Posted by: Alvin | December 4, 2008

The Truth About The Coalition

HarperBWThere obviously has been a lot of confusion about what’s going on in Ottawa. Charges of undemocratic behaviour, lying, manipulation, and worse. Harper says the tactics of the opposition is going to rip apart the country, that he would have never done such a thing, and that Dion and Layton are selling out to the separatists. A few thing, I think, need to be cleared up.

First of all, in the interests of full disclosure, I voted NDP in the last election, in fact I’ve never voted for anything other than the NDP. Even when I was living in Calgary I gave my $1.75 to the NDP guy running there that didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell at winning (now the funding is worth $1.95, it’s indexed to inflation). So with that said, let’s work our way down the list of things that have been said over the past few days…

1) “The Opposition parties are just pissed that they won’t get taxpayers money to fund themselves anymore.” Or, “Why should I be giving my hard earned money to separatists/socialists/liberals anyway?”

Well, you don’t actually. If you didn’t vote you didn’t give anyone any money. And if you did, you gave it to the party you voted for, so I’m guessing you should be OK with that. The public financing works by calculating a certain amount per vote and then dolling out that money on a quarterly basis. The move was politically good for the Conservatives who can live without the money since they have a good fundraising machine. Less good for everyone else. Is part of the reason why the Opposition got so angry because of the public financing deal? Yes, absolutely yes, and when they deny it, they’re lying. What is the most important reason, not at all.

2) “The economic crisis is unavoidable and only good sound Conservative policies will save us, the new coalition is only going to hurt our recovery.”

Wrong again. According to a fresh report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, “The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions, since nominal GDP is higher than expected in Budget 2008.” (underline added) If the Conservatives hadn’t spent like drunken sailors over the past two years, Canada wouldn’t be in this mess.

3) “This deal is undemocratic. Canadians just voted in Steven Harper as our Prime Minister, they’re trying to overturn the election results”

Nope. Here’s what Ned Franks, a retired Queen’s University expert on parliamentary affairs, had to say: “It’s politics, it’s pure rhetoric…Everything that’s been happening is both legal and constitutional.” And Henry Jacek, a political scientist at McMaster University: “He’s appealing to people who learned their civics from American television” he said in reference to the fact that in Canada you don’t actually vote for the Prime Minister.

In actual fact, you vote for your local MP. Then, once the election is over the party who has the confidence of the House (usually the most seats) gets to decide who the leader will be. Now they don’t actually have a vote, they default to the leader of the party. So what happens when the majority of members decide that they don’t have confidence in the Conservatives and put together their own group? They lead. Period. There’s nothing undemocratic about it.

4) “They’re doing a deal with the separatists, something the Conservatives would never even consider.”

Yes, this is a deal with the Separatists, but it won’t be a government with the Separatists. Duceppe won’t be a part of the government, the Bloc will vote with them though, but this isn’t going to be a Separatist government at all. In fact, the Bloc has only signed on for 18 months because that’s the length of time Duceppe has decided he can set aside the sovereignty debate for.

5) “Canadians voted for a Conservative government, the Opposition Parties have no right to govern.”

Well, not really. Only 38% of Canadians voted for a Conservative MP, 62% did not. Last I checked 62% was a majority.

Phew. OK, all that said there’s still the question about what’s going to happen. Stephen Harper delayed the confidence vote until Monday, and then announced this morning that the Governor General had agreed to prorogue Parliament. This is indeed a sad day for democracy in Canada. When this was happening in 2005, Stephen Harper claimed that ending Parliament prematurely was running from democracy. Now? It’s crucial at defending democracy. Please.

With the dust now settled, we have a 6 week break. 6 weeks with no government at the height of a financial crisis. Stephen Harper has decided to run and hide and hope that 6 weeks will kill the coalition. Unfortunately for Canada, he’s probably right. There is no way this coalition will last 6 weeks. Liberal MPs are already striking a more conciliatory tone and appear to be more and more nervous about being in a coalition led by Dion.

Personally I think that the Liberals and NDP could still do it 6 weeks from now. They could take power, and help steer Canada in a better way. If they did a good job Canadians would forgive them and the Conservatives would probably turf Harper. By that time Michael Ignatieff would be liberal leader and have the chance to prove himself to Canada and Layton would have had the opportunity to prove that an NDP government isn’t the end of the world and that he can be a very capable leader.

None of this will happen though, because Liberal MPs dont have the almonds for it.


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