Harper's Boot

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Harper Prorogues Parliament to Cling to Power

Dec. 4, 2008
N.J. Lukanovich

Stephen Harper's disdain of the parliamentary system was displayed in bold colors by his demand to prorogue Parliament to avoid a confidence vote in the house. Never before in Canadian history has a prime minister prorogued parliament to save his own skin. It is a terrible precedent for future prime ministers and stunning that the Governor General would agree to his request this Thursday morning.

But, Governor General Michaelle Jean allowed Prime Minister Harper to call an election two months ago for the sole purpose of trying to get a majority, so her decision shouldn't come as a surprise. His last attempt to grab absolute power cost us 300 million dollars. This time, his blind conviction that he has absolute power, that he has a mandate to run Parliament as though he has a majority, may cost the nation much more than dollars.

Harper asked the networks for airtime to speak to the Canadian people last night. He made a 5 minute speech, sounding much like Mr. Rogers on valium, which contained nothing new and nothing conciliatory. He denies any accountability whatsoever. His speech this morning, delivered with a gloating smirk after meeting with the Governor General, was more of the same. He is undoubtedly the most dictatorial prime minister this country has ever known. If he could dispense with elections altogether, I have no doubt he would. Then he could get rid of the pesky opposition and feel justified in ignoring the voices of the 62% of Canadians that did not vote for the Conservative Party.

Imagine the outrage if Paul Martin had prorogued Parliament to avoid the confidence vote that he knew would turf him out of office. What if he had pleaded his case to the Governor General and claimed that Parliament should be suspended for a "cooling off" period? A couple of months to allow the RCMP to investigate the allegations against Ralph Goodale? These allegations turned out to be completely unfounded and false, but were used by the House to terminate the minority rule of the Liberal Party. Martin, however, would not have even considered proroguing Parliament for the sole purpose of clinging onto power.

In Harper's speech this morning, he spouted that he'd asked the people of Canada to make their views known last Friday, and that overwhelmingly, they wanted him to stay. Was there a vote? A referendum? The only official document that represented the voters of this nation was the formal letter sent to the GG, signed by all Liberal, NDP, and Bloq MP's stating that they didn't have confidence in the House. Shame on her for ignoring the representatives of the majority of the nation's voters and not following the first rule of the parliamentary system: the governing party must have the confidence of the House.

Coalition governments in the Netherlands, Ireland, and Germany have been largely successful in running their prospective countries. In the Netherlands, there are several different parties in the coalitions, not a mere 2 or 3. Many coalitions comprised of parties that are ideologically opposed manage to govern together. Germany is one example: one of their most successful governments was a coalition between the Christian Democratic Party and the Greens. The coalition in Canada is comprised of the NDP and the Liberals, who are very similar ideologically. The Bloq, who is not part of the coalition, but agreed to support the coalition on motions of confidence for a period of 18 months, is also ideologically similar in social and economic matters.

We are in an economic crisis, which according to Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, is due to Conservative mismanagement in the form of reckless spending and cutting the GST. But Parliament will have a "time out," instead of looking at solutions to manage the current crisis.

During the debates, Harper lambasted Dion for stating that the Liberals would take 30 days to consult with economic experts and create a solid economic plan based on the current global financial disaster, which is the worst since the great depression. Now all we hear from Conservatives, who have been in power for nearly 3 years, who have had another 2 months since the election, is that they will be consulting with experts and come up with a plan in another 7 weeks. Incredibly, the coalition managed to come up with a plan in 3 days.

There are three great concerns: the immediate concern is that the economy is not being dealt with by the government of Canada, while every other member in the G-20 has set aside funding for stimulus packages to improve the economy. Another concern is the precedent set by proroguing Parliament to avoid a confidence motion, thereby denying the constitutional right of elected members of Parliament to vote.

The third concern is that the relentless Quebec bashing is alienating Quebec and will only serve to reignite nationalism and thoughts of separation. He claims that the Bloq are out to "destroy Canada."

Gilles Duceppe, who has always behaved with integrity in the House, and who has always voted responsibly, is not out to "destroy" Canada. As long as Quebec is part of Canada, what is good for Canada economically and socially, is generally good for Quebec.

Equally laughable, are Harper's accusations that the opposition parties are getting into bed with "separatists"; he himself approached the Bloq in 2004 to support a coalition to oust Martin, and he has not only accepted the support of the Bloq in well over a 100 votes in the House, but has needed their support to pass budgets.

There is a provincial election in Quebec on Monday, and Harper couldn't have given the Parti Quebecois a bigger gift. I suppose he is so bitter that Quebec prevented him from gaining a majority that he doesn't care what happens in Quebec. He has shown a complete lack of respect for the voters of this province.

It would appear that it is Harper who is out to destroy our democracy, our parliamentary system, and the unity of Canada. He will become known as the prime minister who has united the right, united the left, and divided the country. And this GG will put into question whether an appointed, rather than elected person, should wield this amount of power in the political sphere of our nation.