The Government May Fall
Did you realize that there is a political crisis raging in the North? Well, maybe my friends in Western New York realize it, especially the hockey lovers and Molson drinkers. But the rest of the country isn’t that well served by the media. The Canadian government is in the midst political machinations that will have far reaching ramifications. From The Economist:
Only seven weeks ago Stephen Harper, the prime minister, won a second term for his Conservative government, but once again without winning a parliamentary majority. Now the three disparate opposition parties—the centrist Liberals, the socialist New Democrats (NDP) and the separatist Bloc Québécois—have ganged up in order to oust the Conservatives and replace them with a centre-left coalition. That left Mr Harper scrabbling for survival.
The name Québécois has meaning for those of us who remember the ’60s and the french-speaking separatists who sought the political independence of Quebec from the rest of Canada. A little history: Some in Quebec have sought independence from Canada. Although the reasons for this have roots in founding of the country, the politics takes its modern form with René Levesque and the Parti Québécois in 1968. They faned the flames of frankophone nationalism, starting with the passage of French language-only laws.
This was reflected in the change of the provincial Legislative Assembly to National Assembly in 1968. Nationalism reached an apex the 1970s and 1990s, with contentious constitutional debates resulting in close to half of all Québécois and a clear majority of French-speaking Québécois seeking recognition of nation status through tight referendums on Quebec sovereignty in 1980 and 1995. Having lost both referendums, the sovereignist Parti Québécois government renewed the push for recognition as a nation through symbolic motions that gained the support of all parties in the National Assembly. They affirmed the right to determine the independent status of Quebec.
It got tense enough that by 1970 bombs were thrown.
[M]ore radical groups, taking inspiration from Fidel Castro, created some very un-Canadian mayhem. They bombed public places and kidnapped some high profile Canadian and British officials.
But this week politics replaced bombs. The opposition parties formed a coalition that threatened to bring down the Canadian Government, elected only seven weeks ago.
So wait – Did the voters change their mind since the election in October, and no longer want Harper to form a conservative-led government? Doubtful. But the majority did not want the conservatives to form the government. Only the plurality did. They only got more votes than any of the (splintered) liberal parties. What happened since October is the economic crisis. The Harper government has not handled it well (or at least, not popularly).
This sudden decision to stage a political coup was prompted by a government economic statement on November 27th. The ostensible reason for opposition outrage was that Jim Flaherty, the finance minister, offered no new measures to stimulate the economy. But that smacks of a pretext: despite alarmist headlines, for now the economy remains in relatively good shape.
What really provoked the opposition parties was that, having said there was no need for extraordinary measures, Mr Flaherty threw in some highly partisan ones: a big cut in public funding for political parties; a ban on strikes by public-service unions; and measures making it harder for women civil servants to complain if they are not paid the same as men.
The minority leftist parties became united against Harper and the conservatives, and threatened to take over the government. What could Harper do? Why, he could disband the parliment, of course. And so he did.
On Thursday December 4th he asked Michaëlle Jean, who as governor-general acts as Canada’s head of state, to suspend Parliament until January. After a two-hour meeting, she agreed to do so. That means that for now Mr Harper has dodged a confidence vote scheduled for December 8th that the opposition parties, provided they stick together, were bound to win. The opposition holds 163 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.
Barely two months after the last election, Harper has to call another. With the economic downturn, how could he possibly have a chance?
Quite easily, it seems. Especially if the liberal opposition is busy shooting itself in the foot. Ed Morrissey explains.
A new poll shows that a majority of Canadians would have wanted a new election instead, and that 46% would support the Conservatives – higher than during the last election:
Almost three-quarters of Canadians say they are “truly scared” for the future of the country and a solid majority say they would prefer another election to having the minority Conservative government replaced by a coalition led by Stephane Dion, a new Ipsos-Reid poll says.
And you thought Plaxico Burress was the only one who shot himself in the leg in the last week! The Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois made a serious error. For some strange reason, they assumed that the voters had thoroughly regretted the votes cast just seven weeks earlier and would welcome their leadership – even though voters had sent more Conservatives to Parliament in October and Dion himself had already agreed to resign his Liberal Party leadership position as a result of his failure.
Now, not only have they confirmed that Conservatives make better leaders even in these troubled times, they’ve also convinced a majority that shutting down Parliament is a great idea, too. That means that the Liberals, NDP, and BQ won’t have any relevance at all for the next two months.
Canadians have taken to the idea of shutting down their parliment for a couple of months. What a great idea! Why didn’t we think of that???