Tag Archives: unionist

Coalitions, Liberals and Democracy


Over the last couple of weeks there has been a resurrection of the idea of a coalition government.  Should the Conservative Party win another minority in a future election, the losing parties would form a “coalition”, with the Liberal Party at the helm, and take over control of government.

Coalition governments are quite common in the other commonwealth countries.  In fact, the UK just recently formed a coalition government between the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats.  However, they are decidedly rare in Canadian politics.  So rare, that there has been only one federal coalition in the entire history of the country.

This coalition was Robert Borden’s Unionist government of 1917.  After winning a majority government, Borden’s Conservative Party formed a coalition with the Liberal’s in order to present a united political front in response to World War 1.  It quickly fell apart after the conclusion of the war and ended completely with Borden’s retirement in 1920.

There is one common factor that I would like to point out from my two examples above:  the winning party created the coalition!

When Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, recently said “losers don’t get to form coalitions” he was correct.  In a coalition government, the elected party seeks an alliance with one or more of their rivals for the purpose of strengthening the democratically elected government.  This is more common with minority governments, as a coalition will usually give them a majority in parliament.  However, as we saw from Borden’s example, majority governments also employ coalitions if they feel it’s warranted.

In December 2008, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois attempted to form a “coalition” government with the Liberals at the helm.  They reasoned that while more Canadians had voted for Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, the majority of Canadians had not.  Therefore, in their minds, they were justified in taking over leadership of the country.

There are a few glaring problems with that idea though:

1)      None of the three parties involved had been elected to power.  They were not trying to strengthen the existing government. They were trying to unseat it.

2)      The Liberal Party leader, Stephane Dion, would have become the leader of this new government.  In the recently held election, Canadians had already declared that they did not want Mr Dion to lead the country.

3)      All three parties would have veto power in this coalition government.  In real world application, the Liberals and NDP would regularly agree on policy.  The Bloc Quebecois, however, is a separatist party and often disagrees with the other parties on key issues.  Even though Liberal leader, Mr Dion, would “officially” be the leader of the opposition, in reality, Bloc leader, Gilles Duceppe would have been calling the shots.  The Liberals and the NDP would have effectively handed leadership over to a party whose primary goal is to break-up the country.

I’ll take this opportunity to remind people of a legal term that isn’t often heard in modern society:

sedition [sɪˈdɪʃən]
n
1. speech or behaviour directed against the peace of a state
2. (Law) an offence that tends to undermine the authority of a state
3. (Law) an incitement to public disorder
4. Archaic revolt
[from Latin sēditiō discord, from sēd- apart + itiō a going, from īre to go]

Dion, Duceppe and NDP leader Jack Layton were lucky not to be charged with sedition after their ill-fated coup attempt in December 2008.  Will Layton and current Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, be so fortunate if they try the same trick again?

If there is one thing that has become abundantly clear over the last several years, it’s that the Liberal Party of Canada is more interested in power than democracy.  An inability to admit their mistakes, an unwillingness to listen to the people whom they represent, and an overwhelming arrogance in their own righteousness, has led to plummeting support for the Liberals.

The party is on the verge of imploding, and these ridiculous coalition attempts are nothing more than the desperate actions of desperate politicians.  Rather than accepting the consequences for years of bad leadership and even worse legislation, they are grasping at straws for any chance to reclaim power.

It’s time for the Liberal Party to start listening to their constituents.  Maybe then, they’ll finally realize that their problem isn’t ineffective leadership or the “evil” Stephen Harper.  Their problem is a complete inability to accept that the interests of Canadians are far more important than the interests of a few elitist politicians.

Edit

I wanted to make a quick update to clear up a point of confusion in my post. 

When I said that the winning party forms a coalition, I didn’t mean to state that only the winning party can form a coalition.  Legally, any of the parties are allowed to form one.  Tradition stands that the party with the most votes has first crack at forming a government.  If they are unable to do so, then any party can step up and try.

The issue in Canada is the Bloc Quebecois.  The Liberals and NDP combined still have fewer seats than the Conservatives.  It would be very difficult for them to form a minority government without the Bloc, and Canadians won’t allow them to form a coalition with the Bloc.

So while it is perfectly legal for the losers to form a coalition government, with the number of parties in our political system and the presence of the Bloc, it’s virtually impossible.

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Prorogation and Propaganda


I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m sick to death of hearing the word “prorogue”.  The lies, disinformation and manufactured hype surrounding Harper’s recent prorogation of parliament are starting to wear a bit thin.

Contrary to what the Liberals and their opposition cohorts would have you believe, prorogation is a legitimate, and common, parliamentary tool used in the Commonwealth Parliaments of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.  Granted, it has a history of being used in a more questionable manner in Canada than anywhere else in the world, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a legitimate parliamentary process [check out this page for more information on prorogation].

In the 142 years since Sir John A MacDonald became the first Prime Minister of Canada, our parliament has been prorogued 105 times.  That works out to roughly once every 16 months – hardly a rare event. 

During his tenure, Liberal PM Pierre Trudeau prorogued parliament 11 times in 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1983.  More recently, Liberal PM Jean Chretien prorogued parliament 4 times in 1996, 1999, 2002, and 2003.  On the provincial level, Ontario Premier Bob Rae (and federal Liberal Party leader candidate) prorogued the legislative assembly 3 times in 1991, 1992, and 1994.

I can hear the Liberal shills screaming right now, “But it’s not the same thing!  Harper is trying to dodge responsibility!”  Really?  Kind of like when Jean Chretien prorogued in 2003 to avoid the auditor general’s release of the report on AdScam, the sponsorship scandal in Quebec?

I don’t know enough about the “Afghan Detainee” controversy to say that it was a factor in Harper’s decision to prorogue parliament this winter.  I do understand basic math though.  According to the information given to the public thus far, the first reports of prisoner abuse were submitted to the government in “early” 2006.  Stephen Harper was sworn into office on Feb 2, 2006.  That means the alleged torture was already taking place before he came into office, under Paul Martin’s Liberal government.  Could Harper have done more to address the issue?  I don’t know enough to say either way, but I do know enough to say that shutting down the special committee saves the Liberal Party from public scrutiny just as much, if not more so, than the Conservatives. 

If it wasn’t Afghanistan, why did Harper prorogue? I’m not a mind reader, but I have an idea or two.  If Prime Minister Harper has shown us one thing over the last three and a half years, it’s that he is a very shrewd and adept political strategist.  From my untrained perspective I can see two issues that are of much more importance than Afghanistan to the PM right now: the Senate and the budget.

The current breakdown of the Senate is as follows:

Affiliation Senators
  Conservative Party 46
  Liberal Party 49
  Progressive Conservative Caucus 2
  Independent 2
  No Affiliation 1
  Vacant 5
 Total as of January 2, 2010 105

If Harper uses this time to fill those 5 vacant seats, the balance of power in the Senate will tip to the Conservatives.  The Liberals, of course, are protesting this, saying that the PM will now be able to “ram through” his legislation.  Kind of like the Liberals have been doing for the last 30 years then, no?

That brings us to the budget.  With the entire world teetering on the brink of economic collapse (you didn’t think the recession was over did you?) I can’t think of a single more important issue for the PM to be addressing right now.  By proroguing, the PM has timed things so that the budget will be delivered as soon as parliament reconvenes and left the opposition parties little time to mount a protest against it.  This is both good and bad: bad because some questionable items may be pushed through without proper consideration; good because it effectively limits the ability of the opposition to topple the minority government. 

I can hear the protests already, “But..but..that’s undemocratic!”  No.  That’s simply the reality of our style of government – especially minority government.  People seem to have forgotten that minority governments are not so much about running the country as they are about political survival.  This is by no means new to Stephen Harper, but the general public tends to have a short memory.

Speaking of democracy, the Liberal Party is in no position to preach on that topic.  After all, it was their attempt to stage a coup against the democratically elected government of Canada that prompted the 2008 prorogation of parliament.  In Canada’s 142 years since confederation there has only ever been one coalition government.  That government was formed in 1917 when Robert Borden’s Unionist party – who had won a clear majority – requested a coalition with the Liberal Party during World War 1.  No matter which way you try to spin it, the Liberal Party’s attempt, with the help of the NDP and the Bloc, to usurp power from the Conservative Party can be called nothing other than a coup d’etat.  So no, they are in absolutely no position to speak on the topic of democracy.

On the topic of the people voicing their opinions, there were organized protests against prorogation held in 32 communities across the country yesterday.  Only 25,000 people turned up nationwide, including a mere 3,500 in Ottawa.  In 1994, by comparison, 10,000 protesters marched on Ottawa alone in an attempt to stop the passage of C-68, now known as the Firearms Act.  The people have spoken on the issue of prorogation, and they don’t care.

Cutting through all the media hype, sensationalism and fear-mongering, I think Harper’s decision had much more to do with political strategy than dodging responsibility.  Even if he did elect to prorogue because of the Afghan issue, he hasn’t prevented an inquiry, he has merely delayed it.  Regardless of his motives, his decision to prorogue was a gamble, and only time will tell if it was a mistake.