Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Forget King-Byng, Remember Clark-Schreyer

"Mr. Clark was defeated on a budget seven months after the election that brought his Tories to power. He asked Edward Schreyer, then the Governor-General, for a dissolution of Parliament. Mr. Schreyer, quite properly and according to constitutional convention, asked the Liberals, under Pierre Trudeau, whether they could govern with a working majority in the House of Commons."

I don't agree with many of the points in the Globe editorial (did they forget they endorsed Stephane Dion for Liberal leader originally?), but I assume they have their facts straight on what happened in 1979. At that time, Joe Clark had a minority with a slightly greater percentage of seats in the House than Stephen Harper currently does. 7 months, not 7 weeks had passed since the election. And there was no formal deal between opposition parties. Yet even considering all that Shreyer denied Clark's request for dissolution and asked the leader of the official opposition if he could form a government. Trudeau refused and that was his right, but the precedent in the upcoming case is obviously clear, Stephane Dion must be given the opportunity to demonstrate he can govern with majority support in the House of Commons.

Governor General Jean's decision should never rest on a PR war, polls, rallies, petitions or any other kind of public display. Her decision should rest solely on her constitutional responsibilities and ample precedents, not just from 1979 in our system but dozens of precedents from other countries that also carry our system. If Conservatives can't accept the Westminister Parliamentary model we have and the role of the Governor General perhaps they should advocate constitutional change, but you can't do an end run around our constitution just because you don't like the result. The formation of coalitions is common enough with this system (just take a look at other countries that have it and whose government have been managed well) and the ONLY reason the Conservatives oppose it this time is because they will lose power.

They were fine with the Governor General handing over power to Stephen Harper without an election in 2004, why the problem now?

They were fine with the "separatists" being the ONLY party to prop them up on confidence votes for almost the first full TWO YEARS of their last government, why the problem now?

I expect no response from a single Blogging Tory.

This is no undemocratic power grab. Harper has lost the right to govern, it's nobody's fault but his own (even many Conservatives admit this) and there is a coalition waiting in place to govern better and more in the interests of all Canadians. I hope Harper just accepts his fate, doesn't run, and the Governor General respects precedent and allows a new government to assume power. Not only is it the right thing to do constitutionally, it's what's best for Canada and Parliament during these troubled times as well.

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Anonymous said...

Excellent comment.

What I think some people fail to realize is this is one of the FUNDAMENTAL aspects of a Parliamentary system. It is distinctly devised to require a government - especially a minority one - to compromise as much (or as little - being honest) as possible to ensure a measure of demonstrable confidence exists in order to move things forward.

That is one of the reasons nations often adopt Parliamentary systems instead of Presidential systems such as the US. Yes, Canada, ends up we are different after all.

It is the beauty of a Parliamentary system, NOT a source of rallying cries for Prime Ministers who fail to sustain a rather strong minority (with the emphasis on minority). It's quite a singular accomplishment for Harper to have united 3 parties so completely.

Greg Eston said...

I'm not a "Tory Blogger". I don't have an affiliation with any political party on a regular basis. In the past I have voted for Pierre Trudeau and John Turner (Although I have to admit that I haven't voted Liberal since you guys stole all the sponsorship money and nobody was held accountable for it). I have also voted for Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris too.
I have seen politicians do a lot of nasty things over the last 40 years. However, I don't think I have ever seen anything as morally repugnant as what you are suggesting right here. You are advocating a deal with a Political entity whose sole purpose in life is to break up our country (And never mind that rubbish about "separation not being on the agenda right now". The Bloc's whole reason for existence is to walk Quebec out of Confederation period). What's your rationale for charting this path? "If it was ok for Harper in the past, then it's ok for us to do it too"!
EARTH TO LIBERALS! IT WAS WRONG FOR HARPER TO ADVOCATE IT IN THE PAST TOO! Just like it's wrong to do it today. How did your party become such ethical bottom feeders in 30 short years? I didn't agree with everything that Trudeau did but I always respected the fact that he loved the "Country" more than he craved power. You people seem to exist in a moral vacuum no longer being able to differentiate what's right from wrong and justifying "ANY" means as long as it gets you the power.

Danielle Takacs said...

The Bloc are not part of the coalition government. Haper has absolutely poisoned the well and there is ZERO chance of the Liberals or NDP ever supporting his government.

There are two choies at this time:
A Conservative government propped up by the Bloc
A Liberal-NDP government propped up by the Bloc OR the Conservatives

What has the best chance of making this Parliament work? The Bloc has the deciding vote either way, you may not like it, but we can't do anything about that at this point. Another election and they'd still likely have the deciding vote that is democracy.

Not to mention 44% of people voted for the Liberals/NDP compared to HArper and 62% of Canadians voted against Harper as PM.

Harper is COMPLETELY RESPONSIBLE for creating this situation. EVERYONE acknowledges that. It's time for him to go, he and his party have lost confidence of the House. Precedent and constitution compels the governor general to see if someone else can command the majority of the House's support.

If the Liberal-NDP coalition does take government, WHAT STOPS the Conservatives from supporting it on matters where they agree over the next 2.5 years? Why does it have to be only the Bloc that props them up? Harper has destroyed any sense of cooperation in the new House of Commons, there is a chance to restore it again but only with a new government.

Greg Eston said...

Forget Harper! I don't give a crap whose "Fault" this is or if Harper's Gov't survives next week or not. who are you trying to convince here? Do you actually think that Gilles Duceppe will be content to be the "Ugly Step-Child" that you "high-thinking" Liberals and NDPr's tolerate but largely ignore? Give your head a shake! You'll have to allow him to govern otherwise he'll be cutting another deal with Harper in 3 months. Then "YOUR" minority (and I emphasise 'MINORITY') comes crashing down around your ears! (Now who's bringing the Dysfunction to Parliament?). There's the coffin-nailed-shut! As soon as you allow Gilles to help make policy there will be nothing left of the Liberal Soul! (Even though I didn't believe there was much left after Adscam, I always hoped that there would be some force out there that could restore a modicum of Liberal Integrity.) This is the kind of thinking that has disconnected the Canadian people from all of you political pundits (as witnessed by the turnout in the last election). Start doing the "Right" thing instead of the most expedient thing that will get you in power.

WesternGrit said...

Uh... Greg? Earth to Greg? I don't think you understood Danielle's post (or simply refuse to), let alone the nature of the Liberal-NDP coalition. The ONLY thing the Bloc EVER agreed to was no votes against the Liberal/NDP Coalition for the first 18 months. After that, all bets are off. Gilles Duceppe may have other "wishes", but the condition of the Quebec electorate dictates that he keep a working moderate government in Ottawa - and not one that spits down the collective throats of Quebecers.

In the Middle East, it took bringing the PLO (real separatists) into formal government structures to end their "independence" quest (I'm talking about Fatah, not Hamas). Separatists separate because they feel their voices aren't being heard on issues important to them. In the case of Quebec SOVEREIGNISTS this means a solid social framework, etc. This coalition - which does NOT include them (it's there online, if you want to, or care to, read it) - does address Quebec concerns (about the arts, social framework, human rights, etc.), which makes it good for Quebecers. The Bloc would be silly not to support their policies over Harper's.

Keep in mind that the Bloc IS NOT part of the coalition, meaning NOT at the table when budgets would be made, or cabinet decisions.

Conservatives try to terrorize Canadians by framing the Quebec demands as simply "separation from Canada", when in reality, what Conservatives themselves are more afraid of (the Bloc "agenda") is more left-center policy, undoing any of the right-wing changes Harper has made. Conservatives are terrified of a left-center government in Ottawa - not about Quebec Sovereignty. Through the 80s, 90s, and 00s, Reform windbags out West (where I reside) screamed about "let Quebec go if they want to". Conservatives don't care about the break-up of the country - they prefer it, since it would leave English Canada, and a chance for them to form a majority. The only thing these ideologues worry about is a center-left coalition which might bring this country into the 21st Century, on par with Western European Liberal Democracies.

Oh... One more fact: Your bullshit about "no-one" being called to task on AdScam is a joke. People were tried and sentenced. It amounted to people like Guite (who also worked for Mulroney, doing the same kind of stuff). The main "scammers" ran ad agencies (which also did work for the PQ, the PCs, and they were also sentenced. A couple of them had memberships to the Liberal Party in Quebec (at one point), but also held membership to other parties (depending on whom they did business with - works the same in Alberta and Sask). A police investigation was conducted. Trials were held. This was the extent of it. Harper blew it out of proportion (of course), as this was the only way he could get his minority. You need to get the facts, before you write stuff down. If you need more proof, search it out online - even do to the site of the reporter who first started covering it...

Anonymous said...

Great post and an excellent point on historical precedent. That said, I have to disagree with one of the comments above. You say that there is Zero chance of the Liberals or NDP ever supporting Harper's government. I disagree on both fronts. If the Conservatives come back with a budget that makes major concessions to the opposition, the Liberals will basically be compelled to support it since the general public reaction to a coalition has been fairly negative for the Liberals. That said, there is no guarantee the Conservatives will do that; the next month will be an interesting one regardless. As for the NDP, obviously it would take an enormous change in government policy for the NDP to support a Conservative budget. However, Jack has been very clear for a very long time that the NDP is willing to work with any party as long as the policies that come out of such an arrangement move Canada closer to the NDP's vision. I think the odds of Harper making that kind of 180 on policy are next to zero, but in my short time of watching politics I've learned to never rule anything out entirely.

Danielle Takacs said...

I have to say thanks to Saskboy for linking to this almost forgotten post. Though Devin, I should point out this post was written on December 2nd when (if memory serves) the idea that Harper would prorogue had not yet been put forth. I wrote my comment fully expecting there would be a confidence vote on December 8th. That didn't happen.

Things are dramatically different now. I would say most of all since Dec. 2nd polls have shown the coalition to much less popular than the Liberals had likely hoped for. It doesn't change my support of it, but it has caused many previous supporters to worry that the GG would not allow the coalition to take power (though I maintain it would inapropriate for her to take polls into account) and that Liberals would be punished later even if the coalition did take power. That and Harper's backtracking on numerous fronts (though I still think he has a ways to go to show he's actually changed) make it A LOT more likely he'll survive past January. In fact I'd say the odds he will be voted down in January are now extremely slim.

That's not to say that's my desired outcome (I spelled out my view on what I think Liberals should consider when voting on the budget in this post), but that's the reality as we stand today.