Attacks on Parliamentary Democracy

The mainstream media does not like the idea of a coalition government, that much is clear.  After all, they were the bunch that promoted Steve, the Sweater Guy, into a second Minority term with all their glowing editorials about him, despite his many faults — faults they acknowledged.

So, now that Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition has teamed up with the other parties in opposition and signed a guarantee of 18 months of stable governance following Mr. Harper’s recent ideologically motivated attack through Minister Flaherty’s Economic Update, the media is doing its best to attack democracy.  Here’s a brief summary.

Whole bales of comment seek to rhetorically delegitimize a clear-cut succession with considerable Commonwealth precedent; in the Post, Don Martin growls about a “putsch” and John Ivison sneers at an incipient “banana republic”, the Globe editorial mutters about “averting this politically illegitimate coalition”. Others, more troublingly, contort constitutional logic to legally delegitimize the idea of majority rule in a hung parliament. In the Citizen, Randall Denley calls it a “virtual coup that is perfectly legal” (and thus, not a coup at all); in the Post, L. Ian MacDonald rants near-identically about “a perfectly constitutional coup, endorsed by the Westminster tradition” (ditto).

It’s as though they’ve taken the Conservative’s Talking Points and memorized them. Or maybe it’s that they wrote them, being that the MSM is supposed to be comprised writers and editors and not propagandists. Take a look at these:

Opposition lacks mandate to take power

* This fall, Canadians gave the Conservative government a clear mandate to continue taking action on the economy.

* During a global downturn, the last thing our country needs for Opposition politicians to claim entitlements for your tax dollars and ultimately, to take power without a mandate from the people.

* Under Stephen Harper’s leadership, our government was ahead of the curve in anticipating the global economic slowdown. We are injecting billions in stimulus through tax cuts, investments in roads and bridges, and we are protecting the banking system.

* Our focus is the economy, but Opposition parties have their own priorities. While all Canadians are tightening our belts, they feel entitled to make taxpayers pay for political party staff, polls and advertising. They want to replace the elected government, just to preserve $17 million worth of entitlements.

* This is clearly unacceptable for a modern democracy.

* The Speech from the Throne was passed by the House of Commons yesterday – after the details of the Economic and Fiscal Update were known.

* After approving the Speech from the Throne, the opposition now is trying to orchestrate a backroom deal to “take” power rather than “earn” it. It would be fundamentally anti-democratic for the Liberals – after their worst popular vote showing in history – to:
o Offer up a surprise leader;
o Offer up a surprise coalition; and
o Have such a coalition backstopped by a party that wants to destroy the country.

* Furthermore, neither the Liberals nor the Bloc have any mandate to form a coalition as they explicitly campaigned against it:

* During the election the Liberals told voters they could not govern in coalition with the NDP because Layton “does not understand the economy”.

* The Bloc also told voters during the campaign that they categorically rejected the possibility of forming a multi-party coalition to stop the Conservatives.

If you listen to talk radio call-in shows, read letters to the editors of newspapers or frequent comments sections or blogs online, you’ll already be familiar with those points.  But now we have some new ones.  And they are nastier:

Sputtering with rage in the Post, Michael Bliss goes so far as to demand that the Governor-General reject any no-confidence vote supported by the Bloc — and if she doesn’t, it amounts to “an abuse of vice-regal power” that raises “fundamental questions about Ms. Jean’s loyalty to the Constitution and to Canada”.

I had expected the attack on the Governor General to come, just not so soon.  I thought they’d denigrate her after she’d decided on the course she must take.  Perhaps this is simply an encouragement to take that line of attack.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no Monarchist, but until we change our system, well, I can live with it.  What this attack does, however, is show how desperate the Stephen Harper supporters are to cling to power.

They will do whatever it takes.  And we can be sure that’s not good for Canada.

crossposted at


The Maple Syrup Revolution!

Whoever said Canadian politics was boring wasn’t paying attention! I certainly did not imagine that Minister Flaherty’s Economic and Fiscal Update – a tradition of modern Parliamentary democracies – would be the tipping point for a majority of Canada’s politicians. I’d been encouraged to participate in the grassroots’ push for a coalition government, urged to send emails and write letters, but I dismissed the idea as too pie-in-the-sky.

Well I’m taking a huge bite of some mighty fine humble pie right now!  The past few days have been a truly remarkable demonstration of how a Parliamentary system of governance can work. I’m not suggesting that it’s the best system around, just that what has been built into it, in terms of checks and balances, seems to work.  This is how would-be tyrants and dictators are prevented from taking power.

A coalition of Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs is the best outcome we can hope for at this time in our history. The coming together of a coalition as diverse as this is truly remarkable and will, I believe, force Parliament to work in the best interests of all who live in this vast and diverse place.  As I said elsewhere, it is the only logical response to an ideologue whose drive for power exceeds common sense and common decency in the House of Commons.

And now we see the Conservatives embarking on a massive PR campaign, a last-ditch effort to hang onto power. “It’s a PR war now,” according to a senior Conservative.

That about says it all, doesn’t it?  Public. Relations.  For the right wing alliance that became the Conservative Party of Canada, governance appears to be meaningless.  It’s about business, not government.  It’s about dog-eat-dog, not co-operation.  It’s about survival of the fittest, not love thy neighbour.  It’s really sad, actually.

And then, looking at the text of the Accord that all three parties in Opposition signed, in the Policy section, the coaltion lists its concerns, concerns over and above partisan politics:

Economic Stimulus Package
The top priority of the new Government is an economic stimulus package
designed to boost the domestic economy beginning with (but not limited to):
• Accelerating existing infrastructure funding and substantial new
investments, including municipal and inter-provincial projects (such as
• transit, clean energy, water, corridors and gateways). This would certainly
include addressing the urgent infrastructure needs of First Nations, Métis
and Inuit;
• Housing construction and retrofitting; and
• Investing in key sector strategies (like manufacturing, forestry and
automotive) designed to create and save jobs, with any aid contingent on
a plan to transform these industries and return them to profitability and
Rapid Support for those affected by the Economic Crisis
The new Government is committed to ensuring that the federal government has
the appropriate programs in place to assist those most affected by the economic
crisis so that all citizens will be in a position to fully participate in the economic
recovery to follow, including the following measures:
• Facilitate skills training to help ensure Canadian workers are properly
equipped to keep pace with the rapidly changing economy, while
respecting provincial jurisdiction and existing agreements;
• Amend the current law establishing a new crown corporation for
employment insurance in order to guarantee that all revenue from EI
premiums provides benefits and training for workers. Eliminate the current
two week waiting period;
• Lower the minimum required RRIF withdrawal for 2008 by 50 per cent;
• Reform bankruptcy and insolvency laws to better protect pensions; and
• Implement an income support program for older workers who have lost
their jobs in order to help them make the transition from work to receiving
retirement benefits.
Other Priorities to Stimulate the Economy
• Support for culture, including the cancellation of budget cuts announced
by the Conservative government.
• Support for Canadian Wheat Board and Supply Management
• Immigration Reform
• Reinstate regional development agency funding to non-profit economic
development organizations.
As finances permit, we are committed to moving forward with improved child
benefits and an early learning and childcare program in partnership with each
province, and respectful of their role and jurisdiction, including the possibility to
opt out with full compensation.

It’s unfortunate that children fall to the bottom of the heap, but then again, this is a Liberal-led coalition and it took them 12 years of governance to actually put foward a plan, so I guess we know where we have to place some effort, eh?  My kids are 17 and 15 now so maybe by the time they have kids in a decade or so, we’ll have a real plan for childcare in this country!

But I digress.  It’s clear that the coalition partners have the interests of the people of Canada at heart and not their own partisan interests.  Layton made huge concessions in allowing the corporate tax cuts to proceed.  Dion has had to eat some humble pie, too, having said he’d never work with a socialist like Layton.  And Duceppe, by providing support to this coalition, could be seen by hard-liners as jeopardizing Quebec sovereignty.

Pretty sweet times in Canada, eh?  It’s definitely a Maple Syrup Revolution!

with thanks to skdadl @ for the blog post title.