Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bare Naked Politics: The ongoing situation in Canada

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I just wanted to mention that The Guardian asked me to write an article, for it's Comment is Free section, on the turbulent political situation here in Canada (which I initially wrote about here). It was published this morning. You can find it here:

A very Canadian coup.

(Grace has also written about the situation here and here.)

And the situation keeps changing. As I indicate in my Guardian article, Prime Minister Harper, seeking to avoid a no-confidence vote (which he would lose, opening the door either to another election (we just had one less than two months ago) or to the Liberal-NDP coalition being asked to form a government), was probably going to ask the governor general (who is our head of state) to prorogue (that is, end the current session of) Parliament.

Well, he did so this morning, and she granted his request -- meaning that there will be no no-confidence vote until, at the earliest, Parliament resumes sitting late next month. The government may then lose a no-confidence vote on the Throne Speech or the budget, but, in the meantime, both sides (and the Conservatives even more so because they have more money) will campaign aggressively to woo public opinion.

The key for the Conservatives, who are in government, will be to convince Canadians that they are in fact serious about dealing with the economic and financial crisis (and that they therefore ought to remain in power), as well as to seek to break apart the coalition, or at least to undermine support for it by arguing, as they have been already, that it only has a majority of seats in the House of Commons with the support of the separatist Bloc Québécois, a party that, according to Harper today, does not work for the interests of Canada as a whole (even though, I must add, BQ MPs were democratically elected and, whatever their views on sovereignty, represent Canadians in the House -- they, as much as the other MPs, have a mandate, and their votes count just as much).

The key for the Liberals and the New Democrats, as well as for the Bloq (which has signed on to support their coalition into 2010), will be to remain united, not to mention determined, through what promises to be a bitter and contentious campaign for public support over the next month and a half or so. It would look bad for them to split apart or back down now, but I have little to no confidence in Liberal leader Stéphane Dion's ability to keep them united and determined. He pales in comparison to Harper, a vastly more talented politician, and, as he has proven yet again this week, he is simply unable to get his message across effectively. I worry that he will be overwhelmed and that the coalition will fracture.

I hesitate to call the governor general, Michaëlle Jean, a coward, but her decision, I think, was a poor one. Either she should have dissolved Parliament and called an election, or she should have given the coalition, which holds a majority of the seats in the House, the chance to govern. Instead, in granting Harper's request, she has gone along with what the Conservatives want, parliamentary democracy be damned, and given them the upper hand in terms of the campaign to come. Basically, she has saved Harper's sorry bacon, evidently putting his interests before the interests of the country.

It is a sad day for Canada.

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  • Media is so bias they should just report the news instead of criticizing the conservatives who are not only for the countries interest but for Canadians who exercised their voting rights recently. Harper gained more votes and he should govern period.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:45 PM  

  • I guess you never heard of this governmental system called Parlimentary then have you?

    Sure, the Canadian variety "normally" gives the majority party the rule, but here we have multiple parties banding together to form a MAJORITY.

    & please don't confuse conservatism with ignorance & self serving Anonymous. Real conservatives work for the good of the whole, not just their own skins. Faux conservatives act like republicans. Which one you are is obvious.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:56 PM  

  • I have what may be a silly question, but since Jean is technically the Queen's representative, would she have consulted with the Queen on this decision at all?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:48 PM  

  • To GlennNYC:
    She could have consulted with the Queen on this decision, but it's unlikely that she did as she cut short a European tour and flew back to Canada just hours before she made this decision. She also could have consulted several former governors general. One advised against doing this [prorogueing government] or if she did so, to allow only a week or two at most. Instead she allowed government to be prorogued for almost two months! I'm sure those in dire economic stress must be thrilled!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:02 PM  

  • Harper gained more votes? Ok, let's look at that.

    Conservatives got 37.63% of the vote in the last election - not exactly an overwhelming mandate.

    The coalition - Lib, NDP and BQ - got 54.41% of the vote. Seems like a majority to me. Take out the Bloc, and you still have 44.44% for the Lib/NDP.

    Try not to spout such obviously stupid arguments next time.

    By Blogger jason swan, at 4:11 PM  

  • Let's face it.....Harper is a well-documented LIAR! What disturbs me the most is the fact that there are so many Canadians who seem to believe the propagandist garbage that spews from his forever flapping jaws of disgrace.

    And....isn't it interesting the media has to search local bowling alleys and taverns to find Harper supporters willing to be interviewed on camera. I have yet to see a single university professor supportive of his selfish agenda!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:47 PM  

  • Michael, you're all wet on Jean. What, did you want her to override Parliament?

    Besides, you're behind the curve. Some Lib support for the coalition is starting to weaken. We'll see the bottom line in early February.

    You're also missing that many Anglophones in Quebec are wary of the Bloc.

    For more on today's events, see my blog.

    By Blogger Gadfly, at 6:21 PM  

  • So, the Governor-General did not "override Parliament" by sending them home and not permitting them to vote. Sounds very like Charles I's view of parliamentary democracy.

    Glad to hear that some Anglophones in Quebec are "wary of the Bloc" -- the Tories were obviously asleep at the switch when they obtained Bloc support to get their last two budgets through Parliament.

    It's wonderful how conservatives the world over these days seem to have such a similar attitude toward constitutional government -- it's fine so long as it keeps them in power, otherwise it's just too inconvenient. So Canada will make do without Parliament for two months during the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

    It does make you wonder how Harper would behave if he actually had a majority. He already seems to think that he was elected President of Canada.

    By Blogger HenryFTP, at 7:12 PM  

  • Gadfly: No, not overrule Parliament, respect the majority of Parliament. But you're right. Things are changing. Rapidly. And some Liberals are already backing away. Which is just embarrassing. Some party.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 8:36 PM  

  • To GlennNYC: I agree with Anonymous that Jean could have consulted with the Queen, but it's unlikely that she would have. It's not like this is a constitutional crisis that threatens the foundations of our democracy, after all. As I keep saying, it's not a coup, and not a crisis, just parliamentary democracy in action. It would take much more than this for the Queen, who barely has anything to do with us, to intervene in our political affairs.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 8:39 PM  

  • What disturbs me is that he gets his way again.
    He pooped on Stephan Dion throughout the election. He barred Elizabeth May from the debates. He alienated artists, social workers,and other interest groups.
    He never before harped on and on about separatists and socialists.
    Quebec is still unresolved about separatism.Tommy Douglas named the Greatest Canadian... a Socialist.
    Medicare... socialism.
    Now he poops on democracy.
    I hate Harper!I have never said that about anyone.Now I do.
    I hate Harper.

    By Blogger Oemissions, at 1:49 AM  

  • Michael, congrats on your Guardian article!
    Last night I watched a CBC newscast on C-SPAN that explained several of the complexities of Canada's parliamentary system. What struck me is how different our two conservative leaders are, and how alike. Harper says, I get to be the decider, no matter what. Bush said that for a long time, but now he is tired of the whole thing, so he bails, and merely polishes his legacy. They both have promoted class warfare. And I am not sure either of them is an intellectual giant.
    You are doing a great service to your fellow citizens by reminding them of the actual implications of what has happened. Your wise perspective is to be valued.
    Be well.

    By Blogger Carol Gee, at 7:47 AM  

  • I cannot possibly see how the GG calling an election now would have been a good idea, if one can be avoided. What`s best for the country is the Govt and Opposition try and find an agreement, and if they cannot then there will be an election. Obviously a cooling off time out was needed, and what`s best for the country always must be the first concern of the GG. If this has benefited Harper in the instance, it`s a side effect.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:34 PM  

  • I do not wish to brag, but Radio Free Québec has by far the most comprehensive and excellent explanation of the political crisis in Canada. We have exclusive coverage of Steven Harper's song explaining prorogation, as well as video prepared by Stéphane Dion's 4-year-old son.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:50 AM  

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