Thursday, December 04, 2008

End game

A good summary of the facts and the law by Peter Russell, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto:
"After the Oct. 14 election, Stephen Harper remained Prime Minister, formed a new government and prepared to face the House. Although his party had improved its seat total it was still in a minority position in the House. This meant that to continue in office Harper would have to win enough support from the opposition benches to secure the confidence of the House.

For a few days it appeared that Harper would reach out in a conciliatory manner and garner the parliamentary support he needs on order to have the right to govern.

But, to put it mildly, on Nov. 27 just a few days into the session, through his finance minister's economic update, he made an abrupt U-turn. Instead of seeking support from the opposition, his government presented an in-your-face, take-it-or-leave-it position.

The opposition parties - all three of them - decided not to take it. Instead, they announced that they would use their collective majority in the House to vote no confidence in the Harper government and support an alternative coalition government.

The no-confidence vote is to take place next Monday. If the government loses that vote, the rules of parliamentary democracy give Harper two options. He can tender his government's resignation to the Governor General and clear the way for Madame Jean to ask Stéphane Dion to form a Liberal-NDP coalition government. Or he can ask the Governor General to dissolve the 40th Parliament so that we can elect the 41st Parliament.

The first option - resignation - would be entirely constitutional. It involves no 'usurpation' of power but is an honourable way out of the present impasse.

If Harper were to take the second option, the Governor General would have to consider carefully whether to grant his request for a dissolution. Her primary concern must be to protect parliamentary democracy. A steady diet of elections - four in four years - is not healthy for parliamentary democracy.

If there is an alternative government available that has a reasonable prospect of being supported for a period of time by a majority in the House of Commons, she would have reason to decline Harper's request. Harper would then have to resign, and the Governor General would commission Dion to form a government.

If this happens, again there would be no 'usurpation' of power but a proper application of the rules and principles of parliamentary democracy. It has been very disturbing to hear over the last few days, from people who should know better, wild unparliamentary theories about our system of government. Elections are not simple popularity contests in which the leader whose party garners the most votes gets all the power."

The Conservative strategy is to attempt to bluster and lie, while using their stranglehold over the disgusting Canadian media to attempt to turn some of the more right-wing Liberals. It won't work. Harper is so desperate, and so rattled, that his strategy of disparaging the coalition by claiming it is getting in bed with the 'separatists' is ruining his party's future in Quebec. The Conservative yelling and screaming is going to fail, as it is irrelevant to the decision of the Governor-General. It is a combination of the sheer fury of a very sick man, and an attempt to set the stage for Conservative attacks after the coalition takes power. As long as the coalition provides good government, nothing Harper and his media minions can say will make any difference. He is a dead man walking.