06 December 2008

Peter Responds

With the, ur, "short" version. Hey, I report, you decide:

1) With 38% of the popular vote, Harper wins a strong minority government in October in a field of five parties, four of a leftist bent. He is twelve seats short of a majority. He wins his first confidence motion, but then clumsily issues a budget statement with controversial budget cuts including one that will reduce the funding base of the other parties. Harper has a lot of strengths, but overt petulant partisanship is his Achilles Heel.

2) Completely out of the blue, the three opposition parties (the Greens won no seats), including the separatist-in-principle-but-we-promise-not-until-some-vague-future-date-we-need-not-specify-now Bloc Quebecois that has never been included in government in any way, announce a Liberal/NDP (socialist)coalition with promised Bloc support that moves non-confidence and announces it is ready to govern when the Cons are defeated. They then argue that the Governor-General, the royal representative, is constitutionally obliged to invite them to form a government and refuse Harper's request for an election because we just had one. They are all broke from the last election and only the Tories are in good financial health. Several constitutional experts, who finally get their fifteen minutes of fame after spending many lonely years mastering arcane legal/historical stuff nobody gives a crap about, agree. Pandemonium, because there are only days to the motion. Harper, who controls the parliamentary agenda, adjourns it for a week to Dec 8th.

3) The week is crazy and increasingly very disturbing because the rhetoric moves to overheat and everybody is nakedly partisan at a time the country wants steady-as-she-goes leadership. It becomes apparent the coalition was in the works long before the budget statement. Harper offers to backtrack on the most controversial items, but there is no stopping them now. Trouble is, the Liberal leader is an unpopular wimp who blew the election and resigned a few days later, effective a leadership convention next May that already has several declared candidates out campaigning, so who will the new PM be? It has to be a Liberal because they have by far the most seats, but they have no credible leader. Internal uncertainty and tensions about that surface until it is decided he will anyway, which does the coalition no good at all in popular support;

4) The big issue seems to be whether the GG, who rushes home from a diplomatic sojourn in Europe, will grant the election it is presumed Harper will ask for because it looks like he might cream the leaderless Libs. Never in my life have so many Canadians learned so much about the fabled royal perogative. Brit will know all about this, but basically the Crown does what the Government requests and advises 99.99999% of the time. However, there are theoretical reserve powers to act independantly if Parliament is being subverted or in times of crisis;

5) Then it starts to become clear Harper will not wait for the vote, but will instead ask the GG to prorogue Parliament (formally ending the session which requires royal assent, as opposed to just adjourning for a few weeks which the House decides itself by majority vote) before so everybody can take a Valium until late January. Same wild debate as to whether she is compelled to agree just weeks after the last election and with a theoretical alternative government to call on. Constitutional experts get a second fifteen minutes of fame. The coalition screams about subverting democracy and governing as a dictator, yada, yada. It first looks like Harper's move is a cowardly dealing from the bottom of the deck, but as everybody starts to get alarmed by the turmoil and alternatives, support for it grows because the alternatives (coalition government or another election) are both so unpopular. Everybody, including me, starts thinking: "This is neither fun nor funny anymore."

6) It would take too long to explain, but the mess is terribly divisive and divides the country badly, both politically and regionally. Pundits work 24/7. Disgust for politicians and the process spikes. The public wants cooperation and statesmanship has other things on their minds like keeping their jobs. The coalition really hasn't got its act together because they hate and distrust one another personally as much as they hate the Tories publically.

7) Thursday the GG grants the request to prorogue and the air rushes out of the balloon. National polls start to show strong anti-coalition feeling and Harper's support soars except in Quebec and show he would sweep to a majority. Uh-oh, nice play, Shakespeare. Dissension in the ranks of the left emerge and many say the coalition won't last. If just 12 of the opposition M.P.'s refuse to vote or vote with the Tories, it's game, set, match to Harper, and a few start questionning it publically. Leftist blogs start infighting about the disaster, which of course is all blamed on Tory lies and spin. The coalition starts to descend into buffoonery, such as failing to get the tape of it's leader's address to the nation to TV feed stations in Ottawa in time for specially scheduled national statements. A delicious, much-quoted quip from a radio talk show is that is looks like "Arrogance vs. The Three Stooges".

So, the country is going to take a break for a nice Christmas dinner and nobody has a clue about January. Harper is the clear winner but only in the relative context of an overall bilious disgust with politicians.

Finger-pointing all around, but we of the post-Judd Alliance all know that the real reason for this incredibly risky failed gambit is that conservative governments are offences against progress and the Enlightenment, if not history itself.

David: Actually, I'll put it down to what a bad idea Parliamentary government is.


Anonymous said...

After the week we've all been through, it seemed very short.

And after a near-lifetime of watching you folks go through 1/1/2year pimaries and elections that cost billions and bring you two speeches away from another civil war every four years, I'll stick with Parliament, thanks. Besides, our GG is rather foxy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot link.