December 02, 2008

A Retooled Reflection on the Liberal-NDP Coalition and Parliament

I want to take a moment to slightly change an outlook and further develop my view on the Coalition. Don't mistake any of this as a change of heart about this - Harper went too far and can no longer be trusted on this issue or any other, we know where his intentions truly lie. However, the Coalition needs to be smart and it needs to fulfill the mandate of the election.

I don't buy into the whole notion that Harper was elected as Prime Minister- he wasn't. Too many polls during the election indicated that Canadians disliked Harper as much as any other leader, but that the supposed "steady as she goes" policies and Dion's lacking attributed to the final results. Furthermore, we do not directly elect our Prime Minister. I also don't buy that the Conservatives won the election - they didn't. Yes, they came out ahead in the end but they still only managed a minority government. In other words, the mandate that the Conservatives were handed was essentially to be at the helm of a compromise and consensus government. Harper ignored that mandate and I believe that someone else now deserves to carry that mandate.

That can happen in one of two ways. The first, which is where I am slightly backtracking, is that the Harper can show his apparent sense of remorse for being viciously ideological and partisan by making a changing of the guard. Those that were responsible for making this play (Flaherty, Giorno et al.) are removed from their positions. Harper must also publicly admit his role in making this mistake and provide an honest reflection (and possibly, but not necessarily, step down as Prime Minister and Conservative leader). Furthermore, he should reach out to the opposition and provide them a number of senior and significant roles within the cabinet. Harper will then include the opposition within all developments of and make public as soon as possible the details of the coordinated economic plan to deal with the situation. It must be done in full view of the public so that no backroom or underhanded tactics can unfold. Canadians wanted leadership and consensus to deal with the current crisis and this I feel this would achieve both.

The second method is that the Coalition takes power at the first opportunity. They then take on the mandate of a compromise and consensus government. They stick to the original agreement of shrinking the cabinet and appointing six NDP cabinet members and with six secretaries. With the last eighteen positions they will find a suitable role for a number of Conservative MPs to also be apart of this cabinet. All cabinet positions must be given to elected members of the Parliament. The idea of this Coalition is to force the mandate of multi-partisan government that was given by Canadians and therefore must also include Conservative members for this to be honoured. This cabinet cannot include non-elected members (just in case there is any truth to the Elizabeth May rumour). Again, all developments should be done under public scrutiny in order to avoid power plays or any means of trying to undermine the process - possibly through the use of an extended formal agreement. Now is not the time for further partisan gamesmanship but a renewed focus on the situation at hand.

This government needs to work and it needs to be working now. Canadians need to feel as though this entire situation can lead to something better. So far it has only made many Canadians feel much more cynical towards our politicians. There is a lot of tension and bad blood between all the parties. However, if the Bloc is able to officially put aside separatism and the Liberals are able to put aside their disgust for the Bloc and work towards a common, positive goal, then I see no reason why this Coalition cannot put their legitimate distrust for Harper and certain members of the Conservatives, and vice-versa, to also work towards dealing with this issue. The latest election did not provide any one party the mandate to govern as they wish. And while the Conservatives definitely tried, in a way that was beyond unethical and undemocratic, there is still time to get the government back on track and focused on the economic issues.

To be perfectly honest, I don't see Harper opting for being a leader in this. I don't know if he is actually capable of admitting his mistakes, seeing past his hyper-partisanship, preference for political gamesmanship over governing, and getting over his grudges. And therefore, I believe the best possible situation for Canada, at this moment, is the Coalition taking power and including, within the framework of an official agreement, members of the Conservatives.


the regina mom said...

You are missing a huge piece of the pie here, Random Noise. A Parliamentary democracy has, as a fundamental piece of its existence, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. John Diefenbaker said,

If Parliament is to be preserved as a living institution His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition must fearlessly perform its functions. When it properly discharges them the preservation of our freedom is assured. The reading of history proves that freedom always dies when criticism ends. It upholds and maintains the rights of minorities against majorities. It must be vigilant against oppression and unjust invasions by the Cabinet of the rights of the people. It should supervise all expenditures and prevent over-expenditure by exposing to the light of public opinion wasteful expenditures or worse. It finds fault; it suggests amendments; it asks questions and elicits information; it arouses, educates and molds public opinion by voice and vote. It must scrutinize every action by the government and in doing so prevents the short-cuts through democratic procedure that governments like to make.

- Hon. John G. Diefenbaker, "The Role of the Opposition in Parliament," Address to the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, 27 October 1949.

Kyle said...

You make an interesting and valid point. I don't expect that all will be agreeable to the outcomes, however. But to lose an official opposition may not be the best situation. It's something I need to think about some more...

JCKelan said...

The PQ likes this coalition that you are forming with their separatist cousins. Doesn’t this cause you concern? If it’s good for the separatists, is it good for Canada?

Is this your legacy?

Think again!

JC Kelan

PQ says Quebec can be 'winner' under new coalition

Updated Tue. Dec. 2 2008 7:54 AM ET
The Canadian Press

MONTREAL -- Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois is applauding the possibility Quebec could emerge as a winner and "get things" from Ottawa under a new coalition federal government.

Marois suggested on Monday the participation of her party's federal cousin - the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois - in governing Canada might result in gains for Quebec.

She offered little indication of what benefits she envisioned but she has lambasted Liberal Premier Jean Charest in recent days for allegedly remaining silent while Ottawa revised its equalization formula in a way that would slash transfer payments to Quebec by $1 billion.

She appeared to be referring to that equalization change as she replied to a question about the coalition deal during a provincial election campaign stop Monday. But Marois stopped in mid-sentence, perhaps aware of the political sensitivity surrounding the issue.
"If the Bloc Quebecois can get things for Quebec while Jean Charest is on his knees. . ." Marois said, her voice trailing off.

"It's Quebec that will come out the winner," she continued.

Kyle said...


Did you ever think it's because Quebec will be guaranteed their fair share in the process? Quebec is not alone in this economic crisis, they depend on a strong plan and a healthy nation to get through this. The Bloc involvement only guarantees they won't get less, and I seriously doubt it means they will get more.

JCKelan said...


So, you are now rationalizing the purpose of a party such as the Bloc? No concerns about their separatist intentions? They're just supporters of provincial rights, huh?

At least have the sense to recognize who they are and what they represent before you sign accords with them.

They want to destroy Canada! Don't help them to do it.

Kyle said...


Separatism is essentially at an all time low. Marois and Dumont won't even discuss the issue anymore because everytime they do they get blasted and lose more support.

I'm not saying I'm happy about the Bloc's involvement but I don't fear it will bolster the separatist cause. All it will do is prove that Quebec needs the federal government.

Anyway, if you don't have anything else besides the Conservative talking points that were sent out to mention around here, I'm done with this bickering. I've made a clear indication as to what I feel should take place and in the scenario I presented the Bloc may not even matter.

ALW said...

I don’t see how you are arriving at some of your conclusions, Kyle.

"Harper went too far"

How? By threatening the public subsidies of the opposition parties? After all the things the opposition has rolled over on, does it not strike you as more than a wee bit self-serving that the one thing they stand up to is attempts to take away free money from their partisan operations? And even though it’s a nasty move, how does it mean Harper can’t be trusted on "any issue". You really think the opposition trusted him before?!?

"The coalition needs to fulfill the mandate of the election".

Except the coalition has no mandate at all! How on earth will this look to the average Canadian - most nonpartisans I have heard from on this are totally confused as to how the parties that lost the election can somehow claim to be in charge? If you don’t “buy the notion” that Harper was elected as PM, why didn’t anyone say so on October 15th? Or a week ago? No, it’s only in the intervening six days that people who conveniently happen to not care for Stephen Harper are being revisionists and claiming 38% of the vote isn’t a sufficient mandate. I wonder how many of those people felt Jean Chretien’s majorities with 38% or 41% were similarly fragile? But that’s of course different, right?

“Harper could reach out”

How? The opposition signed a deal already. You have said Harper backing off merely shows he’s afraid of losing power. Isn’t that enough? If Harper now knows he can be taken out at any moment, won’t that simply force him to behave differently moving forward? Because the opposition could take him down at any time. And that’s precisely why it’s an obvious sham: the opposition won’t take him down later, when there’s a chance of an election, because plain and simple they’re afraid to face the electorate! They want to circumvent the results of the last election!

Nobody - not a single person - cast their ballots with this crazy Liberal-NDP-Bloc deal in mind. Zero. Zip. None. The opposition says Harper has to be removed at any cost, except of course the cost of an election, because that would expose just how nutty their plan is.

Kyle said...

("Harper went too far"
How? By threatening the public subsidies of the opposition parties?)

Yes, in part. Though overwhelmingly by attacking the equity of women, taking away workers' right to strike, and overriding negotiated contracts and contracts still be negotiated. None of this was necessary. And the whole argument you keep pushing about the subsidies was included in the F.U. so you Conservatives would have a theme. It was put in as a distraction-tactic.

("The coalition needs to fulfill the mandate of the election".
Except the coalition has no mandate at all!)

Well that's just wrong. Their mandate is two-fold. One is to be the opposition and hold the government accountable (which would be their only mandate in a majority). The second is that since we're in a minority situation, their mandate is to contribute to the policies of the government. A minority government is essentially voters asking for a coalition of sorts. Harper didn't fulfill his mandate so a coalition made up of the opposition will do that as best they can. That is also why I believe they should reach across the floor if the coalition comes to fruition.

As for Chretien only having support of 38%-41% is irrelevant and different, you're right. It's both of these in the sense that that is just how our parliamentary system works. It seems fine for those that are on the winning side of it, generally (I'm not so enamored with it, ever) and when it doesn't then they aren't happy. Harper didn't get the 'right' 38% in this case, so unfortunately he doesn't get the benefits that past PMs were awarded. I didn't pick the system but that's how it goes. I'm not saying it's fair or that I agree with it. But this falls back the mandate issue ultimately.

Harper wasn't elected as Prime Minister, he's PM by default. As is any other PM. Yes, it plays a role in some MPs winning, but I don't believe it's necessarily the big issue for voters. Chretien wasn't necessarily popular but the Liberals were able to win - and yes, I know most of the factors involved.

(“Harper could reach out”
How? The opposition signed a deal already.)

Which as far as I know doesn't take effect until they take power. Who is to say Harper won't pull yet another optics stunt and include all of the same measures wrapped up into a nice package? Besides, Harper has already shown his intentions and ignored his mandate. Might as well move on. This isn't about Dion taking power, he's a lame-duck leader and under a coalition, he would be a figurehead at best. This is about the intentions of the opposition parties willing to do what Harper should have - make a minority parliament work and deal with an economic crisis. Harper can still reach out and show good faith and I'm sure if that were to happen

(Nobody - not a single person - cast their ballots with this crazy Liberal-NDP-Bloc deal in mind.)

And where in Harper's platform is the womens' equity issue, or the right to strike, or even the subsidies for that matter...? An besides an election is unnecessary because the opposition are doing what they're supposed to. Especially so close to the last election, given that the economic crisis is going on now and since an election will cost more money than the government currently has, according to Flaherty's numbers.

You and I can do this all day. We've always generally agreed to disagree. I don't believe this situation is ideal for anyone. I wanted to see this parliament work the way it was supposed to, even though that may have lent itself to making the Conservatives look better in the end. What I don't like is the hyper-partisanship that's taken place. Sure, Harper's done it in small bits in the past but to use an economic crisis to justify the unjustifiable and so you can stick it to your opposition just to play to a marginalized group of right-wingers and feed your own warped sense of power is something I can't tolerate. I'm not one of these Liberals that believe everything we do is right. I'm not a power at all cost type Liberal either. In this situation I'm calling it like I see it. I've always said that Harper would rather play politics than govern and in this situation he has proven me right. I believe this country needs real leadership (pardon the cliche). And by that I mean someone that can put aside their own personal desires and partisanship and focus on governing the country for the better for all Canadians.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)