As has been said many times in the last week, it is hard to imagine that Canadian politics could be so exciting. What began in Ottawa last week has completely overshadowed the appointment by president-elect Barack Obama of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. It all began when the Conservative government, in presenting an economic update, tossed in a couple of other bones. The Tories decided to do away with taxpayer subsidies to political parties that currently amounts to $1.95 for each vote obtained in the last election. The Tories also added, for reasons probably known only to them that federal civil servants would not be allowed to strike throughout 2009. These matters, especially the removal of party subsidies that would cause the least hardship to the governing Conservatives, so incensed the opposition parties that they began talks of forming a coalition that is capable of governing after next Monday’s confidence vote.
By the end of the weekend, a coalition-government-in-waiting, consisting of the Liberals and the NDP and propped up by the separatist Bloc, was formed. The leader and future possible Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada is none other than the hapless lame duck Liberal leader, Stephane Dion. Apparently this is Dion’s reward for doing worse at the polls during the last election than any previous Liberal leader.
Assuming that the non confidence motion passes and that Stephen Harper does not prorogue (adjourn indefinitely) Parliament, both Harper and Dion will be taking a trip to see the Governor General. Harper will ask that Parliament be dissolved and that new elections be held. Dion will tell the Governor General that he is in a position to govern and ask that he be allowed to try and do so.
One certainty that exists in all of this mess is that the governing Conservatives have lost the confidence of Parliament to continue to govern. Governor General, Michaelle Jean has two choices; she can dissolve Parliament and force another election or she can give Stephane Dion the opportunity to govern. Although asking an opposition leader to form a government is extremely rare, Jean in constitutionally empowered to do it. The conventional wisdom is that the Governor General will choose this course because it has only been eight weeks since the last election.
One thing that stands out in this current fiasco is that there is plenty of blame to go around. While Canadians are worried about the economy, and rightly so, Harper decided to play games with the taxpayer-funded subsidies. And after the government withdrew both that proposal, the one to prevent public servants from striking, the opposition parties continued work on the coalition. Their lame excuse was that the government has not done enough to stimulate the economy in these trying times. This is nothing more than a pure and unadulterated power grab by the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc. Lost in all of this is the recognition from around the world that Canada’s financial institutions and ability to weather the current economic crisis was unequaled throughout the globe.
Every time we have an election we hear that Canadians don’t want one. Sure, elections, especially two of them in the space of three months is hard on the politicians, the election workers, the media that cover them and anyone else who is directly involved in the process. But all the average Canadian has to do during an election is to take twenty minutes to go vote, and in October 43% of them didn’t even do that. And then there’s the cost which will be at least $300 million. That is simply the price that we pay for living in a democracy. It would be better that $300 million of taxpayers’ money be spent on an election than $30 billion to be injected into the economy for the sake of $30 billion being injected. The coalition has decide that that is the amount of money that they will spend to improve the economy despite the fact that they have not justified that amount or told us exactly where the money would be spent. We need an election campaign to find out. The coalition had barely time to form—let alone decide how best to help the ailing economy.
If one voice came through during the last election campaign it was the outright rejection of Stephane Dion as prime minister of Canada. If Dion ends up as PM as a result of this now baseless power grab, Canada will resemble a third world country where losing at the polls doesn’t necessarily mean not being in power.
Stephen Harper should be made to face the electorate; to explain why he thought it was necessary to take away the taxpayer subsidies that were not part of the platform of the campaign that ended less than two months ago. Harper, who has always been accused to having a secret agenda, should be made to explain why he suddenly announced the repeal of these subsidies and the taking away of federal public servants right to strike. Similarly, Stephane Dion should be made to explain why he should be allowed to lead the country that so soundly rejected him eight weeks ago. He should also have to explain to Liberal voters why his cabinet now needs NDP members at the table. And Dion has to be made accountable for propping up his proposed government with the Bloc Quebecois, whose reason for being is the destruction of Canada.
None of this will be pretty. But as Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.
Canadians need to have a say in what has happened since the middle of last week. Let’s hope Michaelle Jean does the right thing, dissolve Parliament and allow Canadians to hold all of the political parties accountable.
Arthur Weinreb is an author, columnist and Associate Editor of Canada Free Press. Arthur’s latest book, Ford Nation: Why hundreds of thousands of Torontonians supported their conservative crack-smoking mayor is available at Amazon. Racism and the Death of Trayvon Martin is also available at Smashwords. His work has appeared on Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com. Arthur can be reached at:
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