Friday, August 22, 2008

Turning His Back on Democracy

As Canadians are still pre-occupied with what to throw on the bar-be-que, it appears that Harper is indeed in the the process of manufacturing a crisis and calling a general election to deal with it.

According to the official, Harper could pull the plug on his minority government immediately after the Labour Day weekend or wait until shortly after Parliament resumes on Sept. 15.

So all the nonsense about parliament being dysfunctional and the scripted actions by the Con's in the Ethics committee was indeed part of laying the groundwork so he could have his way.

Aside from the fact that he is completely flaunting his own law, (or at the very least the spirit of it) to govern to a fixed election date, what is particularly galling to me is this:

The prime minister will not make a final decision until after he meets with opposition leaders to determine whether there's any chance his government will be able to forge ahead with its agenda during the fall.

What's he going to ask them to do? Write him a blank cheque guaranteeing that they will uphold all legislation that he brings forward? The man has a minority! What part of that doesn't he get? Is he that vainglorious that he actually believes he has the right to run the country without opposition?

Surely he is not going to present that rationale to the Canadian public? Even a public who is apathetic will not stand for a man who wants complete control over the agenda with no checks or balances, will they?

What's odd about all of this of course is, that with the Conservative party in it's present state, the opposition parties will never be likely to vote with the government on anything. It could in fact be considered a waste of time, however, it is our system and I respect that.

Conversely, it's obvious Harper respects nothing about our system. We're in the middle of by-elections for gawd's sake and it could be argued that Harper intentionally wasted that money. After all, didn't he just call Don Valley West last week? Do you really think he didn't have this bit of scullduggery all laid out?

We all know why he wants an election and it's not because parliament isn't working, it's because it is.

So now the question is, how will he bring the government down? Will he go to the GG? Should she refuse? Will he wait for the opposition to defeat him on a bill? Somehow I doubt that. Even a parliamentary procedural defeat is likely a term that Harper couldn't accept. It must drive him mad to hear Dion say that the 'Prime Minister took the power out of his own hands and gave me the sole responsibility to call an election'.

I personally think he gives the opposition plenty of ammo with this move.

So readers. When's it going to be? How's he going to do it? And, how will the general public react?

More - Here, and here.


The Grumpy Voter said...

The public will react the way it always does. It will complain about an unnecessary election, shrug it's collective shoulders and say "#$%@ it, they're all the same" and it will vote. There is no evidence of a government in Canada ever being *punished* by the electorate for calling an unnecessary election - all the talk about fear of pissing off the electorate is just talk - the electorate always finds a way to engage itself in a campaign. So if you're implying that voters might somehow punish Harper if he breaks his own election law, I highly doubt it. Were this the case, they would have punished Chretien during his last campaign when he called an election, what... 3 years into his mandate?

knb said...

I'm not implying that and Chretien calling an election 3 years into a mandate did not set a precedent in this country.

Enacting a fixed date election date did and runs contrary to our parliamentary system.

I'm not suggesting that voters will punish him for that specifically, but it does play to the breaking promises issue, which is something that at least at the beginning of a campaign, could engage voters.

So grumpy, how are you going to react? Is a 'way to go Harper' vote in the cards for you or have you just given up completely?

Anonymous said...

I think this has more to do with timing. Everybody is coming off holidays and many are getting kids ready for school again so the last thing people are thinking about is politics right now.

What would be interesting is for all of the opposition parties to present an option to the GG if Harper tries to pull the plug. If they could agree on reversing as many changes as they can agree on that Harper has forced on us and would continue parliament long enough to make those changes, then call an election no later than early January so any new government can prepare next years budget could put a damper on Harper. Cleaning up some of the mess this government has made, if that was the main focus of parliament, could easily be done in the fall sitting. It sure would be fun to see Harpers reaction to this bit of fantasy!!

Gayle said...

" does play to the breaking promises issue..."

That is right, and this is a promise that Harper took so seriously that it was one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced.

He obviously believes this will not have any huge impact, and he is probably right. I think the opposition would be wise to deal with the issue as you suggest KNB, and make it part of a bigger story line. In fact, Dion may want to sit back and let Layton do all that talking, since the LPC have their own history of breaking promises.

knb said...

anon, I don't see the second part of your wish coming true, but the idea to have the opposition propose and argument to the GG is interesting.

Gawd, I know this is going to have me digging into Constitutional law. Something I'm ill equipped to do.

Any help would be greatly appreciated by those who would like to contribute. No need to take sides. A simple, (as if), explanation will do.

knb said...

It's not a joint meeting Gayle. That would require bravery on Harper's part and for all his bravado, he's not brave.

No, he's meeting with each leader individually and if you don't think he'll play one against the other people, you are smoking some interesting stuff.

In fact, it could be argued that he is a coward because he is not willing to proceed with his current mandate because he knows that he's slowly, but surely, being exposed.

Indeed Gayle, the Liberal party is far from perfect on keeping promises, far from perfect period. They are a much better choice though for this country as it exists today.

Dion is not Chretien nor Martin. He's a different breed. My belief is that he would not turn his back on a promise. That was my sense of the man before I met him and now that I have, I'm quite convinced.

penlan said...

Like you, knb, I think Harper's talk of a "dysfunctional" parliament was to lay the groundwork for an election. Using it & the Liberals as the reason.

Harper is a hypocrite, always has been & always will be. Enacting a law for fixed election dates was just another game on his part. Why, otherwise, have the "clause" added that he can actually by-pass this law.

I think he will go to the GG before Parliament resumes as there are just too many adverse situations that he has created, lots of scandals, economic downturn & negative op-eds & media reporting (finally) that are spiralling out of his control. And we all know what a control freak he is.

These meetings with opposition leaders give me the creeps. It would be fine if he was actually willing to work with the opposition but he doesn't & never has, with the exception of the mission in Afghanistan. My sense is that after the meetings he will somehow blame M. Dion for being unable to come to an agreement, whether it is Dion and/or the others. He will solely blame Dion.

Again, calling by-elections when I'm sure he already was planning for an election is just another under-handed game plan to have the other parties spend their sorely lacking finances, while Harper's war coffers are overflowing.

Harper is a man of zero integrity or accountability. It will be interesting to see how the public perceives him in an upcoming election. And I'm not talking his base. They've been suckered in & mesmerized by him from the start.

It is vital that during an election the Liberals connect ALL the dots & hammer away with every scandal, every obfuscation, every non-transparent & hidden action perpetrated by this man upon an unsuspecting, & still, mostly, unaware nation & it's people.

Anonymous said...

"There is no evidence of a government in Canada ever being *punished* by the electorate for calling an unnecessary election."

Except David Peterson when Bob Rae beat him...

ottlib said...

Grumpy, I give you the election of 1997 as a prime example.

Things were going great for PM Chretien so he decided to pull the plug early. He ran against a very divided main opponent and they had just announced the first budget surplus in decades.

They lost 20 seats.

I was working on The Hill at that time, for an Ottawa MP, so I had a vested interest in using my personal time to campaign with that MP. So, in the evenings and on weekends I would go out and knock on doors and one of the most common complaints was the early election call. It rankled.

I remember that election night was bittersweet. We Liberals were celebrating another majority government (just) but I knew a large number of assistance that I used to drink and bullshit with would be looking for new jobs soon after.

For me that was the biggest political mistake Mr. Chretien ever made in his time as PM. Fortunately, he had a 23 seat cushion, a strengthing economy, a main opposition that was hopelessly divided and a good team to back him up and he needed all of it to succeed that election day.

As well Grumpy, I suggest you send your comments to David Peterson to receive his views on whether voters punish governments for calling unnecessary elections.

If Mr. Harper decides to call an election himself it is a huge political risk and there really is no way he can finesse him breaking his own law and his word to his advantage. At best, he can muddy the waters enough so that he is not directly blamed and only a general grumpiness is created amongst the electorate. But even in that situation the sitting government is usually at a disadvantage.

knb: I have seen this before, both from within and without, so I will believe an election call when it actually happens.

knb said...

penlan, you make some excellent points, but you base them in reality.

That's not Harper's world.

You are right, he'll blame Dion, but Dion is not about to fall for this nonsense.

It's going to be an interesting Fall for we wonks.

knb said...

ottlib, I defer to your inside, previous knowledge, but this looks like a done deal.

penlan said...

" knb said...
penlan, you make some excellent points, but you base them in reality."

Hmmm - I don't know what you mean by that, knb. The based in reality part. Would you mind explaining?

I'm either dense or not awake

knb said...

Lol, penlan. I have no idea what I intended by that comment. I was answering comments while having a conversation here.

Sorry about that.

I think I was referring to the fact that Harper creates his own world. Your observations and strategy suggestions were correct, but it's anyone's guess how Harper will react or counter attack.

Note to self - Don't try to do 2 things at once, ;).

RuralSandi said...

We know that Harper has wooed and manipulated Jack Layton.

Layton and Duceppe have already decided it's not time (after all that blustering).

So, here's the game. If Dion says he'd go along with Harper - Layton will pound on his chest saying Dion is weak and supporting this government. If Dion says no - Layton will blame Dion for the election. Do you suppose Harper and Layton have already been talking? I wouldn't be surprised.

Meanwhile, Layton has been playing the so-called principled guy who votes no to everything Conservative and wanting an election NOW - since day one because the onus is not on him.
Layton certainly has become Harper's puppet and a political sleaze as well.

penlan said...


Thanks for the least I know I wasn't being dense. ;)


I'm completely with you on that. I'm not surprised that Layton would backtrack & be willing to support Harper. Layton's favourite pastime is bashing the Libs. Which makes him a Con supporter even if his words say the opposite.

And Duceppe only cares about Quebec, could care less about the rest of the country, & the Bloc are down in the polls there so why have an election now if he would lose seats. It wouldn't look good in the eyes of his base.

Anonymous said...

I agree with "the grumpy voter".

Everybody agrees that the time for an election has come and the manner in which it finally comes about will matter little in how people vote.

The election should be about the issues and what the parties propose to deal with the problems facing the country.

Final Spin said...

Stephen Harper is walking in Julius Caesar’s footsteps - it’s clear to anyone reading the War Commentaries. For those who haven’t, the demonstration is here: