Monday, December 01, 2008

Geeking. Right. Out.

Liberals, NDP, Bloc sign deal on proposed coalition.

Things are exciting in Canadian politics! Real-life coalitions (or the potential of them being enacted on my birthday)! (Well, we had one in SK a few years ago, and I guess you could call the Union government during WWI a coalition...)

I just need to get one thing off my chest, after reading too many ill-informed commenters on CBC (and after listening to too many ridiculous conservative pundits on the radio). For the record, the next person who calls this a "coup," "illegal" or "undemocratic" gets a virtual punch in the head: this is entirely legal, democratic and constitutional. It's just a reconfiguration of the current members of parliament, swinging the balance of power away from the ruling party. Just because you don't like it doesn't make it illegal. Unlike the US, we do not vote for a Prime Minister: we vote for a member of Parliament. And even if you did view each vote as being for the Prime Minister, the majority of the country voted against him anyway (which usually happens when you have a minority government), and so the whole "this is going against what Canada decided" argument is false.

So I guess what I'm saying is that you have the right to express discontent with the possibility of what may happen a week from now (or in January, if Harper actually dissolves Parliament this week). You may question the motives of those involved, and ask whether this is really for the good of the country. (I'm a big old lefty, and so of course I think it is. But you may have different economic views than mine.) Just get to know how your country works before you word that discontent.

(It probably helps that I love Stéphane Dion and am pumped about the prospect of him being our Prime Minister.)

14 comments:

C said...

i am sooo excited about this! and i am glad that everybody decided they wanted dion as PM. just because wasn't "charismatic" enough during the campaign does not mean he wouldn't make a great leader. of course, my man is still bob rae, and i love how he is all for the good of canada and backing dion all the way. ooo! sooo many great people finally working together!

Anonymous said...

Maryanne, Sorry but I cannot agree with you entirely. I do agree that it is legal and constitutional but I think that it is wrong to do it. The reason is that none of the three parties involved ran on a platform of a coalition. they fought bitterly during the election. I feel that the sudden "cooperation" between them is nothing but an attempt at a power grab. I undestand how that works politically and how each party will do what it can to get their own idealogy promoted. What I think would settle the matter once and no one could complain about them operating behind closed door would be for all of the Liberal, NDP and Bloc MP's to resign and force by-elections ineach of those ridings. Then for the byelections run only a "coalition" candidate. If the people of their ridings are comfortable with them doing this, they should get re-elected with no problems (and would have the majority for 4 years). I see this going very badly for all three in the next general election, especially the Bloc and the NDP as they are not remaining true to their roots. They have been willing to negotiate away certain things that they have held dear for years just for power. I look at what happened to the Liberals who joined the NDP in Saskatchewan several years ago to form a coalition. The Liberals have not elected an MLA since. This may on the other hand unite the left and create a two party system in Canada again. this is something that I would like to see as I am getting tired of elections every 18 months (as we will again).

markdynna said...

I agree with the above Anonymous. The majority may not have voted for the Conservatives but they didn't vote for *this* either. Is it illegal? "Technically" no, it isn't. However, everything I have read says this is actually an "uncharted" area in the Canadian Constitution, and ultimately the final decision will be in the hands of the Governor General, and she doesn't necessarily *have* to grant the coalition the right to govern. Will she though? Probably. Will this coalition government be the best thing for the country? I guess we'll have to see.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Anonymous: Do you really think that the reason why Saskatchewanians don't vote Liberal (except for federally when it's for Ralph Goodale) has anything to do with the coalition with NDP? Saskatchewanians have been not voting Liberal on a provincial (and federal) level for a long time before that. There were hardly any Liberal MLAs at the time of the coalition, and since then we've seen even more of the polarization of prairie politics, where everyone seems to only vote for the two parties that have any possibility of getting elected in Saskatchewan, without bothering with the middle (which they've long associated with the East).

On the issue of the fact that we didn't vote for a coalition, that's normally not how it works. (And might I state that it works just fine in Germany? As a German historian, I'm particularly excited to see how this plays out in Canada.) I can tell you that most people who actually voted for the parties forming the coalition (particularly the NDP, although they're pretty disappointed that they're not getting Jack Layton as PM) are just thrilled that they're going to have a share in government.

While you see parties having to negotiate away the roots of their ideology, I see an opportunity for a creative time in Canadian politics, where everyone brings something to the table. The idea of setting aside divisive partisanship and actually working together is pretty appealing at this historical moment, and Stephen Harper's refusal to do just that in Parliament is precisely why I support the coalition.

Mark: Of course this is all just an intellectual exercise until we see what actually happens, and how it works out. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be teaching about this is a couple of decades.

markdynna said...

Well, I truly hope the motivations of all those involved in this are as benevolent as you believe they are as well. With our economy on the brink of recession the *last* thing our country needs is political instability.

May-B said...

I still think Dion is a weenie.

Anonymous said...

Maryanne,
on the point of no Liberals being voted in as MLA in the provincial scene in Saskatchewan, That has been true since the Thatcher days of the 1960's. They did have a bright shining star on the rise in Linda Haverstock. I think that she was just one election away from taking the premier's job. There was some in-fighting in the Liberal ranks but the NDP took her out of the picture permantently by offeringing her the job as Lieutenant Governor. The NDP recognised her polictical prowess and she was the major threat as Saskatchewan was still too close to the "Devine" era for any party on the right of the political spectrum to do much. The liberals still managed several seats in the election after turfing Haverstock but it was their crossing the floor that has sealed their fate in saskatchewan for a while. I do think that one or two elections from now, they may become the "left" party of choice in Saskatchewan.

While this may work in Germany, the situation is much different there (as of yet). They have many more party choices than we do and it is nearly a foregone conclusion before the election that the parties that are the closest togethr will attempt to form a coalition. We as Canadians are not to that point yet. It is interesting to note that Jack Leighton did not want Elizabeth May at the debate table because of her vocal support of the Liberals. I suggest and put forward the this implied that he would not be supporting the Liberals and therefore the people who voted NDP did not vote for a coalition and may have voted otherwise if given that information. I think that they should be recalled just as I think an MP who crosses the floor should resign.
I actually see this as a form of rebellion agsinst authorities that have been placed over the.
I agree that ideas from all parties should be brought to the table and dealt with for the betterment of Canadians. However, because there must be agreement between them, the issues that are contentious will not be dealt with as they won't be able to agree. We may end up with a government who will only dealt with the fluff.
Here is an idea for consideration, should we adopt run-off elections until one party ends up with a majority? Just throwing it out there.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

No, Anonymous, I think the last thing we need is more (expensive) elections. And I think that the Conservatives could have done a lot to prevent all this (where the only options seem to be a coalition or another election) by governing as if they had a minority government in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the Conservatives are as much to blame as anyone for this mess. What scares me is that with all of this polictical wrangling Canada is going to be effectively without a government for another 2 months (no matter if the coalition comes to power or we have to wait for the Conservative budget) and by then this whole finacial thing may be really out of whack. I think that ALL of the politicians right now are out for themslves and NONE of them are out for CANADA.

The coalition could be really effective right now (and greatly increase their fortunes in the next elections) by sitting down with Harper. Harper knows that he is done, so they could actually negotiate with him and why not take the high road and look like the better politicians. Something could actually get inserted into the financial motion to be voted on on Monday. Canada would then benefit from a truly effective opposition that was putting the good of the country first. I think that they could very well have a lot of future influence and wewould be able to see results now and not have to wait. The whole aspect of a coalition does not bother me as much as the motives behind the coalition. In the end, I believe it came down to the $1.95 per vote that the other parties could not afford. It has nothing to do with the economy and they are all just spouting off retoric.

As for the cost of the election, I think that an election would be cheap compared to what all of this wrangling is going to cost us in the end.

I will be very surprised if this coalition lasts the 18 months even with a written agreement. It was written by politicians and lawyers who have probably aready figured out how to break it the moment that it is advantageous to them.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

And Anonymous, that is where I guess I'm much more optimistic than you. We'll see what happens.

Seeker said...

Maybe a little late to join the discussion but I'd just like to know one thing.
QOWP: would you be as "optimistic" if the shoes were on the other foot and it was a Liberal minority about to be ousted by a coalition of the other parties?
Conversely, ANON: would you be as adamant about this being a bad thing?
In other words are your arguments based on pure facts or is there a measure of personal victory here.
I personally am not very optimistic about the possibility of a coalition. I have lived long enough on this earth to know that very few politicians have pure motives. For example, I wonder how committed Stephen Dion is to anything he says when his platform for the environment which he stood 100% behind only a few weeks ago was so easily cast aside for the title of Prime Minister? Just wondering, that's all. Time will tell and I'll take solace in the fact that God is on control and He's moving us ever closer to the day He'll return. That's not just optimism, that's hope.

Anonymous said...

This is a serious question. As a political junkie (like me) what d you think of Harper asking to have parliment prorogued? He would avoid the non-confidence vote immediatley and be allowed to table his budget in January. Personally, I think that the stimulus package should have come sooner but as a politician he is now using the same manipulation of the rules as the other parties are. If his budget contains many of the measures that the opposition is calling for (and he would put them in a tight spot by doing so), they will have a tough time voting against it and then introducing the same measures in theirs. On the other hand the opposition will have succeeded marvelously at getting the points they feel are important included in the budget. In the end, this may well be a good thing for showing that the parlimentary system can work. I am glad that I am not the GC. She is being called on to rule on matters that will be precendent setting and wildly unpopular either way. From what I read it seems that this issue is being supported by about 50% on each side. This may also cause Canadians to go to vote next time there is an election. They will see that their vote counts and it is important. I am not as pessimistic as you might think.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Seeker: this is exactly why I've set my terms clearly here -- you're allowed to be unhappy with what's happening, or to believe that it's bad for Canada, but you're not allowed to use terms like "undemocratic" or "coup" when you're doing it. I never started off a Liberal supporter, and so I think that it would depend on the (hypothetical) situation you're proposing. I probably would be unhappy if had been what Harper had proposed to the GG back in 2004, of a non-confidence motion followed by the Conservatives taking power. Of course, it's harder to imagine a coalition that they could form at this moment, but I'd like to think that I would also accept the normal functionings of Canadian democracy. But a lot of my optimism is based in my knowledge of those at the head of this coalition, and also my reading on the deal that they reached. I really do like the stimulus package that they've proposed.

Anon: You know, I know that proroguing Parliament is also a normal part of Canadian democracy, and I suspect that I would feel somewhat differently if the parties involved were reversed, but I don't like this idea. It's like Harper keeps trying to keep Parliament from being able to do anything, because he doesn't agree with what they'll decide. And particularly when he's not holding the confidence of Parliament, that's just not right.

I don't envy Michaëlle Jean her job right now.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Anon: I forgot to say that I would actually be happy if the way that the Conservatives got around this was by adopting the terms of the stimulus package. All I've ever asked is that they work together, particularly since this is a time of minority government. Stop ruling like you have a majority, and maybe you won't have the diverse opposition united against you.