Stephen Harper’s minority government has an obligation to follow the nation’s laws — especially the laws it lobbied more than a decade for, drafted and passed in Parliament.
Take, for example, the Fixed Election Dates Act.
The legislation does exactly what it says — it sets the date for a federal election as the third Monday in October four years after the day of the last general election.
That sets the date for the next election as October 19, 2009. (Unless, of course, Harper lost a confidence vote, which, of course, he hasn’t.)
Harper’s Conservatives introduced and passed the American-like law, removing the sitting government’s ability to call an election.
It fulfilled a longstanding promise of the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties, precursors of Harper’s current Conservative Party.
It was done to improve voter turnout, predictability, policy planning and to make things fairer to all parties.
“Fixed election dates will improve the fairness of the Canadian electoral system by eliminating the ability of governing parties to manipulate the timing of elections for partisan advantage,” said Rob Nicholson, former minister for democratic reform, who introduced the law that received royal assent on May 3, 2007.
Now, Harper’s going to break it. For partisan advantage.
There is plenty of trouble brewing for the Conservatives.
They were long shots to win in three byelections, scheduled for September 8. Such losses wouldn’t look good.
The Ontario economy is faltering, and Canada’s surplus has been turned to a deficit, or near one, under the Conservative minority.
New information about the Conservative Party’s campaign-financing scandal is due.
Julie Couillard — holder of former Foreign Affairs minister Maxime Bernier’s state secrets — is about to release a tell-all autobiography.
Facing all this, and more, Harper has signaled an election will be called soon —before the September 8 byelections.
After sailing through no less than 43 confidence votes in the last parliamentary session, Harper is justifying the decision by deeming the House dysfunctional.
There is no evidence of this. But Harper’s prospects for re-election are dimming.
So he’ll ignore the fixed election date, which he championed and passed.
Sometimes laws can be inconvenient. That doesn’t give anyone, including a prime minister, the right to break them.
If Harper now believes a fixed election date is a bad idea, he should repeal the law in Parliament.
Failing that, he should abide by the October 19, 2009, date and continue the business of government. (Richard Mostyn)