Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Friday, December 05, 2008

One of several options

Was the Governor-General wrong to prorogue? Hell if I know. It seemed like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" sort of situation, and there really was no good choice. Harper should not have asked for it, that much is certain. But what's done is done.

One thing that a lot of people--including a lot of people I like and respect--don't seem to be getting right now is that decisions about government on that level aren't about policy. They aren't made based on the idea that a Harper-led government is going to be better on the economy, or a Dion-led government is less likely to cut much-needed social programs. Decisions on that level are about nothing more and nothing less than giving the Canadian people a government that works based on the parliament they voted for. We're not going to get that because our voting system doesn't actually give us the parliament we vote for, but we still have the possibility (and, I would argue, the responsibility) to form as democratic a government as we can based on the parliament we do have.

By that token, I support the proposed minority-coalition-plus-support-agreement not because I think it would enact better policy than a Harper-led government, but because it's an option that would a) reflect more than 50% of the elected parliament, b) be willing to compromise and work together across party lines, and c) be willing to commit to governing for a particular time period, creating more stability than we have had in years. But here's the rub: it's not the only option that could provide those things. The current government has lost the confidence of the House--but they could regain it. They could commit to leading a minority government that governed for a particular length of time, and consulted with at least one other party in the House on every piece of legislation they propose. They could even propose a different coalition, or a minority government that had an agreement with one particular opposition party, with the same kinds of "majority of the House", "compromise", and "durability" terms that the Dion-led coalition would have.

If we're talking about what I personally want, of course I would like to see Harper out of the Prime Minister's chair. I think he's been a terrible prime minister on the democracy end of things, and his policy preferences are not mine, either. But this exercise isn't about what I want, or what you want, or what any one group wants. It's about what Canadians voted for. And there are still several open possibilities that would give us that, or at least something much closer to it than we've had in a very long time.

I've never had a lot of faith that these things will actually work as they're intended to, and I've lost even more of that faith this week. But it would help me regain some of it if we could all put partisanship aside and commit to working toward and supporting the existence of a stable, cooperative government formed from the House we elected. In whatever form that might take.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

On the backroom

Consider this: When people in the same party get together to talk about plans for laws or governance or strategy, we call it a caucus meeting. But when people from different parties do exactly the same thing, we call it a secret backroom plot.

Apparently it's peachy keen for our parliamentarians to get together, hash through an idea, and propose a new piece of legislation without presenting it first to the public in an election campaign--but only if everybody involved in the deal is wearing the same colour scarf.

Is that really the message we want to send to the people who govern us? Wall off the parties and make sure no one leaves their bubble? No talking to each other unless it's antagonistic, and even then, preferably only in Question Period? Because when we use rhetoric like that, that's exactly what we're saying.

And we wonder why nobody in this country can make a democratically elected minority parliament work to save their lives.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

We have polling

Angus Reid has released polling data about the proposed coalition. Here are their answers to the main three questions:

Which of these statements comes closest to your own view?
The Conservative party deserves to continue in government: 35%
The Conservative party does not deserve to continue in government: 40%
Not sure: 25%

Should the opposition parties get together and topple the Conservative minority government headed by Stephen Harper?
Yes: 36%
No: 41%
Not sure: 23%

If the Conservative minority government is defeated, what would be your preferred solution?
Holding a new federal election: 32%
Allowing the opposition to form a coalition government: 37%
Allowing the opposition to govern by accord: 7%
Not sure: 24%
So most people aren't exactly excited about the coalition, but given the fact that the Conservatives "do not deserve to continue in government," it's still the best of a bunch of bad options.

This is an eminently reasonable view. There's a lot to be nervous about when it comes to this coalition. But considering the fact that the Conservatives have lost the confidence of the House, when you cast it against the only other possible outcomes, it starts to look like the least ridiculous one. I am very encouraged that most Canadians realize that a coalition government would be a superior solution to a government by accord.

Just as fascinating as the main questions, though, is some of the data on the full .pdf at the bottom. It's perhaps not surprising that a majority of Albertans believe the Conservatives should remain in office (53%), but what is surprising is that the number isn't higher. I mean, 64.6% of Albertans voted for this party only a few short weeks ago.

What happened to that extra 11%? The answer might be here: the overwhelming majority of Canadians think the federal government should implement a stimulus package to boost the economy as soon as possible (75%), and more than half think the Conservatives have not done a good job in dealing with the economic crisis (53%).

The prospect of a Prime Minister Dion also enjoys considerably less support (25%) than the coalition itself (37%). Hmm.

Also, I can't help but notice that the percentage of Canadians supporting the coalition is exactly the same as the percentage of Canadians who supported the Conservatives in the last election. That's some lovely irony right there.

The .pdf is here. It makes for some fascinating reading.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I guess they're trying.

As you've probably heard by now, there are rallies being planned across Canada, both for and against the proposed coalition. Well, in Edmonton, the "anti" folks are said to be rallying at "Duncan Office," which I have to imagine is shorthand for "Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan's constituency office."

But there's a funny thing about that--I was just talking to the divine Ms. Duncan, and she told me that her constituency office is still being set up. Yes, they have chosen a location, but no, there are no open hours there yet. She just hired her assistant this past weekend, in fact.

So are they going to be rallying at an office that isn't open yet, then? No, apparently it's even better than that, because the address that is being passed around for "Duncan Office" is 10806-119 St, which is not only not Linda Duncan's future constituency office, it's not even in our riding. In fact, it's nowhere near our riding.

What the heck is that address, anyway? The provincial NDP office, maybe? Good luck rallying there, if that's what it is--it's kind of out in the middle of nowhere, and they share space with a church.

Apparently this is what happens when people who shouldn't have passed high school social studies and who don't know that '52.9' is a bigger number than '46.4' try to organize political events.

[Update: The pro-coalition rally will take place on Thursday at 6PM, at Winston Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton. If you support the coalition, pass it on.]

Monday, December 01, 2008

And you guys make fun of the U.S. education system?

Can you retroactively flunk high school social studies in Canada?

Because I'm hereby nominating everybody who refers to a potential coalition government as "overturning the results of the last election" for that dubious honour.

Breaking the golden rule

The golden rule of leading a minority government: You have to come up with compromises that people outside of your own party will vote for.

This is why Harper is going down.

In the end, it's not about party financing. It's not even about the lack of a stimulus package, although the (still) opposition needs to pretend it is. It's about the last two years of the Liberals rubber-stamping everything the Conservatives wanted to do, with no interparty consultation beforehand except on Afghanistan. It's about hearing the Conservatives claim in the first week after the election that they wanted to make this minority parliament work right, and people actually getting their hopes up that it could maybe, just maybe, be different this time around, only to have them dashed when the Conservatives tried to ram controversial things through yet again without even a whiff of consultation outside of his caucus. It's about saying that Stephen Harper's had his chance to actually govern like the head of a minority parliament, and he blew it.

It's about saying enough is enough. It's about saying: "You can't lead a minority government, but we can."

[Update: The Globe's Lawrence Martin says the same thing, more eloquently.]