mind!

  9. John Baird is right on the money. In fact, on October 4th last year, Danny Williams very quietly led his province right out of Confederation. Don't tell anyone. No one has noticed yet, because sane people stopped paying any attention to Danny Williams late in 2007.

    • I am with the other respondent. Elections do NOT cause instability, except in terrorist states like Afghanastan.
      An election will go smoothly in a free and democratic society unless of course there's corruption involved.

  10. Speaking as a man who would rather gnaw off his own leg than vote Tory…wouldn't John Baird make a FANtastic leader of the Reform Party??

    • R u kidding? These Reformers NEVER allow Baird to lead them. If they did, their entire christian right base would abandon them.

  11. The last thing we need is the political instability an election would cause,” Baird said.
    And we all learned a new word when Harper closed parliament in Dec. 2008. Take about *instability*

  12. "government grinds to a halt during an election campaign."

    That sounds like a feature, not a bug, to me.

  13. Baird's argument that "elections could cause instability" is unworthy of a Minister of the Crown. He should know better.

  14. Allow me to join those above who've pointed out that John Baird may have just articulated the best argument in favour of an election yet.

    Elections cause government to grind to a halt?!?!? Sign me up!

  15. Do you know what else grinds government to a halt? Shutting down parliament to avoid a vote of non-confidence.

    But I see Baird's point- if another election is called, there won't be any more grand taxpayer-funded photo-ops that include Maverick Harper and Red Dawn MacKay showing how kewl they are. And what about re-announcements? Who will do those? Those ice-breakers don't re-announce themselves, you know.

    No, I think that the most democratic thing we can do is to let Harper rule like a king based on about 16% of Canadians voting for his party. (Do the math people!

    (I'm really getting tired of this "Canadians don't want an election" line. No, Canadians don't want an election. We didn't want one last year. Nor in 2006, 2004, 2000, 1997, 1993, 1998… If we only had elections when we wanted one, John A. MacDonald would still be PM.)

  16. It might seem like cheering on a certain political party is exciting and fun.. something like cheering your hockey team on.. and it might even make some feel like they belong and give them a sense of team spirit but in actual fact party politics is a very bad system of governance and can lead to bribbery corruption, kick backs and worse as we have already seem. A much better, perhaps less flashy political system, would eliminate the party system entirely and be replaced by independent members who could vote their own conscience and not have to follow strick party guidelines. That isn't to say there wouldn't still be a few bad apples but the good old boys club would be gone thank god. There would be no team to cheer on but perhaps we could all cheer about a better life style, more jobs for the unemployed and less corruption in government. It would be a nice change to see a few honest MP's switch to independent and a few more new candidates entering the race.

    • If this were true, big city councils without parties — like in Ontario's municipalities — would be the best-governed places in the country. They're not, the City of Ottawa must be one of the least-functional (fully-consolidated, democratic, generally-rule-of-law-abiding, etc.) governments this side of Belgium… This is not a defence of our rigid party system, but I think your alternative would be MUCH worse.

  17. Of course the party in power is advocating to stay in power. What of the party that is actually supposed to attempt to take down the government?

    Apparently liberals have resigned themselves to the prospect of Iggy's political guns remaining firmly in his holster and are instead hoping for the the CPC to point the guns at themselves.

  18. The people of Ontario and BC want to have a say about this HST thingy Mr Baird. You know that Harper Sales Tax thingy. Go Iggy Go but show us your mandate for an election first.

  19. So 3 falied attempts in 4 years doesn't cause instability. But the threat of 4 elections in 5 years does? That is amazing logic, Baird. I know your role is to play the aggravator, but say something that doens't look desperate. Wait, my mailnox had something about an attack ad, saying Iggy wanted a coalition in 2008. C'mon neocons. The only thing you can do is attack. Even the attacks are getting pathetic

  20. Elections cause instability? OK then, lets just stop having them altogether. Worked well enough for Mussolini and Franco, and one of them is reputed to have made the trains run on time . . . I just can't imagine any downside.

  21. Oh there they go with the Goebbels thing again (NO I'm not calling Harper Hitler or Nazi) but the method of repeating an untruth until it is believed to be the truth – Harper uses it all the time, just like he uses Stalin's pitting one against the other (NO I'm not calling Harper Stalin, but the method is Stalin's).

    Hmmm…..thinking of Baird and what my mother used to say – "empty wagons rattle the most".

  22. If elections really don't cause instability then let's have one every week. Or every day.

    Of course elections cause instability, if they didn't their would be no point having them. The question is whether the instability is justified right now. Baird thinks not.

    Lots of things cause instability and can still be good at some times and bad at others. Changing jobs causes instability, moving causes instability. Sometimes moves are good and sometimes they aren't good. Baird is arguing that right now is a time when the instabilitycaused by an election is not worth it. Nobody has to agree with him but the suggestion that there is something fundamentally contradictory about his saying it is just silly.

  23. If elections really don't cause instability then let's have one every week. Or every day.

    Of course elections cause instability, if they didn't there would be no point having them. The question is whether the instability is justified right now. Baird thinks not.

    Lots of things cause instability and can still be good at some times and bad at others. Changing jobs causes instability, moving causes instability. Sometimes moves are good and sometimes they aren't good. Baird is arguing that right now is a time when the instabilitycaused by an election is not worth it. Nobody has to agree with him but the suggestion that there is something fundamentally contradictory about his saying it is just silly.

    • i think it helps to distinguish 'change' and 'instability'….

      • Fair point but I think that in the case of elections we can always safely assume that the change on order will always involve instability, given that the potential always exists for a change of government and policy direction.

        • Only speaking for myself, " . . . a change of government and policy direction" can only be a good thing.

        • i still think chnages in government policy do not necessarily amount to instability. the vast majority of policies are very minimally influenced by a change in government and of those that are affected only a minority of those are affected in a significant manner. but even among these, do the changes really infer instability?

          for instance, SH changed the rate of the GST did that really cause instability? MI proposes changes to EI. Do you really think the results amount to instability?

          Even in jurisdictions where a new government is expected to bring stark change it may well enhance stability (e.g., Zimbabwe).

          If people don't want an election, they don't want an election; but, I think the instability argument is, at least for now, a canard. to the point a minister is willing to make it he ought to remember how he got his job.

        • i still think chnages in government policy do not necessarily amount to instability. the vast majority of policies are very minimally influenced by a change in government and of those that are affected only a minority of those are affected in a significant manner. but even among these, do the changes really infer instability?

          for instance, SH changed the rate of the GST did that really cause instability? MI proposes changes to EI. Do you really think the results amount to instability?

          Even in jurisdictions where a new government is expected to bring stark change it may well enhance stability (e.g., Zimbabwe).

          while i think evidence of a perception of instability (e.g., changes in international financial markets) is something we ought to keep our eye on. If people don't want an election, they don't want an election; but, I think the instability argument is, at least for now, a canard. to the point a minister is willing to make it he ought to remember how he got his job.

          • You are right that things don't change very much when one government replaces another most of the time. Since WW2, only two changes of government produced anything that looks even vaguely like a significant shift of policy in retrospect (Pearson and Mulroney).

            That said, I think people challenging the leadership pretty much have to at least present themselves as pushing for change on a scale that would cause instability. What's more they have to argue that the status quo is not sustainable and that also causes some instability by making people nervous.

            Of course instability can be good at times. But I suspect that Baird's political instincts, while hardly the sharpest, are telling him that most Canadians don't want that instability right now and that any party foolish enough to force a fall election will pay a price for that. He might be wrong, he might be right. I suspect he is right.

            If I were Ignatieff and I heard someone behind me advocating a confidence vote right now, I'd assume they were holding a knife.

            Last word is yours if you want it.

          • You are right that things don't change very much when one government replaces another most of the time. Since WW2, only two changes of government produced anything that looks even vaguely like a significant shift of policy in retrospect (Pearson and Mulroney).

            That said, I think people challenging the leadership pretty much have to at least present themselves as pushing for change on a scale that would cause instability. What's more they have to argue that the status quo is not sustainable and that also causes some instability by making people nervous.

            Of course instability can be good at times. But I suspect that Baird's political instincts, while hardly the sharpest, are telling him that most Canadians don't want that instability right now and that any party foolish enough to force a fall election will pay a price for that. He might be wrong, he might be right. I suspect he is right.

            If I were Ignatieff and I heard someone behind me advocating a confidence vote right now, I'd assume he or she was holding a knife.

            Last word is yours if you want it.

          • i am only increasingly intrigued by your initial plunge in reputation score. you are an excellent and articulate discussant. thank you for reply.

            your raise a very good point, people's perception of instability, irregardless of how severe or mild change may actually be. and, you are right that campaign rhetoric largely is aimed at pushing some measure of non-sustainability and hence instability.

            I guess all i might respond with is one observation and one hypothesis. first, i cannot recall a single election in my lifetime where the results led to any sort of significant action based on a perception -real or otherwise – of resulting instability. we seem to be a resilient group when it comes to elections and any fear of instability they might raise. (admittedly, this might be shorthand for 'they will get over it' from an observer that would like to see an election).

            second, i suspect most people understand that campaign rhetoric to be predominantly bluster that is more accurately a statement of preferences, that either aligns with their own preferences (or not!). and, as such, i suspect that Baird might be accurate in assessing that most Canadians prefer, as he does, not to have an election this fall (as opposed to fear instability).

  24. Inertia. It's be best justification the Cons can make for why they deserve to stay in power.
    And all these quotes from prominent Conservatives saying that they don't want an election right now suggests to me that the conservatives reallty want an election now.

    • Morally speaking you are right about inertia as an argument for staying in power. It's not much of an argument. At the polls though, it has worked before and it might work again.

  25. What is wrong with Baird? Why does he have to start his comment by saying 'this guy was a professor at Harvard''
    And what is so wrong about that? When will people get over the fact that being educated is not a sin it's a GOOD THING. Idiots.

    • Because Cons think being educated is a negative thing I guess. Besides, Ignatieff was also a journalist/writer, etc.

      What's Baird done with his life – ah, yes, a Harris/Harper pit bull – wow, what an accomplishment.

  26. The extended finger flexes
    and having flexed moves on
    Not all his impropriety or lack of wit
    Can bring us back once they have dropped the writ

    • LOL, nice!

      And that inverted Bowl they call his Hair,
      Immune alike to wind and to despair,
      Lift not your hands to it: it must refuse
      To tell when Steve to drop the writ shall choose.

      • LOL back atcha. (Thanks for jumping aboard the quatrain.)

  27. Arguing against an election in a politically stable 140-year-old parliamentary democracy on the grounds that it would cause indefinite economic instability is like spraying for bears in a downtown apartment building to keep the intrusive things away.

  28. Does this mean Cabinet is signing off the stimulus allocations in detail?

  29. Of course they cause instability and for proof ask Iggy about the meeting he had with the bankers!

  30. As everyone changes position from December

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