Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Minority Government...It's Not Working

Journalists and pollsters are fond of telling us that Canadians are happy with this minority government. That would suggest that they believe it is working. But it's not.

I suppose that sentiment is based on what they see in the papers, specifically that the country is still humming along so business must be getting done efficiently. But it's not.

Today in the Justice and Human Rights Committee the Chair, Art Hangar, walked out when his ruling was challenged. This of course was the committee that was to hear testimony on the Flanagan/Finley affair, (let's leave the Cadman's alone for a while shall we?). Anyway, Dominic LeBlanc presented his motion and the Chair ruled it out of order. A Bloc member challenged the Chair and Art Hangar promptly walked out of the room. That's right. Just up and left. Your government hard at work my good friends.

Now, before my Conservative readers begin to mount their defense of this action, ie. witch hunt, fishing expedition, blah, blah, blah, you should of course remember that the Chair of a committee is not there to determine it's destiny. The Chair is there to ensure that procedure is followed and remain neutral. The committee itself is the master of it's own destiny and the Chair must defer to their wishes. For the record, Hangar told Don Newman tonight that he'd already made up his mind to take the action he did before the meeting.

So once again today we have an example of just how dysfunctional this parliament is. This committee is of course not the first to show the Con's inability to play by the rules. They've been filibustering for weeks in the Environment Committee and for months in the House Procedures Committee, which incidentally is where Hangar wants this matter to go. What a surprise! That would take the investigation into the Conservative In & Out scheme off the table, which is what the Con's have been filibustering.

Here's the thing though, they aren't really filibustering, which is a legitimate tactic. They are taking up all the air time during committee meetings, (2 hrs.), then the Con Chair adjourns. No, no, no! If you choose to filibuster, you should talk for as long as you can without washroom or meal breaks. You don't prepare material for 2 hours and know you'll be done...that defeats the purpose doesn't it?

The point is this parliament is not working in the areas it should and to be honest, I don't believe it can so long as the government is the current Conservative government. Now, don't blow a gasket here. If this government was the Progressive Conservative Party, of course it could and has worked. This particular government is not that though, as we all know. You can dispute what their agenda is, but what is clear is that they do not represent what the majority of Canadians believe. They have been very clever at concealing it and the media, all media, have given them a free ride. I've yet to figure out why, but if I read one more time that the 'hidden agenda' was a mirage, I'm going to scream.

It wasn't and isn't a mirage. They are real and standing right in front of you, honest to goodness sentient beings, chanting na-na, na-na-na, yet you seem to hear, these are the same old Tories, nothing scary here... move on. It is you my friends who are living in a mirage.

Anyway, back to my point. If approximately 66% (representing us of course) of the House is philosophically opposed to the ideology of the government, it will be constantly under attack. Governments are of course always under attack, but they are rarely in the position that they have to resort to bullying, lying, threatening, suing and having a point man in every corner prepared to throw a punch.

At present, it's not permeating the public consciousness, because the Lib's are making their point on issues, but they are not yet in a position to vote the government down, so the public, (the normal people who do not follow committee meetings, :), believe all is well.

I've understood the rationale of the abstention tactic, but I think now is problem time. I still believe we have to allow the by-elections to take place and then I'd like to see the Lib's take the government down, but we have to lay some groundwork first. Here's what I mean. If Canadians think all is well, the call of an election will not make sense if it's suddenly brought about. We have to position, not dishonestly, that we've done what we could to make this parliament work, we've tried to amend Bill's, bring important issues to committee, but the government is being uncooperative and we have lost confidence in their willingness to work with opposition party's.

We should also point out that the NDP spends more time attacking the Lib's than they do attacking the government, who should be their target. Let's point out how often in committee meetings that they, the NDP, vote in favour of Liberal motions. They talk tough about their disagreement with the Lib's, but where the real work gets done, that is not the truth. They agree with the Lib's. Let's expose their votes shall we?

A minority government with this Con Party in power is not sustainable and I guess the objective is to prevent a majority. I think sometimes that is what some hawks miss. We have to be in a position to prevent a majority and we have to prove that to Canadians, tell them the truth of what has been happening. Will the truth be carried by the media?

12 comments:

Ron said...

If the government is not working it is because the Liberals keep hijacking committees for partisan political purposes. Heck, even the NDP are getting tired of that game. I, however think it is working just fine. Three budgets and 2 economic statements have passed the house. A significant amount of legislation from the ethics package to justice legislation passed the house. Granted the money has stopped flowing into Liberal pockets and there are not so many Liberals getting political appointments but that doesn't mean government isn't working - it just means government is working with less corruption and that is just fine with me.

ottlib said...

So sad. The Conservatives could govern so much more effectively if the opposition would just go away.

Or they could govern much more effectively if they actually toned down the partisanship and worked with the opposition.

The beauty of such a strategy would have been some watered down Conservative bills but it would have probably had the benefit of putting the Conservatives in majority territory on a consistant basis.

Indeed, if the Conservatives would have taken the more conciliatory approarch from the beginning we would have probably seen a Conservative majority government by now. A real one not the "Conservative majority" that some MSM types and Blogging Tories claim they have now.

knb: The goal of an election is not to prevent a Conservative majority it is to win an election.

It is not to defeat the government in Ottawa it is to defeat it in Canada.

I am still not convinced the conditions are right for that outcome which is why I am still hesitant to see the Liberals bring down the government.

clh said...

The goal of an election is not to prevent a Conservative majority it is to win an election.

It is not to defeat the government in Ottawa it is to defeat it in Canada.


Exactly! And defeating it in Canada means defeating it in the hearts and minds of Canadians. Over an entire year, the average polls show very little change from the last election (just a few points leaving the Conservatives for the Greens).

We see this government and want it gone, but things have to shift noticeably from the last election to have real change. Perhaps this will all happen during an election. If so, the LPC will need a great strategy and a bit of luck. I'm willing to leave it up to the LPC insiders to decide when the time is right. Meanwhile neither our government nor our opposition is inspiring anyone, but given the way Harper operates and Layton's opportunism, I think this is what we are stuck with.

knb said...

ron, sigh. The opposition is there to oppose and examine issues pertinent to individual committees. The Con's are simply afraid of the exposure of the truth.

If you're an example of how people view this government, Canada is in trouble.

knb said...

ottlib, I know you are right. I think my frustration got the better of me yesterday.

I didn't express myself very well vis a vis the majority comment. I agree the objective of an election is to win.

I'm not feeling so pessimitic today, ;).

knb said...

clh We see this government and want it gone, but things have to shift noticeably from the last election to have real change. Perhaps this will all happen during an election.

I do believe that things will shift during an election and still believe that you have to prepare the ground before going.

I know that is what the Lib's are trying to do, as I said, I just found myself frustrated yesterday.

While the issues faced by our candidates in the by-elections are bound to be local, I'm hoping they will offer valuable insight into the mood of people out there.

ottlib said...

knb, make no mistake, I want this government gone and I want it gone yesterday. Hell, I wanted it gone on January 27, 2006.

However, I do not see the great call for change amongst Canadians, except amongst Liberals. As I have argued before if Liberals call an election based on projecting their desires onto the Canadian voter at large they will be in for a very big surprise and even bigger disappointment.

It is true that a party can win an election without them having the desire for change at their back but they need an issue to rally the voters with.

So far that does not exist. The recent Conservative scandals will be useful items to flog the Conservatives with but they will not be effective as central campaign themes.

The RESP decision by the government has the potential to be an issue to rally around but its shelf life will be short during an election so the Liberals are going to have to come up with more.

At this moment I would say the Conservatives and the Liberals are pretty evenly matched. So any election would be a crap shoot.

Again, as I have argued before it is very rare for the Official Opposition to be in control of election timing in this country and it would be a stupid waste of that advantage to use it in the current political climate.

Thankfully, Mr. Dion and the advisors he has surrounded himself with realize that and they are ignoring the silliness we are seeing from the Conservatives, from the MSM and from idealistic but politically naive Liberal supporters.

clh said...

Ottlib, everything you say makes sense to me, but I wonder about the accumulated cost of:

the silliness we are seeing from the Conservatives, from the MSM and from idealistic but politically naive Liberal supporters

and I would add the NDP to that list, based on the mailings I've received. Isn't all this going to wear down some potential Liberal voters, whether they get the message from the Conservatives, the NDP, disenfranchised Liberals or the MSM? Seems to me there is some cost there that the Liberals will then need to overcome. Seems to me the Liberals have to balance this optics with election realities of the kind you describe.

The optics doesn't affect me personally, or even most people I know (I guess I've surrounded myself with like-minded folks), but I'm wondering more generally.

ottlib said...

clh:

The problem I have with that argument is it assumes the Liberals are taking actions in a political vacuum. The Liberals are not the only players in this game and Canadians are not so simple as to take the actions of just one party into account when decided who to support.

It also assumes that Canadians really care what the Opposition is doing in between elections.

Most Canadians do not even care what the government is doing unless it is doing something really stupid or it is doing something that effects the personal interests of somebody. (ex. Income Trusts)

As I stated in my previous comment alot of Liberals are mistakenly projecting their beliefs and desires onto the broader Canadian electorate.

As for the MSM and the Liberals' opponents they are either pursuing a narrative (note that does not mean the truth or even the facts) or they are just being partisan.

Whatever the case, wise politicians and their advisors cut through this BS and make decisions based on sound political calculation that is fed by reliable information and facts.

knb said...

ottlib As I have argued before if Liberals call an election based on projecting their desires onto the Canadian voter at large they will be in for a very big surprise and even bigger disappointment.


I think projection is what I fell into last night. Today? A little more objective.

The recent Conservative scandals will be useful items to flog the Conservatives with but they will not be effective as central campaign themes.


Indeed, but they are a spring board to suggest what the Lib's would do in their stead.

knb said...

ottlib and clh...interesting.

Go on please.

clh said...

I agree with your comments, ottlib, on not in a vaccuum. Most people I know think of a lot of these confidence votes as irrelevant political posturing and the key ones (like the budget) they view as a question of whether the opposition wants to topple the government now and on that issue.

However, most people I know were aghast at Mike Harris being re-elected in Ontario. What seemed to us like divisive politics, simplistic pandering, and a bit of extra money in people's pockets at the expense of needed infrastructure and services, obviously sold to a lot of Canadians in Ontario.

Harper uses many of the same tactics and I see no reason why they will be any less effective. Not bringing the government down is easily spun into the not-a-leader slogan -- more easily for the NDP than the Conservatives, but even the Conservatives have been trying to use it.

Interesting twist, seeing a government using the idea of not bringing them down as an attack on the opposition. Personally, I think having the Conservatives use it, undercuts the NDP's use. But, as I said, most voters didn't see Harris' messages the way I saw them either.