A game of Canadian thrones Wednesday December 3, 2008, 3 comments

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?


sarah Wednesday December 3, 2008

It seems to me that the conservatives made a very bad gamble. They assumed that the state of the liberal party meant they wouldn’t dare vote against anything – no matter how damaging or self interested it was – and risk triggering a general election. Instead of entering into the spirit of cooperation the conservatives lauded after the election, they tried to push through purely personal interest legislation. The thing I find odd is that they have released an (illegal – nothing seems to be beyond them) recording that they claims proves Layton was plotting before ever their uneconomic so-called turnaround was proposed. And yet, knowing this as they claim, they still tried to steamroller over everyone?

Adrian Wednesday December 3, 2008

Rarely does arrogance beget perspective.

Heather Friday December 5, 2008

It may have been this interesting at some point (that small matter of that time we torched the White House) but certainly not in my lifetime.

I’m really excited to be able to finally respond in a public forum to the events of this week. Due to the nature of my employment I’m not really free to write letters to the editor without a lot of pre-approval so I’ve had to sit on my hands and generally take it out on my co-workers. I actually couldn’t get to sleep on Tuesday night I was so worked up.

So –

The Tories presented their fiscal update and everyone freaked out. Well, not everyone, because I didn’t freak out. First the 2 major bones of contention: the right to strike for federal employees and the end of the $1.95/vote federal funding for political parties. I can’t even be bothered to talk about the strike issue because I just don’t care. No one does, unless they are a federal employee. Moving on… the Conservatives proposed ending the handout that keeps the Liberal campaign machine in business. That’s right, the Liberal campaign. Every other party manages to get their supporters to write cheques AND vote. It was a direct attack on the Liberal party, blah, blah, blah, and this is a problem because? Has everyone forgotten Jean Cretien’s Merry Band of Thieves so quickly? I don’t think any of them deserve federal funding to run their campaigns and the proposal was unilateral. If that hurts the Liberals the most that says a lot about the Liberal sense of entitlement (and piss-poor marketing skills). The Tories deserve more credit for attempting to wean them off our tax dollars. Okay, not wean so much as, say, institute the cold-turkey method of teat denial. I cannot abide the thought of one cent of my federal tax dollars supporting campaigns for the Bloc, or the Green Party, or the NDP, the Liberals OR the Tories. Git yer hustle on, boys, its how the rest of us make a living.

Back to the fiscal update. I swear, I have never heard so much nonsense about our economy as I did during our very recent federal election. I put some of the blame on the utterly irresponsible reportage by our major national news outlets. The rest of the blame goes to Stephane Dion and Jack Layton. The zeal with which they attempted to terrify a populace into total submission disgusted me. Bailouts, handouts, prop-ups, everyone else is getting one – why isn’t Canada getting a ‘Stimulus Package’!!! We’re not getting our fair-share of governmental intervention and meddling with our economic system. America’s getting one, why can’t I have one, where’s ours…Mom! his cake is bigger than mine, ITS NOT FAIR!!!!

And still they persist.

Please allow me to calm everyone down:

Step back from the political brinkmanship and hysteria over the economy of the past few days and what we find is a Canadian economy already swimming in stimulus. Lost amid the political hullabaloo and fixation on the deficit was this salient line from the fiscal update last week: “The tax burden, as measured by total revenues as a share of gross domestic product, is projected to decline from 15.8% in 2007/08 to 15.2% by 2012/13 — its lowest ratio in 50 years.” That is stimulus, folks, as more money is freed up for spending and investment. – Financial Post, December 5, 2008.

Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 0.3% in the third quarter, after remaining essentially flat over the first half of the year. Most of the third quarter gain occurred in July. Economic activity edged up 0.1% in September following a decline in August. Canadian producers increased their output in the third quarter. The production of goods rebounded in the third quarter following four consecutive quarterly declines. The increase was led by the mining sector, notably support activities for oil and gas extraction, as well as construction. The manufacturing sector edged up while forestry continued its decline. Production in the services industries continued to grow, with notable gains in the public sector and, to a lesser extent, in retail trade and wholesale trade. – Statistics Canada, December 1, 2008.

Canada’s economy faces some tough challenges as exports are further affected by a prolonged global slowdown and domestic demand weakens, the Conference Board of Canada says. Despite the cautious sentiment, Board economist Paul Darby says Canada will avoid a recession. – The Canadian Press, via CANOE, October 15, 2008.

And just for kicks: In macroeconomics, a recession is a decline in a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), or negative real economic growth, for two or more successive quarters of a year. – Wikipedia

What I’m trying to say here, and what the Conservatives were trying to say with their fiscal update is that you can’t just wade in throwing money around and raising taxes in a state of pure panic. They just pulled that genius maneuver in the US and look how well that’s worked out. The BoC is on top of interest rates, thanks, they don’t need a parliament to operate. The very best thing that can happen to our economy right now is for everyone to take their finger off the trigger for a month or two. Economies are cyclical, this is natural and normal. Canada is faring better that anyone could possibly expect and I don’t care what your personal opinion of Stephen Harper is, there’s no way Dion or Layton could do a better job and every way that they could do much, much worse. These 2 tried to (legally) highjack our government for personal gain and glory. They sold their souls, their principles and their reputations down the river for what? It is incredibly naive to think that they didn’t have this plan set to launch and weren’t just waiting for a chance. They should have waited longer. Its a crying shame that our parliament had to be prorogued but it did. It was the best of a bunch of bad options and I’m glad that we had a prime minister willing to dig his heels in and suffer the consequences to his own reputation.

I’m not for a second saying things will be easy for the next 6-12 months, although opportunity abounds for the long-sighted, but we will survive, folks. Canada’s economy is structurally sound. Please resist the hype. If you want to hate Stephen Harper at least be rational and give the man credit for this: he delivered the Liberal Party from Stephane Dion.

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