Thursday, December 11, 2008

You Might Want to Regain the Confidence of the House Before You Try That Mr. Harper

The majority of MPs have expressed non confidence in Stephen Harper. He hasn't apologized or accepted responsibility for instigating a parliamentary, constitutional crisis when Canadians expected much better. But yet somehow he thinks that's still a license to go and make 18 patronage appointments to the Senate as Christmas presents to his party loyalists. What's the rush Mr. Harper? Stephen Harper's government doesn't have the legitimacy to make Senate appointments until he formally shows he has the confidence of the House. I think the opposition parties should make that clear and ask him to back down. If Harper is serious about governing in a responsible manner and working constructively with the opposition parties like he claims, then last minute partisan appointments seems a pretty strange way to show it.

Stephen Harper has a LONG way to go to get back the confidence of the House and if he goes through with these Senate appointments before the budget vote (which to boot would represent another in a seemingly endless line of broken promises) then he'll have made it clear that he's not at all prepared to change his ways. Stephen Harper has a choice here and this seems pretty brazen of someone who actually needs to turn a new leaf in order to survive in January. I think the opposition should make it abundantly clear that Harper has abused the powers of the Prime Minister's office far enough and we won't tolerate it any further. If he won't listen on this, then he won't likely listen on the budget either. This could be a good first test of whether Stephen Harper realizes that he doesn't have a majority.


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25 comments:

Jennifer Smith said...

No, really - this is a GOOD THING. By this simple act the man has terminally alienated his Reformer base and proven himself to be utterly without principle.

His days are truly numbered.

Chrystal Ocean said...

The fact that Harper can do this would suggest that the GG placed no conditions on the prorogation. Had she done so, then he'd not have been able to make appts to the Senate during this period.

Gene said...

By this simple act the man has terminally alienated his Reformer base ...

Given where Harper is now, i.e. with the real possibility of losing power come January, I would say that the 'base' won't mind one iota having him scrap his principles. I think that they may even applaud him for that. I think we make a mistake when we single out Harper for all that is going on. He may be the prime mover, but he's not alone in strategizing where we go from here. Yes, Manning! Indeed, this past week, it was the Manning Centre that was putting out columns entitled "In defence of Stephen Harper" in the National Post, the Financial Post & regional papers. It makes for a more difficult interpretation of the political landscape, but I think that it is necessary, especially when 'confidence' is involved.

lance said...

"The majority of MPs have expressed non confidence in Stephen Harper. "

Really? Did I miss a non-confidence vote somewhere?

Cheers,
lance

Danielle Takacs said...

Lance:
See here

Over 160 MPs signed that they had lost confidence in Stephen Harper's government. So yes my statement is completely correct.

Gene said...

It is said here that during the prorogation period "both the Senate and the House of Commons stand prorogued until the opening of the next session." Doesn't that entail that, like in the House of Commons, there cannot be any activity in the Senate during prorogation? Would he be able to appoint new senators before the government's speech from the throne, which must be delivered in order for the next session to commence? I guess we'll know soon enough.

burlivespipe said...

I guess Fortier won't have to cash those EI cheques anymore to buy grey poupon... What a harpocrite. Yes, Gene is probably right that the core supporter will suck it up just like when GWB pulled the same lame act. But I don't doubt that it will have a few of them questioning his viability as THEIR leader, short term and long term.
As to those other 10% who voted for him in the last election who aren't core supporters? My guess is that they are suffering from vertigo from shaking their head so much over the past few weeks.

Colin said...

"Over 160 MPs signed that they had lost confidence in Stephen Harper's government. So yes my statement is completely correct."

Signing statements doesn't mean anything, only bills going through the house of commons. The last confidence measure (The Speech From The Throne) passed on November 29th (which, BTW, was after the economic update).

WesternGrit said...

Harper has been stacking far more than the Senate... Look back at appointments over the past 2 years. Look carefully (I wish the media would too - but that would be too much to ask). Never have appointments been so skewed. Everyone on the Hill has been served notice that the appointments will all be Conservative - doesn't matter the board, directorship, council, etc. Liberal PMs always selected Senators and other appointees from ALL parties. Harper is quite simply a hypocrite and a liar. Remember the Reform base for years screaming about "patronage", and how, not only is it wrong, but they won't do it.

Yeah, whatever. They are doing it - and at an even more partisan level than ever before...

Skinny Dipper said...

Predictions on appointees:

Emmerson
Fortier
Mike Duffy
Craig Oliver
Wrath of Khan

penlan said...

Who says the GG didn't put conditions on the Prorogue? As we all know Harper does not go by rules or even his own laws. He even breaks them (think election). So what difference is it to him if he goes ahead & stacks the Senate right now.

IF this is illegal, seeing as the Senate is also prorogued, then any appointments he makes could, possibly, be overturned by a new govt.

Loraine Lamontagne said...

Will Harper follow in his predecessor's footstep and make bi-partisan appointments to the Senate - e.g., Hugh Segal?

Mr. Harper has for too long neglected to do his job as prime minister. It's about time that he appoints senator.

Now - let's see - is he a man of integrity - will he make bi-partisan appointments?

lance said...

No, Danielle, signing something doesn't mean anything. I realize that after the last session the Liberals may be unfamiliar with the concept of standing up to be counted, but really, that's the only thing that matters or can define confidence.

Cheers,
lance

Danielle Takacs said...

Lance/Collin:
Let's see I said "the majority of MPs have expressed non confidence in Stephen Harper"

And they signed a petition that "expressed" non confidence in Stephen Harper. In every sense that's literally true. If all Conservatives have in their defense is playing games of semantic meaning and abusing parliamentary procedures that really doesn't say much for your side.

Besides, everyone knows that had Harper not cancelled the confidence vote for this past Monday he would have lost. But sure go ahead and continue to believe that Harper has the full trust of the majority of MPs in the House.

As for others commenting on the Senate appointments. My view is that Harper was within his rights to appoint Senators in the past, but from the moment the majority of MPs indicated that they were planning to vote non confidence in his government he shouldn't appoint Senators until he wins a confidence vote, especially after cowardly suspending Parliament as he did. I think the opposition should make that point clear. If Harper wants to show he can change his ways, then he should just wait till after the budget vote before trying to make appointments.

Btw, Lance/Collin:
Must be exciting to see Harper break yet another of his promises eh?

lance said...

"Must be exciting to see Harper break yet another of his promises eh?"

Doesn't bother me a wit. He held off for three years, enabled Saskatchewan and New Brunswick (or was it NS?) to bring it forward.

Elected senators are coming whether it happens in a day or ten years.

I emailed the PMO about doing it so that if he did lose, at least the right would have a voice in the senate.

I phoned my MLA to express my displeasure at the coup and urged the Sask gov't to nominate some likely senators.

The proposed coup leaves Harper with no alternatives aside from the pragmatic.

If the Libs think this will get the goat of the base, they're way off-base.

Cheers,
lance

Colin said...

In the past few years Liberals have been very vocal outside of the HOC, but surprisingly absent (ie. the whole sit down for Canada campaign) when it comes to actually voting down the government. So all I'm saying is that nobody knows what would have happened. There were a lot of reluctant Liberals. I think the happiest one was Iggy because it gave him a way out of a lose-lose situation.

Harper's actions were sanctioned by the GG, while the coalition is dredging up parliamentary procedure that hasn't been used since the 20s. I'm not saying the coalition isn't technically legal, I'm saying that both sides are using parliamentary procedure to further their own agenda. Either their both right, or their both wrong.

The one part of the coalition that is in direct violation of procedure is the term of the agreement. In Canada unless you become PM on election night you are suppose to seek a mandate from the electorate within six months.

The Liberal GG didn't see any reason to limit what he could do as PM, so he is well within his rights.

Harper did what Canadians wanted him to do. Every single poll has said that. The coalition says that they have the support of Canadians but obviously they do not. In fact, it's rather ironic that it is the threat of coalition that has pushed the Conservative approval rating deep into majority territory.

Which promise is that? To reform the senate? Since the senate is stalling legislation, getting senators in there to promote reform is going to speed the process along. And by requiring them to step down when the legislation is passed it fulfills the democratic aspect of the senate. Is it ideal? No. But it's definitely a step in the right direction, which is more than I can say for any liberal leader.

Colin said...

"If the Libs think this will get the goat of the base, they're way off-base."

Absolutely. Any chance of that happening ended when "Elizabeth May" and "Senate" were used in the same sentence.

Danielle Takacs said...

My main point is that Harper has lost the trust/confidence in the literal sense of a majority of MPs. If he doesn't take some efforts to regain that confidence he won't survive the budget vote.
And since it's obvious he suspended Parliament to avoid losing the last scheduled vote I think it's really galling to see him appoint Senators in the interim and seems to be an abuse of the PM's office. I think he should hold off until he can demonstrate he clearly has the confindence of the House. It's not a good step to showing he's mended his ways as he has to.

And I don't doubt the base of the party won't mind this, they haven't minded Harper going back on so many other of his principles. Holding and wielding power is more important.

I take issue with some of your other points though:
The one part of the coalition that is in direct violation of procedure is the term of the agreement. In Canada unless you become PM on election night you are suppose to seek a mandate from the electorate within six months.
I remember Conservatives complained loudly that Paul Martin called an election for June 2004, saying "he still had a full year left in his mandate" and that he was just trying to avoid Gomery etc... So obviously they had no problems with a new PM staying in office for 18 months after he stepped into it.

Since the senate is stalling legislation, getting senators in there to promote reform is going to speed the process along.
This is pretty lame argument as the legislation still has to pass the House of Commons and is potentially facing a legal challenge from Jean Charest. The Premiers of the two largest provinces are loudly against the electing Sentors legislation. I'm not even sure why anyone in the West supports adding greater legitimacy to Senate positions when their provinces are so dramatically under-represented in the chamber. Harper also hasn't placed great effort in getting Senate election legislation passed compared to others. See here (I know it's written by a Liberal but as long as the facts are correct that's what matters).

Colin said...

"I remember Conservatives complained loudly that Paul Martin called an election for June 2004, saying "he still had a full year left in his mandate" and that he was just trying to avoid Gomery etc... So obviously they had no problems with a new PM staying in office for 18 months after he stepped into it."

So Parliamentary procedure was good for the liberals and bad for the conservatives, and Martin used that to his advantage. Doesn't change what the procedure actually is.

"Harper also hasn't placed great effort in getting Senate election legislation passed compared to others."

So he tried in a minority situation and it didn't work, so he's waiting until he has a majority. makes sense to me.

And the reason the West wants to reform the senate is make it so that it's more than a retirement for liberals. to help make it so that our system actually works. it's not all about power.

Saskboy said...

Lance, why are you calling the coalition a "coup"? Shouldn't Harper notify the proper authorities if a coup is underway?

==

Is there any legal way for the GG or opposition parties to recall Parliament before the end of January?

lance said...

John, because I consider it a coup. I don't take well to 72 Western MP's being traded in for 49 Quebec and _only_ Quebec MP's.

If the Dippers and Liberals (aka "National Parties") had the required number of seats then I'd have a different view point.

Must we got through this again? Wasn't all of last week enough?

Cheers,
lance

Saskboy said...

Apparently not if you consider it a coup and I consider it a parliamentary democracy working how it should in the spirit of cooperation so the group with the most votes and the confidence of the most MPs gets to govern.

What's the required number of seats? 143 isn't enough anyway, the Conservatives need the support of Quebec MPs to pass anything if the NDP and Liberals don't want a Cons. proposed bill. I'm not thrilled that the prairies are less represented in government if there's a transfer of power, but I think our province threw its hat in with the wrong folks in the first place. Frankly we couldn't be much worse off, and I trust the NDP to throw SK a bone anyway, even if the Liberals don't in their current form.

Colin said...

So Saskboy - that means you'd be ok with Harper firing the current GG, and replacing her with, oh I don't know.. Ezra Levant?

After all, that's perfectly legal in a parliamentary democracy.

"I think our province threw its hat in with the wrong folks in the first place."

This is what it all really boils down to. People who support the coalition are bitter that they didn't get their way in the last election and the coalition is a way to right this wrong.

The coalition might be technically legal, but it is something that has never been done before in Canada so don't try and pass it off as "normal".

And the coalition might have a majority in the HOC, but every single poll has overwhelming rejected it. Isn't having the support of the people more important than the support of the HOC? Now if MPs actually represented their constituents there wouldn't be that problem... and the coalition would never have existed.

Saskboy said...

Is it Colin? Can the PM fire the GG at any time, I'm sincerely asking? Could the PM then rescind judicial and senate appointments at any point too?

"The coalition might be technically legal, but it is something that has never been done before in Canada so don't try and pass it off as "normal"."

Canada is part of the world, and it's quite normal in this world. Our democracy isn't something static, as much as the Liberals and Conservatives wish it was fixed completely in tradition.

"but every single poll has overwhelming rejected it."
Except the general election didn't, and that's the only poll that matters legally. And the reason it's rejected by polled Canadians is most of them have been convinced by Conservative propaganda that it's a "coup", or undemocratic, etc. If they knew their history even going back to 1979, they'd have a better understanding of what's going on here.

Colin said...

"Is it Colin? Can the PM fire the GG at any time, I'm sincerely asking?"

Yes, just like the coalition it is theoretically possible. The GG is officially appointed (and removed if necessary) by the Queen, who, is required by law to follow the requests of the PM. It was something that was examined in the 1975 constitutional crisis in Australia. The outcome of that crisis was the that GG fired the PM before the PM could fire the GG.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_constitutional_crisis_of_1975

"Canada is part of the world, and it's quite normal in this world. Our democracy isn't something static, as much as the Liberals and Conservatives wish it was fixed completely in tradition."

We have rules that govern our democracy. if you don't like them, then move to a country that you like better. the reason we have these rules is because our democracy is bigger than you, or me or even the Liberal party of Canada. These traditions do change, but they do so slowly over time to keep the integrity of the system. It keeps our democracy from being manipulated.

I couldn't care less what the rest of the world is doing. This is Canada. Coalition governments aren't more "progressive" nor are they becoming more popular. And most of them have a completely different style of Democracy (like Italy, for example) - with completely different checks and balances.

So don't point your finger at them and say you want that unless you're willing to throw out the rest of our democracy as well.

This is Canada, and we have not had a coalition government in the style the NDP/Liberals/Bloc are proposing in our history. they want breaking new ground by dredging up loopholes in our system. Is it legal? Absolutely. Is it wise? I don't think so, and the majority of Canadians think so either. (even people like John Manley)

"Except the general election didn't, and that's the only poll that matters legally. And the reason it's rejected by polled Canadians is most of them have been convinced by Conservative propaganda that it's a "coup", or undemocratic, etc. If they knew their history even going back to 1979, they'd have a better understanding of what's going on here."

So what you're saying is that Harper got 37.65% of the popular vote, and that isn't a strong enough mandate from the Canadian public, but I guess I didn't hear you screaming when good old Jean Chretien got 38.46% in 1997 and ruled like he got a mandate from the Canadian public. Now the number of seats might change the outlook of parliament, but it does not change how Canadian voters felt.

So 68% of Canadians are too dumb to know what happened before 1979? Except for you and a few loyal Liberal supporters?

No Canadian voted for the coalition. Are polls legally binding? No, of course not. But when several polls all say exactly the same thing, perhaps it isn't the 68% who have been brainwashed. Perhaps it's the other 32% who are blinded by hatred for Harper, and are willing to do ANYTHING to get rid of him.