Monday, December 8, 2008

Coup d'Etat in Canada

Because no one in America reports on what is happening in Canadian government (perhaps because it is not wise to know much about our number one trading partner, the vast nation immediately to our north), I take up the responsibility myself. This account comes from a friend in Ottawa (look it up on a map).

At first, it seemed to me that what the opposition was doing was perfectly democratic. No one has a parliamentary majority, and as long as the province of Quebec keeps electing MPs from the separatist Bloc Quebecois, it is unlikely anyone ever will. So whoever can form a majority coalition runs the government. If the Grits (Liberals) can duct tape something together, they are entitled to do that.

But this Canadian correspondent (whose identity I am concealing so as not to expose him or her to charges of thoughtcrime) explains how it is not that simple.


I don't know how much news you have had of what has transpired in Canada. It would appear that we have a reprieve for a few weeks and perhaps common sense will yet prevail, by the Lord's grace.

We had a general election in mid-October, the results of which were 143 Conservatives, 76 Liberals, 37 New Democrats, 50 Bloc Quebecois, and 2 independents elected to a 308-seat House of Commons. The previous results in 2006 were 124 Conservatives, 103 Liberals, 29 NDP, 51 Bloc Quebecois, and 1 independent. Clearly the results showed an increase in support for the Conservatives, a decrease in support for the Liberals (who received the lowest percentage of the popular vote ever accorded the Liberal party since Confederation, at just over 26 percent), and unchanged numbers for the Bloc.

The Conservative government, under Stephen Harper, won by all accounts an increased mandate. The Liberal leader, Stephane Dion, announced his resignation within a week of the results, indicating that he would stay on until a leadership convention (previously scheduled as a leadership review, slated for May, 2009) were held. The new government was sworn in and had been back at work in Parliament only a week or so when an interim economic statement was tabled by the Finance Minister, which among other things proposed elimination of the subsidy (of $1.95 per vote received) to the political parties for funding. This was a measure introduced by former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien when he abolished corporate funding for political parties and limited individual contributions to $1,000. The results of Mr. Chretien's reform have been dramatic: the Conservative Party has done well, because it has a relatively large grass-roots network of supporters who give small donations. The Liberals and NDP have been heavily in debt because they lack the grassroots network to make up the formerly large corporate or union contributions. The Bloc Quebecois have been heavily dependent on the government's funding.

The backlash against this relatively minor (30 million dollars in total) cut to spending was immediate and galvanised the opposition parties to announce the formulation of a coalition (apparently previous conceived) aimed at defeating the government and forming a new coalition government with a signed "agreement" between the Liberals and the NDP to work as a coalition until June, 2011, terms to include installing none other than Stephane Dion as PM (until May 2, 2009 when he pledges to step down in favour of a yet-to-be-elected Liberal leader) with the NDP to have six of 24 cabinet seats, and a side-bar signed agreement with the Bloc Quebecois to support the coalition until June, 2010. Notice that the combined seats for the two parties in the coalition are 113 (76 Liberals and 37 NDP), some 30 fewer than the Conservatives. Further, note that it is only with the support of the Bloc Quebecois (a party whose raison d'etre is to work to enable Quebec to secede from Canada) that such coalition would be able to govern. All of this is under the guise of providing economic leadership for the country in troubled times (understood to mean opening the gates of government spending, deficit spending, to try to stave off or buy the way out of a recession). This is all in the face of an increased mandate given to the first economist to be elected as Prime Minister and whose approach has been to seek to maintain balanced budgets while reducing taxes to stimulate the economy, and with the result that of the major industrial nations Canada ranks first in fiscal health.

Now we are not without our problems, but it is telling that the latest poll says 60 percent of the population agrees with the planned elimination of the subsidy for political parties, even though the Prime Minister announced he would withdraw this proposal in the face of the opposition's opposition.

The non-confidence vote proposed was worded in such a way as to state categorically that the House lacks confidence in the government and that a new government-in-waiting would command the confidence of the House. The motion was due for debate and vote on December 8th. Yesterday, the Governor General acceded to the request of the Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament until late January, (thus avoiding the vote), and the Prime Minister has invited the opposition parties to submit suggestions for consideration by the government in the formulation of the 2009 fiscal budget, due to be tabled the day after Parliament resumes.

Demonstrations are planned on both sides for various cities across the land, several for tomorrow. What comes of this is known only to the Lord. The waste of time and energy which otherwise could and should have been devoted to careful governance and consideration of prudent measures in the face of worldwide economic challenges is colossal and inexcusable.

Where one is astonished and where the notion of a coup surfaces is in the grab for power by a coalition which is comprised of two parties who together saw their total number of seats drop from 132 (103 Liberals and 29 NDP) to 113 (76 Liberals and 37 NDP) and who have the audacity to propose a coalition headed by a leader who led his party through an election which resulted in the lowest-ever support for that party in the history of the country, who has promised to step down in less than six months, and yet who wants to commit the government of the country to a yet-to-be-elected leader, beholden to the support of the party devoted to the break-up of the country throughout the term of the proposed "government". The sane and sanctified mind has difficulty taking this all in and more difficulty in finding words to express what it thinks of such foolishness.

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