Ten days ago, Governor General Michaelle Jean read Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s throne speech.
In it, Harper pledged his minority government would work with the opposition to ensure Canada weathers the global economic crisis.
But that was last week.
Now, Harper senses a new political opportunity.
So he’s decided to exploit the global crisis to bankrupt his political adversaries and further his own power.
It’s a masterful political move.
After cutting taxes, spending the nation’s surplus and running up an expected $6-billion deficit, Harper’s government now has to butcher spending.
And, given the current crisis, it’s unlikely that federal funding of political parties will have much public sympathy.
But that publicly funded system is good for the country.
Our Parliament works best with a effective opposition.
And public funding of political parties helps limit the influence of lobbyists, like Karlheinz Schreiber, unions, like the Canadian Autoworkers, and corporations (Exxon, Maple Leaf Foods) on government policy.
Now, with the opposition already financially weak, Harper has decided to shamelessly use the widening global recession as a cover to bankrupt his adversaries.
The Liberals and New Democrats are willing to bring down the government over the measure. They are already so financially weak they have little choice — and in this financial environment, there is little ability to fundraise.
And so, at a time when Canada needs political leadership, it is close to government collapse.
Put simply, thanks to Harper’s cynical games, Canada finds itself in a political crisis in the midst of a historic economic one.
As a result, Governor General Michelle Jean might have to hand the government to a coalition made up of the Bloc Quebecois, New Democratic and Liberal parties led by Stephane Dion, who is in the process of being replaced.
Or the nation will be plunged into a $300-million election, to save $30 million!
The whole situation is absurd.
“Upholding the ideal of democracy that we embody in the world is a responsibility that each of us bears,” said Harper in the throne speech.
Now it’s clear that Harper’s ideal is to cement his power, and he’s willing to do so at the expense of the nation.
He should abandon this opportunist rewriting of the election finance rules and get on with governing the nation through the worsening recession.