Final Words - Frustrated and Disheartened

Stephen Harper is the schoolyard bully who picks on the smaller kids and when they join together to fight back he cries – that's not fair you're only allowed to fight me one at a time. And the Canadian schoolyard is cheering him on.

Is My Country Gone

In all the years I have watched Canadian politics I have never seen anything like this and I have been watching Canadian politics for fifty years. When I was in high school I had the daily Hansard delivered to my home and read them everyday. After that I earned my degree in Political Science and spent over thirty years working for the House of Commons, reading, analyzing and indexing the House of Commons Debates.

The first election I took an interest in was when I was eight years old cheering for John Diefenbaker. I think I can be forgiven for cheering for a Tory due to my young age, but Diefenbaker captured the imagination of all Canadians. John Diefenbaker was a Parliamentarian and truly a House of Commons man. He must be rolling over in his grave as his successor as Tory leader colludes with the Governor General to overrule the will of the House of Commons.

The last ime I had to write about something like this was almost 40 years ago when Pierre Trudeau suspended the civil liberties of all Canadians. But at least Trudeau had the support of a majority of the House of Commons, with the notable exception of .Tommy Douglas and the New Democratic Party. Today it is Stephen Harper suspending the democratic rights of all Canadians. How ironic that Harper is following in the footsteps of his arch rival.

This is not to say that there are not precedents for what Harper is doing, just not in Canada.

1629 King Charles I in England
1799 Napoleon in France
1913: Victoriano Huerta in Mexico
1933: Adolf Hitler in Germany
1936 Fransisco Franco in Spain
1939: Benito Mussolini in Italy
1973: Augusto Pinochet in Chile
1975 Indira Gandhi in India
1999 Perez Musharaff in Pakistan
2008: Stephen Harper in Canada

Is the Governor General to Blame

I am reluctant to blame Governor General Michaëlle Jean for acceding to Stephen Harper's request for fear of stirring up Republican sentiments and because we do not know what lies Stephen Harper told her or what threats he may have made.

But we do know she has acted in a manner that no representative of the Queen should, by explicitly going against the clearly expressed wishes of a majority of the democratically elected House of Commons. And she did that to allow the government to avoid it's constitutional accountability to the House of Commons, by avoiding a vote of confidence. And she did that on the advice of an illegitimate Prime Minister whom she knew had lost the confidence of the House of Commons.

This must not be allowed to happen again. To deal with the specific prorogation decision the House of Commons Act should be amended to prevent the Prime Minister from requesting a prorogation longer than a week so that prorogation is only used to end a session to allow a government to introduce a new Throne Speech, and not used to shut down Parliament. To deal with the larger issue of the Governor General's constitutional decision making powers, I agree with other bloggers' advice, that this power be delegated to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who is truly independent and knowledgeable and experienced with ruling on matters of constitutional law.

Stephen Harper is to Blame For This Political Crisis

Stephen Harper ignored the fact that he had a majority in his first term and, with the collusion of the Liberals, governed as if he had a majority. Then he broke his own fixed election dates law, with the collusion of the Governor General, to attempt to win a majority. He then failed, attempted to ignore his minority status again, and when the democratically elected majority in the House of Commons calls him on it and is about to defeat him and present a democratically elected alternative coalition government, he shuts down Parliament, again with the collusion of the Governor General.

He engages in a campaign of lies, that even CBC commentators have to inform their viewers of the truth every time he speaks. He goes as far as to question the legitimacy of democratically elected Members of Parliament from Quebec and uses rhetoric best designed to create a national unity crisis. Indeed he uses rhetoric that experts and commentators believe will increase support for the Part Québecois in the Quebec election.

And for this his public support increases. And I cry for my Canada.

Stephen Harper's Lies and the Truth About Parliamentary Democracy and the Coalition

Stephen Harper would like to believe that he was elected all powerful President of Canada and he would like us to believe that somehow the people of Canada voted for him to be Prime Minister. The only people who voted for Stephen Harper where the residents of Calgary Southwest. The rest of us voted for individual Members of Parliament just as the residents of Calgary Southwest did.

Yes, we voted knowing that if the Conservative Party won a majority of seats Stephen Harper would become Prime Minister and if the Conservatives won the most seats but not a majority, he would be given the first opportunity to form a government and seek the confidence of the House of Commons.

But the most basic principle of Parliamentary Democracy is that the government is responsible to the legislature and can only govern while it retains the confidence of the legislature. The normal constitutional practice when a government loses the confidence of the legislature depends on how long the government has been in power. If it is late in the term of the government an election is usually called. If it is early in the term of the government the opposition is usually given an opportunity to form a government and seek the confidence of the legislature.

Stephen Harper and his Tory talking points repeat over and over again the lie that the Bloc Québecois is part of the Progressive Coalition. That is a blatant lie. The coalition is made up of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party. As to the claim that the Bloc Québecois has a veto over coalition policies. That is also an outright lie. The Bloc is committed to voting with the coalition on all matters of confidence. While it does reserve the right to vote against the coalition on other issues it would require the support of the Tories for them to block any coalition legislation. The only way the Bloc could block any coalition legislation is with the “collusion” of the Tories. And Tories never vote with separatists. Well unless it is to get their budget passed.

The Conservatives argue that we should not change Prime Ministers without an election. That might be true if we elected Prime Ministers, but we do not. Take the case of Kim Campbell who became Prime Minister between elections. On June 13, 1993, Kim Campbell was elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. As the leader of the party in power in the House of Commons, Kim Campbell automatically became Prime Minister. That is how Parliamentary Democracy works.

The Conservatives argue that only the party with the most seats should be allowed to form a government. What would they say if the seats won by the four federalist parties were more evenly divided leading to the Bloc Québecois having the most seats. Would Stephen Harper and the Tories argue that the federalist parties should not be allowed to form a coalition. I think not.

Where Do We Go From Here

The Tories talking points are reminiscent of their policy approach of simple solutions to complicated questions – inflamed rhetoric and outright lies instead of fact and logic. Add a massive establishment media propaganda campaign to the mix and a large number of people are falling for it.

But Harper may have outsmarted himself. His campaign may be at its peak the day before the scheduled non-confidence vote would have taken place. Though Harper is hoping the “time-out” will give the Progressive Coalition time to fall apart, I believe he misjudges the coalition. It looks like prorogation will actually give the coalition time to replace Stéphane Dion, who, while he may be a competent leader, is clearly a poor communicator. And more importantly it will give the coalition time to educate the public about the real threat to democracy posed by Stephen Harper and his actions.

As to the replacement of Dion as Progressive Coalition leader, there is a way to avoid circumventing the democratic Liberal Party leadership process. Let the coalition caucus select a leader for the coalition. It need not be either coalition party leader, or it may turn out to be one of them. The chosen coalition leader could serve till the coalition government ends, or be revisited after the Liberals select a new leader.

What we have learned most from this crisis is that Stephen Harper will do anything to cling to power and anything to stop the democratically elected Progressive Coalition from taking power.

The bully must not be rewarded. The coalition must not allow the Conservative government to continue with Harper as Prime Minister. The only way the Conservative government should be allowed to continue is if they replace Harper as Prime Minister and present a budget that meets the real needs of the Canadian people.

If that does not happen and the government is defeated Harper will then undoubtedly request a new election, and if the Governor General accedes to the request of her illegitimate Prime Minister, who lacks the confidence of the House of Commons, we will be into an election campaign.

If that happens I would propose an electoral accord between the Progressive Coalition partners, The Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, as well as the Green Party. The Bloc Québecois would not be part of this electoral accord because it is important that Quebeckers have a federalist alternative to the Tories. The Electoral Accord partners would run the candidate best able to defeat the Conservative candidate in each constituency based on historical and other factors agreeable to all parties.

Proportional Representation is the Real Solution

But the real long term solution to to Canada's electoral problems is to adopt an electoral process that allows every vote to count and elects a House of Commons that truly represents the will of the Canadian people. If such a system had been in place during the last election we would now have a ”coalition we deserved”, where the seats held by each party would have reflected their portion of the popular vote. Such a system would give us a government that most of the public are demanding now, one where the House of Commons must work together for the good of all Canadians.


The irony of all ironies would be if the Conservative budget was opposed by the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party but passed with the support of the Bloc Québecois. Would Stephen Harper resign because a government requiring the support of the evil separatists is illegitimate. I think not.

1 comment:

Beijing York said...

Fantastic post Richard. It would make for an excellent opinion piece that should be published in every national paper.