Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kill Him, Kill Him Dead

 
These are interesting times in Canada. We recently re-elected the Conservative Party as the party with the most seats in Parliament—but not a majority. That means Stephen Harper becomes Prime Minister of a minority government.

What this normally means is that the government has to craft legislation that will receive the support of a majority of the house. But that's not what Harper proposes to do. Instead he has come up with a proposal that promotes a hard-core right-wing agenda. He did this because he assumed that the Liberal party would be forced to support the government in spite of the fact that they are ideologically opposed to many of the items in the legislation. Harper thought that the Liberal party was in such desperate shape to avoid an election that they would vote for the devil.

Turns out he was wrong. In an extraordinary development, the three opposition parties—Liberals, New Democratic Party, Bloc Quebecois—have forged a coalition and announced they will vote against the government bill.1 This will bring down the government. Stephen Harper will not be Prime Minister but there will not be an election. Instead, the coalition will form a new government.

Scott Reid of The Globe and Mail has a column in yesterday's paper that illustrates the seriousness of the crisis. It's unusual to see such language in a Canadian newspaper—especially The Globe and Mail—so I thought I'd reproduce part of his column here to show the world what is going on. I agree with Scott Reid. For the good of Canada Stephen Harper must be stopped before he does serious harm to the country.
First things first: take him out.

After all, Stephen Harper is the most dangerous animal lurking in the jungles of Parliament. He is a threat to the future viability of the Liberals. A blood simple opponent of the NDP and the only serious contemporary challenge to the Bloc Quebecois. Without him, his party is an unlikely combination of Reform Party leftovers, Harris refugees and Red Tory desperates. They don't matter or even exist without Mr. Harper. So before you think a moment longer, opposition leaders, think on that.

And if that's not compelling enough, remember: He doesn't play to win. He plays to conquer. Under his guidance, the public interest is always subjugated to his personal political advancement. And he poisons Parliament with an extreme, bare-fanged breed of partisanship that has no hope of repair until he is banished.

This becomes relevant because suddenly, he is weak. In fact, at this particular moment, he is almost unable to defend himself. Owing to a ridiculously ill-considered act of hubris, he has laid himself vulnerable to his opponents. Their imperative could not be more clear: kill him. Kill him dead. Do not, whatever you do, provide him with an opportunity to extend his hold on power. Because you can be damn certain he will never again be so reckless as to give you a chance to finish him off.

Fate tends to be grudging with gifts of this significance. To ignore it would be an error every bit as historic as the one Mr. Harper himself has made.

So don't get fancy. Don't get confused. And don't get weak in the knees. If you don't put Mr. Harper in his grave, he'll put you in yours.


1. They will also vote in favor of a non-confidence motion put forward by the Liberal party.

15 comments :

  1. After all, Stephen Harper is the most dangerous animal lurking in the jungles of Parliament. He is a threat to the future viability of the Liberals. A blood simple opponent of the NDP and the only serious contemporary challenge to the Bloc Quebecois.

    I don't like the appeal to party interests rather than the national good.

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  2. One party without a leader, one that has never been in power and the third is taking a bribe. For the good of the country?

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  3. Surely I can't be the only person who remembers the talking heads discussing this very possibility *during the election*. This idea has been floating around the opposition parties at least that long. Why is everyone acting so surprised?

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  4. Reading Scott Reid always puts me in the mood for beer and popcorn...one could make a good argument that Scott Reid is a major reason that we are in this neo-Con mess in the first place.

    Nevertheless, I agree with him here.

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  5. The GG should not accept a coalition of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc. Having the government beholden to the Bloc, a separatist party, is not in the long term interest of Canada. And that is what her decision should be based on. Not the short-term inconvenience of another election.

    As Jacques Parizeau said, you milk the cow before you kill it. That is what the Bloc will do. The resulting animosity from Western Canada, where the milk will come from, will be huge and vastly divisive. The next party started in the West will not have the slogan "the west wants in". No matter how many Liberals Toronto elects the country will not hold together in the face of a Western Bloc as well as the BQ. A future coalition of the WB and BQ will result in the inevitable.

    Instead, the GG should allow an election and let the people decide if this coalition should run the country. Now if only Martin didn't appoint a GG with separatist leanings.

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  6. Philip,

    You're just plain wrong.

    The "separatists" are members of the HoC; elected by the same manner as Mr. Harper, Mr. Dion, Mr. Layton, or any other member of the House. By saying that they cannot have a role in government, especially in a Parliamentary system such as ours, you are effectively disenfranchising the millions of Quebeckers who voted for the Bloc.

    Your issue is with the Bloc voters, not with the Bloc.

    Let me refresh your memory as to how a Westminster-style Parliamentary system works. The people of Canada do NOT elect a government; they elect members of the House of Commons. The members of the House choose the government. By tradition, the legal Head of State (the Governor-General, in our case) asks the leader of the party with the most seats in the HoC to form a government; that is, to form a cabinet to try to pass laws.

    If the majority of the members of the HoC lose confidence in the ability of the minority, they have the right to express this through non-confidence votes or votes against bills that deal with government's ability to spend money.

    In this case, the Prime Minister must ask the GG to dissolve Parliament and call an election (remember, the GG is our head of state, and the only one who can call an election). The GG has the legal option to ask another party or parties to form a government, if he or she feels that this party or parties has the confidence of the majority of the HoC (for instance, if a majority of the legally elected members of parliament got together and forged a formal agreement...).

    This proposed coalition is absolutely in keeping with Parliamentary law and tradition. It has been forged by people who have been legally elected by the people of Canada. Of course, the GG is completely within her rights to call an election at the request of the Prime Minister. She will have to decide whether it is in Canada's best interest to hold the 4th election in 4 years, and second election in 3 months, or if it is in Canada's best interest to bring in a duly-elected government that has the pledged support of the majority of the HoC, and has proposed specific measures to rectify certain issues currently facing us.

    I absolutely resent this call of "separatists" and "socialists". That kind of thing belongs to the Sarah Palin's of the world. You are talking about legally elected Members of Parliament. Have a problem with them being there in the first place? Then take it up with the Quebeckers who voted for them.

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  7. Mike,

    Thanks for the reminder of how our parliament works, however I do not think I need the reminder.

    I agree it is perfectly legal for the BQ to be members of the government, or even hypothetically, in an even more divided parliament to form the government. They were even the Loyal Opposition once. What I point out that it is not in the long term interest of a united Canada for this to happen. Their stated interests are to get the best deal for Quebec from the government, not the best deal for Canada. Sometimes they coincide, but not always.

    As for the use of the term "separatist", it is valid as that is the goal of the BQ. They are a separatist party, it is no secret. I am not sure how you resent the term "socialist" as I never mentioned it and would not think that term an insult.

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  8. Philip,

    The GG most certainly should not call another election; we just had one, and Canadians elected a Parliament. It is the responsibility of the Parliament to form a government that is acceptable to the majority of MPs. A majority of the members of the current HoC CAN form a government; we know that because they have presented a formal agreement to that end.

    An election is only needed when a majority (any majority) cannot gain the confidence of the HoC; that has not happened. A majority of MPs DO have the confidence of the HoC; it's just not the majority that it was last Wednesday.

    That is how parliament works.

    Whether the inclusion of the Bloc is a good idea for the long-term strength of the country is another matter. But this Herper-led bickering in the media against the "socialists" (a term which you did not use...my apologies) and the "separatists" (read: legally elected MPs representing millions of Canadians...whom John Baird this morning referred to as 'the devil') is not-productive.

    If Mr. Harper wants to protect this country, then propose a law that makes all MPs swear an oath to uphold Canadian federalism. Not willing to do that, Mr. Harper? Then live with the fact that the "separatists" are valid members of this parliament.

    Their stated interests are to get the best deal for Quebec from the government, not the best deal for Canada. Sometimes they coincide, but not always.

    So what?

    Toronto MPs look out for Toronto; Mr. Harper looks out for Albertans and Calgarians (!!!). It was Mr. Harper who called Quebec a "nation"; shouldn't someone look out for their interests?

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  9. Mike,

    I agree with you that this coalition is how Parliament can work and would be valid, but my point is that it is not in the best long-term interest of Canada. I think that that is what should guide the GGs decision.

    A coalition where the Libs and NDP do not have to rely on the BQ would be far superior to this proposed one. Unfortunately, they do not have enough MPs for this.

    If an election were called and the Libs and NDP ran proposing this coalition if a majority did not result, then they would have all the legitimacy needed to govern as a coalition.

    I also have to disagree with your view that MPs should primarily look after their region of the country when elected. MPs also have to look after the interests of Canada as a whole. If all MPs simply put their region's interests first we may as well have no central government, or country called Canada.

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  10. Phillip says,

    A coalition where the Libs and NDP do not have to rely on the BQ would be far superior to this proposed one. Unfortunately, they do not have enough MPs for this.

    Mike, you might recall that there were times last year when the Liberals and the NDP voted against the government and the Bloc supported it. The government survived.

    At those times did you write comments on the blogs protesting the fact that Harper was depending on a separatist party to survive? If so, can you post the links here so we can confirm that you are not a hypocrite?

    ... my point is that it is not in the best long-term interest of Canada. I think that that is what should guide the GGs decision.

    This is very wrong. The Governor General has no right to meddle in politics. It is not up to her to decide whether some governments are appropriate and some are not. She must accept the will of the people who elected their representatives in parliament. If a group of MPs can demonstrate that they have the confidence of the House then they must be allowed to form a government.

    If the Governor General ever took it upon herself to make a decision based on her personal preferences then that would, and should, lead to her dismissal and possibly the abolition of the office.

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  11. Mike, you might recall that there were times last year when the Liberals and the NDP voted against the government and the Bloc supported it. The government survived.

    Larry, I'm sure you don't mean me...

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  12. If an election were called and the Libs and NDP ran proposing this coalition if a majority did not result, then they would have all the legitimacy needed to govern as a coalition.

    Philip, you're not getting it.

    Canadians dont vote for a government; they vote for a parliament. Canadians have elected the 40th Parliament, which consists mainly of non-Conservatives. The non-Conservative, elected members have decided that they do not have confidence in the party that the GG has asked to form a government. Moreover, a majority of the elected members have pledged to work together.

    Canadians don't have to be asked about this coalition; they have already elected a parliament, which is all they are ever asked to do. Any misconception you may have had suggesting that Canadians directly elect a government was just that; a misconception.

    Our elected parliament chooses a government (or, more precisely, is asked to form a government by the GG); that is where the input of Canadians stops.

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  13. Mike says,

    Larry, I'm sure you don't mean me...

    No, sorry. I meant Philip.

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  14. Mike and Larry,

    re: At those times did you write comments on the blogs protesting the fact that Harper was depending on a separatist party to survive? If so, can you post the links here so we can confirm that you are not a hypocrite?

    OK, I'll take the bait. But first, as scientists, I think we can agree that it is hard or even impossible for me to confirm that I am not a hypocrite. Trying to prove a negative is a hard thing to do. Kind of like Bush asking Saddam Hussein to prove he did not have weapons of mass destruction as a condition of not being invaded.

    The answer is no. I can not give past links as I have not bothered commenting on blogs before the past couple of months, and the more I do it the more I realise it is probably not the best use of my limited time.

    But in answer to the question the two situations are not comparable. Harper's government was not in coalition with the BQ. The fact that the BQ, on their own initiative without inducement, voted with the Conservatives because their interests overlapped on that item or items up for vote is different from going into coalition and making deals with BQ. If the Conservatives did form a coalition with the BQ I would have not have been in favour of that.

    What the Libs and NDP are doing is inviting separatists to have a say in government, and I think we all can assume that the BQ will not have the best interests of Canada in mind when making decisions. They will have the best interests of Quebec in mind. And as I said before sometimes these interests will be the same, but sometimes they will not. By doing this it also implies, to me at least, that the Libs or NDP don't have the best interest of Canada in mind in forming this coalition, they just want Harper out. You may disagree with me on this but I hope we can at least agree that in Canada we are free to disagree.

    This brings up the second point we seem to disagree on, what the GG should do. I am not a constitutional expert so my perception of her role may not be correct, but I would hope she takes into consideration the motivations of the political parties that will form the coalition, and the motivations of the BQ are not to make Canada a better place. Therefore, they should not be let into government, though I would agree the BQ have a role in opposition. I believe that this element of human judgement is one reason why we have a human in the role and not simply a protocol written into the constitution.

    As for electing a parliament and not a government I agree, that is what happens, but the code of parliament also includes unwritten traditions as well. One tradition is that governments get legitimised through elections. That is why new party leaders who become PM usually soon call an election. This coalition does none of that. It is led by a person who the Liberals are getting rid of in May. The new leader, who will then be PM is unknown. It is unknown if the new leader will respect this coalition agreement. Where is the basis for the proposed proposed 2.5 year coalition? This is not a foundation for a stable government that will have to be sanctioned by the GG.

    Putting aside the technical details, what the point of my first post was is that this coalition putting at risk the future of a united Canada for their short term gains. Not a wise move.

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  15. Philip says,

    But in answer to the question the two situations are not comparable. Harper's government was not in coalition with the BQ. The fact that the BQ, on their own initiative without inducement, voted with the Conservatives because their interests overlapped on that item or items up for vote is different from going into coalition and making deals with BQ. If the Conservatives did form a coalition with the BQ I would have not have been in favour of that.

    The Bloc is not part of the coalition. They have agreed to support the coalition but they are not going to be part of the government.

    It's disappointing that you would propagate such lies on Sandwalk.

    I can understand why you are opposed to the Bloc and I understand that their signed agreement to support the coalition goes further than their role in propping up Harper over the past few years. You could have argued your case on those ground without misrepresenting the truth.

    Putting aside the technical details, what the point of my first post was is that this coalition putting at risk the future of a united Canada for their short term gains. Not a wise move.

    There is nothing wrong with a coalition taking over following the defeat of a government on a confidence motion. This sort of thing happens rarely in Canada but frequently in other Parliamentary democracies. It is perfectly legitimate and perfectly in accord with the basic principles of representative democracy.

    The biggest danger to Canada right now is Stephen Harper and those who spread the lies that he is promoting. Harper is undermining our democracy by misrepresenting it as a Presidential system in order to hang on to power.

    He is also intent on dividing the country by pitting right-wing Western Conservatives against the people of Quebec. Again, he is taking this approach in order to keep the job of Prime Minister. He doesn't seem to care what damage this causes to Canada.

    Shame on him. The sooner intelligent people like you dissociate yourself from such a megalomaniac the better off we'll all be. You might even save the Conservative Party if you act quickly.

    Otherwise, don't be surprised when the Red Tories start abandoning ship.

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