Thursday, December 4, 2008
Canadian Government in Crisis
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has extended the life of his minority Conservative government until the new year after Governor General Michaelle Jean today granted his request to suspend Parliament.
Jean made the unprecedented decision after a lengthy meeting with Harper this morning at Rideau Hall.
Her consent to prorogue Parliament means the work of the Commons has been discontinued, allowing Harper's Conservatives to escape a confidence vote next week that would have meant the defeat of his government.
SEVEN WEEKS of inaction---just what we don't need with the economic crisis worsening every day.
This is copied word for word from Rick Mercer's blog.
EVERY Canadian should read this.
"Not long after Stephen Harper took office as Canada's 28th Prime Minister an infant polar bear was born in a Berlin Zoo. Known as Knut, this cub was summarily rejected by his mother and so was nursed by human beings. Now two years later animal psychologists admit that he has become so addicted to human laughter and applause that the instant those things disappear he becomes desolate and cries for attention. This has lead to irrational behaviour never seen before in a polar bear. Experts fear that without constant applause Knut the polar bear could simply lose the will to live.
Enter Stephen Harper.
During our current crisis, Conservative staffers are being ordered to stand outside 24 Sussex Drive starting at 6:15 in the morning. Their job is to stand there in dark, in temperatures well below zero. Their instructions are to applaud, wave and sing Oh Canada loudly as Stephen Harper's motorcade pulls out of the gates and drives him to work. Harper, by all accounts, actually believes that the young people are there on their own accord and represent a ground swell of love and support for his actions. It's easier this way. Nobody wants to suffer at the hands of the inconsolable bear.
Enter Stephane Dion.
Stephane Dion is a humiliated and beaten man. Nothing prepared him for the thrashing he took in the last election, and the subsequent rejection by his own party just made matters worse. The applause and cheering stopped for this man a long time ago. Given the chance to exact revenge he will seize it at any cost.
And so is it any surprise that these damaged men are the architects of a crisis in Canada the likes of which we have never seen?
With leaders like this we shouldn't be blamed for asking why bother.
But I do know this. If this parliament was a dog it would be brought out behind the shed and shot. Rabid dogs aren't reformed, given second chances or trusted ever again.
At first this little crisis of ours in Ottawa was nothing but good old fashioned fun. For political junkies it was simply blood sport and made for great entertainment.
It began of course with the economic statement, a colossal misstep for Prime Minister Harper. The nastiness and partisanship caught everyone off guard – including the Conservative cabinet that once again were kept in the dark. Sane cabinet ministers were forced to grin and bear it as the leader revealed a strategy that not only highlighted the very worst elements of his personality, but reinforced the nagging cliché that this Conservative party cares more about inflicting pain on those they dislike then offering support for anyone in need.
For most casual observers it seemed like a game of hardball Stephen Harper would easily win. The opposition under Stephane Dion is, without a doubt, the weakest official opposition that Canada has ever seen. The leader is on his way out, the party is broke, and discipline is non-existent.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the vote in the House of Commons.
Stephane Dion may lack the basic skills needed by all political leaders but he seems to have a grasp on basic math, something Stephen Harper, the economist, seems to have lost.
Dion crunched the numbers and quickly realized that if his party, along with the other two parties in the house, opposed Harper the government would fall – in theory Dion could even become Prime Minister.
The only problem with that scenario was that no Liberal leader would ever consider such a gambit because it would mean getting in bed with both separatist and socialist forces in the House of Commons.
The difference this time around is that those forces didn't spend the last two years destroying this Liberal leader's personal reputation. That was Stephen Harper's doing. A coalition could ruin Stephen Harper and that's the only motivation Stephane Dion needs.
This is personal.
Stephen Harper loves being the Prime Minster of Canada. Under Harper the motorcades have gotten longer, the office more presidential, the trappings more grand. The idea that within a week he could be standing in line at the airport with regular Canadians, photo ID at the ready, attempting to board an Air Canada jazz flight to Moncton so he can explain to party faithful why he now travels in a Jiffy Taxi gnaws at his very being.
Knut the polar bear could not survive such a humiliation and nor can Stephen Harper. So Stephen Harper tore up his economic update; he blinked and backtracked – behaviour not before seen in this political animal.
And this is where it should have ended; a substantial and unexpected victory for a lame duck Liberal leader and a humiliating lesson to the Prime Minister. A nice little reminder to all involved that nobody was granted a majority in this parliament, and we expect everyone to get along. Tragically, Dion wasn't strong enough to put on the brakes. Or more likely he was unwilling. It's not enough to see Harper humiliated he wants to see him out of a job.
And so we now face the notion that within a matter of days or weeks a Liberal NDP Bloc coalition led by Stephane Dion could form a new government of Canada. Stephen Harper will have no choice but to quickly rebrand the Conservatives as Canada's New Opposition.
In theory a coalition could work. If aliens from outer space landed and were running roughshod over the country perhaps a Liberal, a socialist and a separatist could put their differences aside and work together to defeat the alien overlords. A global economic crisis, however, is probably not enough for these three wildly divergent visions of Canada to gel.
This is many things. It is unimaginable, it is a little embarrassing and, it makes our parliamentary system look like a laughing stock.
However it is not, as Stephen Harper insists, undemocratic, illegal or un-Canadian.
The facts here are very clear. Stephen Harper has a minority of seats in the House of Commons – something he has never accepted.
He is required to allow for a vote on his economic update. To win he needs fifty percent plus one, and he doesn't have it. If he loses he must ask the Governor General to dissolve the House. And if she feels a coalition can govern with a majority of support in the House of Commons then she is required to ask them to do it.
Them's the rules and Harper knows it. And so his only strategy is to launch a full-fledged attack on the very institution he is sworn to protect.
Harper has taken to the airwaves saying that if he loses a confidence vote in the House of Commons it is a coup d'etat, comparing it to the hostile takeover of a legitimate majority rule government by a military dictator.
And so our Prime Minister is suggesting that the Governor General must not listen to constitutional advisors but to him and him alone. The Prime Minister's office, those same people who unbeknownst to him ensure there are people waving to the PM wherever he goes, is organizing a protest which will occur at the residence of the Governor General of Canada. In Stephen Harper's world it should not be 700 years of parliamentary tradition that determines the future but him and him alone. Incredible hubris for a man who received less than 38 percent of the popular vote in the last election. One imagines the Queen will not be amused. In a perfect world she would just knock their two heads together and call it a day.
This could be the beginning of the Republic of Canada. A nation where Stephen Harper and not the monarch is the head of state. A Harper republic will differ from others in the world, however, as he ostensibly will have majority powers without having that old fashioned 50 percent support in either the country or the House of Commons.
This is a perfect storm. Our system works on the assumption that regardless of whether we have a minority government or not we will always be guaranteed that there will be a clear and decisive majority of rational men and women who will in times of crisis put nation over personal or party interests. It operates on the assumption that our leaders will put country before party.
Somehow we lucked out here. Our bad.
And so as we come down to the wire, and both leaders are digging in, we can only hope that this unprecedented bizarre week gets just a little stranger.
Because in a week where every day we have seen things never before predicted there is a simple solution.
We need one more historic press conference attended by two political enemies. A joint press conference between Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion.
A historic event where they both apologise to their country and their parties, in that order, and then they resign immediately – no questions please.
Because quite frankly they deserve one another and Canada deserves better."
Why do I feel that the only thing left for me as a citizen of Canada is to bend over and kiss my *** goodbye.
What a mess!