What he said (II)

This is excerpted from a Sept. 10, 2004 story in the National Post,  a frontpage dispatch on the letter sent by Messrs. Harper, Layton and Duceppe to the Governor General. Make of it what you will.

The letter to Mme. Clarkson, which was signed by all three opposition party leaders, states that in a minority Parliament “you could be asked by the Prime Minister to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons fail to support some part of the government’s program.

“We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise, this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority,” it states.

Further, the leaders said they intend to introduce a narrow definition of confidence votes into the Commons rules as part of a larger parliamentary reform package to be implemented jointly by the three parties. Other reforms announced yesterday include allowing votes on all opposition motions, as well as votes on international treaties and government decisions to send Canadian troops to war. Two new committees were also proposed, one on women’s issues and another on access to information, privacy and ethics. Tighter rules will be advocated for committees to review and vote on government appointments.

“What we want to make sure is that the patronage factory that has been the Liberal party for the past 11 years is put out of operation,” Mr. Harper said. “It is the Parliament that’s supposed to run the country, not just the largest party and the single leader of that party. That’s a criticism I’ve had and that we’ve had and that most Canadians have had for a long, long time now so this is an opportunity to start to change that.”

In spite of the request that the Governor-General consult them if the Liberals are defeated in the House, the three leaders denied they are preparing to operate as a coalition government or usurp the government’s main powers. “This is not a coalition,” Mr. Harper said. “My staff asked me what we should call this arrangement and I said it’s the opposition parties co-operating. Maybe it’s a ‘co-opposition.’ “