Canadian politics has become incredibly interesting over the last few days. This is impressive, because it’s been boring as hell since Trudeau retired.
For those not in the know (I’m thinking of my American friends here), Canada’s minority Conservative government tried to table as a ‘response’ to the global economic crisis a number of measures that did nothing but hamstring their political enemies in any future election. They also wanted to strip the right of government employees to strike. This was their response to the global economic crisis. No bailouts, no economic stimulus plans, nothing.
The political opposition took offense to this do-nothing approach, and did what pundits said was impossible – they united the Left. The Liberals and the NDP signed an agreement to become an official coalition party supported by the Bloc Quebecqois. This unity of the three parties would result in a ‘majority’ government. They are requesting the Governor General allow them to run parliament instead of sending Canadians back to the polls only six weeks after the last election.
The Conservatives, of course, have screamed foul. In fact, they’ve screamed ‘Treason!” The Liberals are ‘in bed’ with treasonous separatists, say the Conservatives. They also say that the Liberals are subverting democracy by trying to overthrow the rightfully elected government that Canada gave a mandate to only six weeks ago.
This is wrong on three specific counts.
First, the Bloc is dedicated to doing whatever is best for Quebec at any expense to the rest of Canada. This sometimes includes the spectre of separating from the rest of Canada, a considerably shorter stick with which to hit that it was in the 1990s. The Bloc knows that Quebecers don’t want to separate, they just want special treatment. Not only that, the Conservatives themselves – Harper himself! – tried to do exactly the same thing in 2005. They sought to overthrow the Paul Martin led Liberal minority government, and couldn’t gain the trust of the other two parties. Harper’s a god-fearing man, he should know all about removing planks from eyes.
Second, the Liberals are not subverting the process of democracy, as the massive propaganda campaign launched by the Conservatives yesterday is claiming. What needs to be kept in mind is that Canada does not elect a Federal Government. We do not elect a Prime Minister. We elect representatives to the House of Commons. The party with the most elected members becomes the government. As of the last election, the Conservatives had the most seats, but not enough to govern without seeking the support of other parties. Now that an official coalition party has been created, it has the most seats, and therefore should be the ruling party. This new party has 163 (52.9%) seats – enough to be a Majority government, and represents 54.42% of the popular vote.
Finally, the Conservatives won an election six weeks ago. With 143 seats (46.4%) in the House, they did not have enough support to be a Majority government – one that can pass bills without the cooperation of other parties. Canada wide, they had 37.65% of the popular vote. Slightly more than 1/3 of the popular vote does not a mandate make.
So now we wait to see what the Governor General will do. Will she prorogue (suspend) Parliament, in essence leaving Canada with no government until January, while one of the largest financial crises in history unfolds only to face this same issue again when Parliament is restarted? Will she force us into yet another Federal election?
Has Canadian politics every been this interesting?