Canada's political showdown

Written by  //  December 18, 2008  //  Canada, Government & Governance, Politics  //  1 Comment

See also Canadian general election – the (Liberal) aftermath and Canada after 2008 election
CBC’s archives on the Coalition crisis

No moral high ground for Canada’s political parties

By Duff Conacher
(Metropolitain) All federal political parties should have been working toward a democratic compromise over the Conservative minority government’s economic and political finance proposals, instead of continuing their poorly timed games.
9 December
Separatist-bashing in Ottawa may have helped PQ
… pundits in the province were speculating that the prime minister had helped build a stronger Parti Québécois in Monday’s vote. The PQ has throughout its history fared worse on election day than its poll numbers would suggest, while the Liberals have traditionally benefited from what Quebecers call the ballot-box bonus. Not this time.
8 December
Dion will bow out early to clear way for successor makes it into Bloomberg news
7 December
Ignatieff poised to replace Dion with support of Liberal caucus vote
The prospect of a caucus vote installing Ontario MP Ignatieff in the top Liberal job emerged late Sunday after the party’s national executive gave a rough reception to a last-minute proposal to give all party members a vote by a combination of phone and online ballots early next month.

Probably the best summary of the unprecedented – as the commentators love saying – events of the past week is the BBC’s Bitter week in Canadian politics Our view is that Mr. Harper has acted with incredible arrogance and that Mr. Dion snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on the eve of Mr. Harper’s meeting with the Governor General with that awful video for which, to add insult to injury, we had to wait. We are not happy with the GG’s decision, but if she saw the Dion video, she no doubt concluded that, much as she might not be a friend of Harper’s,  this was not the leader into whose hands she wanted to place the fate of the nation [See John Ivison’s column below].The only star in our opinion was Bob Rae whose comments on his own blog and on CBC radio were articulate, to the point and incisive – what one might have hoped for from the leader of the coalition. Most Canadians have learned a new word this week: prorogation. We are grateful to The Hook. for the definition, essentially, “The principal effect of ending a session by prorogation is to end business. All government bills that have not received Royal Assent prior to prorogation cease to exist; committee activity also ceases.”

Rae steers coalition against Ignatieff
There is no doubt that Jack Layton is the brain behind the anti-Harper coalition and Stéphane Dion is the funny salesman who tried to sell it to Canadians. But the person who sold it to the Liberals was Bob Rae.
6 December
Liberals mobilizing to dump Dion
High-profile MPs, advisers calling for his ouster after bungled TV address, while Ignatieff says party mulling expedited leadership race.
In an article in today’s Globe and Mail, Liberal John Manley, a former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister writes, “As a Liberal, I believe the first step for my party is to replace Stéphane Dion as leader with someone whose first job is to rebuild the Liberal Party, rather than leading a coalition with the NDP”. More
Kelly McParland: Whoever took Stephen Harper’s blue sweater, will they please give it back?
The longer he’s around, the tougher it gets to peg Stephen Harper.
The election campaign he ran in September and October started out as a reasonable affair. Harper sported a blue sweater, and spoke reassuringly about being prudent and pragmatic.
Don Martin: Chaos in Ottawa isn’t over yet
The scenario that transfixed Canadians, watching in morbid fascination as a tactical Conservative mistake mushroomed into a parliamentary crisis and a death-defying prorogation with all the finesse of the slow-motion crumbling of derailed train cars, may continue next week with the planned ouster of Mr. Dion as Liberal leader.
David Frum: For its own survival, Harper government will have to feel the pain
The utter discrediting of Dion’s personal leadership within his own party buys the Conservatives a little extra time. No way will the Liberals dare face the electorate until they have replaced their leader.
That said: The position of the Conservatives has suddenly become much more precarious than it was 10 days ago. The mood in Parliament will likely be much uglier when it finally reconvenes. The enactment of budgets and other legislation will only become more difficult. All this will occur against a darkening economic horizon.
5 December
Liberals mobilizing to dump Dion
(Globe & Mail) OTTAWA — A movement to dump Stéphane Dion immediately has mushroomed within Liberal ranks, with former deputy prime minister John Manley calling for him to resign, and Grits from nearly every faction of the party exploring ways to pressure him to leave as early as next week.
Harper heads off defeat
The Conservative leader gets permission for a rare suspension of Parliament, allowing him to avoid a vote that would have toppled his government.
(LATimes) But the narrow escape from a crisis that was largely self- inflicted has badly scarred a prime minister already widely regarded as a bully, and reawakened a national unity crisis in a country where regional grievances are sometimes dormant but easily stirred.
4 December
John Ivison: Dark days get darker for unloved Dion
Much of the speculation this week has centred on whether Stéphane Dion could bring down the government. Not much time has been spent asking whether he could run a government.
During an emergency Liberal caucus meeting, just hours after the Prime Minister revealed that the Governor-General had agreed to prorogue the House, MPs started to pose that question to themselves.
Jean’s decision sets ‘very dangerous’ precedent: constitutional expert
A constitutional expert says he’s worried the Governor General’s decision to suspend Parliament sets a “very dangerous” precedent that allows future prime ministers to use the same manoeuvre to avert their own government’s demise.
“This is a major constitutional precedent and that worries me more than anything else,” said Errol Mendes, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Ottawa and editor in chief of the National Journal of Constitutional Law.
“Any time that the prime minister wants to evade the confidence of the House now he can use this precedent to do so,” said Mendes.
Poll shows Tories up from election in party standings, but at a cost of increased tensions between Quebec and the rest of the country
OTTAWA — Stephen Harper steered his Conservative Party to strong gains in national support during this week’s unprecedented political crisis, but he sustained severe losses in Quebec and does not enjoy the trust of almost half of Canadians, a new poll shows.
Canadian PM Stephen Harper shuts down parliament to keep power

CANADA’S Prime Minister Stephen Harper has obtained an unprecedented shutdown of parliament, thwarting an opposition bid to unseat his ruling Conservatives and install a leftist coalition.
Even the Economist has taken notice: A most un-Canadian caper Canada’s prime minister clings on to office, for the moment
3 December
Harper veut éviter sa chute
Le premier ministre Stephen Harper demandera formellement aujourd’hui à la gouverneure générale Michaëlle Jean de suspendre les travaux du Parlement jusqu’au 26 janvier afin d’éviter la chute de son gouvernement à la Chambre des communes.
Can it get any more pathetic? You betcha!
Maragaret Wente
If Michaëlle Jean agrees to give Stephen Harper a second chance, she’ll put him on a short leash. I like that image. After all, he’s been a naughty puppy. He peed all over Parliament, then bared his teeth. Now, if rumours are true, he’s trying to bribe Liberal MPs with Senate seats so there won’t be enough votes left to bring him down. He needs his paw slapped. (AMEN!)
If only Ms. Jean could send everyone to their room without supper, until they learn to play together nicely. Too bad there’s no constitutional precedent for that.
In my nightmares, we’ll have months and months of stomach-churning chaos before anything gets sorted out. Mr. Harper will get his second chance. Then everyone will start again in January. Mr. Harper will be voted down. Then the gang of three will get their chance. The transition will take months. They will give away $50-billion to the unions, Quebec and screwy environmental schemes before falling out with each other, at which point Canadians will go to the polls all over again.
By then, a hundred thousand people will have lost their jobs and the country will be in deep recession. The dollar will be at 74 cents. Jim Prentice will run against Michael Ignatieff, who’s been strangely out of sight in recent days, probably because he’s smart.
Between now and then, it would be nice if Ms. Jean could figure out a way to stop our elected legislators from yelling “Traitor!” and “Liar!” at each other on national TV. This business has become embarrassing. Remember when we used to ridicule the Americans for having a political culture that was moronic, juvenile and destructive? Those were the good old days. Because now, it’s us.
One governor-general to another: Don’t aid in evading Parliament’s will
Ed Schreyer said in an interview yesterday that granting a wish for the prorogation of Parliament at this point would constitute an evasion of the process of Parliament and should not be done.
“I’ll put it this way and I will make this a plain-spoken sentence. Nothing should be done to aid and abet the evasion of submitting to the will of Parliament. I think one can stop there. It’s about as basic as that.”
Canada’s Harper vows to fight no-confidence vote
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to fight a plan by Canada’s Liberal and New Democratic parties to form a majority political coalition with Bloc Quebecois, which would be strong enough to bring a call of no confidence against Harper’s minority government. Harper has pledged to refuse to allow that vote to come to the floor. CNN (12/3)
2 December
George Jonas: Coalition may be legal, but also undesirable
It was precipitated by newly elected Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper doing something that, well — let’s say, something that must have seemed a good idea at the time.
In reality, it was about as good an idea as reaching into a dog’s bowl and removing a choice bone. Not into a Labrador’s bowl, either, but a Rottweiller’s. Make that three Rottweilers, all in a snappish mood, at feeding time. Ouch!
Some have used the expression “coup d’état” to describe what happened next, but Rottweilers losing confidence in someone who tries to remove bones from their bowl is well within the boundaries of canine constitutionality. Every dog is entitled to a bite when provoked.
Vaudeville à Ottawa, André Pratte
La chose est tellement étrange qu’on a peine à y croire: le Parti libéral, le NPD et le Bloc québécois ont conclu hier une entente sur la formation d’un gouvernement de coalition. Ce gouvernement sera dirigé par Stéphane Dion. Pour cinq mois.
1 December
(RCI) OPPOSITION SEEKS CONSERVATIVES’ OVERTHROW
The opposition Liberal and New Democratic parties have made an agreement to form a minority coalition government to overthrow the existing Conservative government. Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has written a letter to the governor general, Michaelle Jean, saying that the Conservatives have lost the confidence of the House of Commons and that the Liberals and the New Democratic Party want to form a government, with the support of the Bloc Québécois. The latter party supports separation for the largely French-speaking province of Quebec. The coalition would govern for at least 18 months. The three opposition parties also agreed on a multi-billion-dollar package to assist the slumping economy, including support for the auto and forestry industries. The proposed coalition could become a reality if the Conservatives are defeated next Monday on a confidence vote on a budgetary matter. Under Canada’s constitution, the governor general will have to decide whether to call an election or to let the Liberals try to govern. The country had a national election that yielded a reinforced Conservative minority government on Oct. 14.
CONSERVATIVES STUDYING ALL OPTIONS
Meanwhile, the Conservatives say they’ll consider “all options” to prevent the opposition from ending their government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper delegated his environment minister, Jim Prentice, to speak for the government on the situation. Mr. Prentice has called the opposition agreement to overthrow the government “irresponsible and undemocratic,” suggesting everyone “take a step back.” The minister refused to rule out the government’s option to prorogue Parliament, that is, to discontinue its session without formally ending it.
The crisis has even made it into the top stories on Al Jazeera
Canada opposition bids to unseat PM
The leaders of Canada’s three opposition parties have signed a deal aimed at toppling the country’s minority government, accusing it of failing to act over the nation’s economic crisis.
Harper says Dion playing ‘biggest political game in history’
(CBC) His accusation came after Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, fresh from being named the leader of a proposed coalition with the New Democrats, questioned the legitimacy of Harper’s minority government.
“Instead of introducing an economic stimulus package in his fiscal update last week, the prime minister decided to play politics, ignoring the difficult economic times Canadians are facing,” Dion said.
David Frum:
Only the losers will survive Ottawa’s game of competitive suicide
What is going on in Ottawa is a game of competitive suicide. Whoever “wins” this parliamentary power play destroys himself. Only the “losers” will survive.
Liberals first: Suppose they “win.” What will they gain?
Imagine Canada 6 months on. There’s a Liberal prime minister. He will head an unstable coalition of Liberals and socialists aligned with separatists. To appease the socialists, he will have to raise taxes. To appease the separatists, he will have to direct disproportionate money and attention to the province of Quebec.
Stanley H. Hartt: Snatching the right to govern from the jaws of defeat
(National Post) It appears that the Opposition’s “Seize Power On Any Pretext” train has left the station. The Liberals and the NDP have agreed on detailed terms for a coalition to last until June 30, 2011. Cabinet seats have been allotted to each party. There is a list of items that can be dealt with as matters of confidence during that period (with the implication that other measures may still be introduced but would not be matters the government could fall on). There is even a dispute resolution mechanism to enable unforeseen initiatives to be classified as confidence matters or otherwise.
The Bloc has apparently prepared a letter endorsing this arrangement, undertaking to add their votes to those of the coalition partners in order to get to the magic majority number of 155. The product of these machinations is to be presented to Her Excellency the Governor-General early this week, the idea being to know before next Monday’s confidence vote on the Conservatives’ economic and fiscal update whether it is worth the gamble to vote down the current administration, elected only weeks ago with 143 seats.
30 November
Don Martin: Harper and his pride in surrender mode
OTTAWA — What you’re seeing is a first — and perhaps a last. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his pride sacrificed before the fall, is in full white-flag-waving surrender mode.
John Ivison: Michael Ignatieff would be PM in a Liberal-led coalition
… if the opposition parties succeed in bringing down the Conservatives in a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons next week and if the Governor-General deems it to be a viable alternative, sources said late last night.
29 November
Tories reverse decision on political subsidies
Canadian Press and Globe and Mail Update 7:54 PM EST
After 24 hours of peering into a yawning political abyss, the Harper government stepped back from the brink Saturday, dropping a plan to kill public subsidies for political parties.
“When it comes to the funding and subsidies that political parties get, we just don’t think it’s worth getting into an election on that issue,” Transport Minister John Baird said in an interview.
Don Martin: Harper has no one to blame but himself
This Conservative government’s apparent death wish is propelling Canada toward two possible, and equally unthinkable, outcomes: The second federal election inside of two months, or a Liberal-led coalition that includes New Democrat cabinet ministers and a separatist component.
28 November
Harper moves to avoid political showdown
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has temporarily stymied a Liberal plan to bring down the government and propose a governing coalition with the New Democrats, delaying the opportunity for a no-confidence vote by one week.
Won’t change economic update: Flaherty
Opposition parties slammed the economic update for not including a stimulus package, and for including a provision that would end the $1.95-per-vote subsidy of public money parties get for every vote they earn in a federal election.
OTTAWA’S ECONOMIC UPDATE: STIMULUS
New moves to ease strain of credit crisis
$700-million for lenders; bank-stake powers
(Globe & Mail) OTTAWA — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty moved yesterday to ease the strain caused by the global credit crisis, pledging an additional $700-million for two federal lenders and legislative housekeeping that would give the government authority to buy shares in banks.
27 November
Opposition parties won’t support Tory economic update

Canada’s opposition parties said Thursday they will vote against the Conservative government’s fiscal update, sparking speculation the country could face another election in the midst of a global economic crisis.

One Comment on "Canada's political showdown"

  1. sam totah December 6, 2008 at 8:37 pm · Reply

    The articles are all about politicians and the system of government we have now in place. Respectively, you have to account that this whole exercise has left the citizen with a “bitter taste”–and I am not talking about bitter chocolate taste. Simply stated —
    a. we do not trust anymore our elected politicians.
    b. the elected and voted “party leaders” should be screened for being able to make a decent video and deliver it at the right time.
    c. It should be considered “treason” for the Prime Minister to divide the nation in spirit and form into “acceptable politicians, i.e. non Bloc Quebecois” and/or the federalists.
    d. While a precedent is set in what GG has decided now — the Parliament has the responsability to pass a new Act to forbid future parlementarians to avoid responsability and accountability via their elected representatives.
    e. Considering the tough economic times ahead (and current foreclosures of homes and businesses) Canada has an immense job to do in the immediate future. Restore respectability to its government apparatus and continue in the tradition of the best of nations to live in — despite its climate, specially in winter.
    All said in the best of intentions as an addendum to the discussions on what was said or should be on record. Voila.
    Sam Totah

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