Sunday, November 30, 2008

No confidence in a power hungry Harper

Canada's Conservative Party, ignoring the economic crisis, have opted for a high stakes gamble to force a fresh election and Conservative majority. Canada’s Prime Minister is known as a man who gets up in the morning with a determination to destroy his political opponents.

Harper's ridiculous act of political brinksmanship has taken an economic crisis and made it into a political crisis. it has encouraged an unprecedented coalition of Liberals and New Democrats. A coalition prepared to take over the reigns of government.

Instead of reaching out, as leader of a minority government and as president-elect Barack Obama is doing by talking to moderate Republicans, he smacked his opponents in the chops.

Instead of heeding the advice of economists everywhere that the economy needs stimulus, he got his Minister of Finance to present a budget that offered cutbacks and tiny surpluses that absolutely no one believes will be realized.

Instead of supporting the fight against political corruption and vote buying they plan to eliminate a $1.95-per-vote annual tax subsidy for political parties. The plan would all but cripple the opposition, while saving the treasury a paltry $30-million.

Faced with Harper’s folly the opposition parties have cobbled several variations of a motion to go to parliament next week. These range from a call to turn the focus back to the economy through to a full on non-confidence motion which:

  • denounces the Conservatives' handling of the economy
  • expresses that the House has lost confidence in the Conservative government
  • expresses that in the opinion of the House, an alternative government can be formed from existing Members of the Parliament

So what would this Liberal led coalition offer in its economic package? According to the party’s finance spokesman Scott Brison measures to be considered would include:

  • an increase and an acceleration of infrastructure measures, with a particular focus on green infrastructure
  • an increase in support for Research and Development measures that can take place in the short-term
  • working with provinces to improve programs for Canadian workers to train and retrain as part of life-long learning to help them cope with current and future economic realities
  • working with manufacturing, forestry and auto sector leaders to develop measures that help strengthen their position during this crisis.

With regards to the auto sector, we would not continue to be a bystander in these important ongoing negotiations in the U.S., seeking to be a more active stakeholder given that Canada represent 14 per cent of the auto industry in North America.

We would also convene an immediate First Ministers conference to partner with provinces to ensure the stimulus comes into effect quickly and makes an impact now in the downturn, but also contributes to greater productivity and prosperity in the future as the global economy recovers.

Curiously, according to recent polling, the majority of Canadians believe the Conservatives are best suited to delivering on the economy. In the face clear evidence that Harper is more concerned about politics than he is about the country’s wellbeing that sentiment might be at risk.

But to give the country confidence in a potential coalition the Liberals must show some real spine and resolve their leadership issues. Even if it goes back to the wider membership in due course the federal caucus and party executive need to bite the bullet in the short term and install workable leadership.

One major display of a country first attitude would surely involve putting ego aside for the sake of wider interests. Any potential coalition must be predicated on the public interest over petty politics.


Kvatch said...

Curiously, according to recent polling, the majority of Canadians believe the Conservatives are best suited to delivering on the economy.

Worked here in the United States for the better part of twenty-five years. But, with luck, the liberal led coalition will take over and deliver, forcing a reevaluation.

Cart said...

I rather fear the big L liberals might have a few issues with the small liberals on this one. I hope not, but it seems to be the way of human nature.

D.K. Raed said...

I hate to show my ignorance, but when is the next Canadian election? Seems like they just had one, so I guess Harper is in for awhile. Well, maybe he will pull a Bush and cripple his party's chances in their next election.

Cart said...

Ahhh, DK. Your northern neighbour has a parliamentary democracy (constitutional monarchy and all). There is a fixed term of four years now, but Harper who initiated that provision broke it to hold the election six weeks ago.
The basic rule is that parties don't exist, constitutionally, only elected representatives. If the government loses the confidence of a majority of those representatives it can be replaced.
After six weeks, and if a majority of representatives can guarantee a stable government the existing government can be replaced without recourse to elections.

D.K. Raed said...

See I knew I'd reveal my ignorance. Our parties don't exist constitutionally either, but in Canada's case, it sounds like it's less "party" and more "ideology"? And then, just when I think I understand the basics of the parliamentary system, you throw in a phrase like "guarantee a stable govt" can that be guaranteed?!!

Cart said...

"guarantee a stable govt"... The key here is not so much a guarantee as a promise (accord in this situation) by a majority of representatives to support the proposed government (Prime Minister and Cabinet) over a set period of time. This allows the Governor General (in this case) to agree to a change of leadership in the ‘house’.
There are, of course, no real guarantees – short of lynching anyone who undermines the accord. The last accord I experienced was broken by an attempt to bribe a member to ‘cross the floor’, in the process bringing the government down. That resulted in a fresh election.
The main thing is that the Queen’s representative must be satisfied the proposed new government will enjoy the confidence of the house for a reasonable period. Failing that a fresh election can be called straight away.

D.K. Raed said...

Thanks for explaining all that, Cart. It certainly provides an easier way to get rid of bad leaders, I'll give it that. Though it also sounds like it'd be too easy to get of someone who might be popular with the people but unpopular with parliament. hmmmm, well, it's always something! Wow, so there is a "Queen's Representative" to satisfy? Sounds so oddly formal for such a low-blood pressure country!