A government deserves the democracy it elects
I should be studying, but recent events have encouraged me to write down my opinions.
Feel free to respond.
They say Christmas is the time to tell the truth, so here it is.
I believe what Governor General Michaelle Jean decided recently was not only wrong, but was also unconstitutional. I view the two issues separately and I will delve into them individually.
I hope recent historic events give Canadians cause to increase their knowledge about parliamentary democracies and the parties they support, or do not, and also their historical knowledge of minority governments around the world.
As for Jean: There has not really been a situation that directly correlates to the events of the past week and I am sympathetic for the position she was put in. However, I think that her ultimate decision was wrong.
In a parliamentary democracy, citizens elect representatives who we trust, until the next election, to work in concert with one another for the good of the country, to represent the interests of their constituents.
For an act of Parliament, we require the majority of its members to support such an action in order for it to be enacted.
I think the fact that we have had, historically, parties that represent similar interests has jaded our opinions on our government. We do not elect parties or prime ministers. We elect MPs and those MPs form the government.
When you say “I did not vote for Stephen Harper or Stephane Dion”, that is fine. Neither did citizens in the other 306 ridings in which they did not run.
When I voted for Larry Bagnell, I trusted that he had my best interests at heart; I did the same when I campaigned for Peter Milliken as a resident of Kingston, Ontario, this past October.
The fact that he is a member of a political party is, I believe, in our form of government, not as pressing.
When Canadians elected the members of the Conservative Party on October 14th, they did not give them a mandate, just as they did not in 2006, and just as they did not give Paul Martin one in 2004 or Joe Clark one in 1979.
They finished with the plurality of seats, but in order to govern, they needed the co-operation of other members of Parliament, and in the bigger picture, their parties.
Although Harper is the prime minister because he represents the most seats, he is not the leader of Canada with his party alone.
During recent events, Harper, regardless of whatever reasons one wants to believe — subsidies, stimulus issues or a power grab — lost the support of the majority of members elected by Canadians. Simply because his party is the largest does not mean he should retain his position.
In parliaments everywhere, be it Israel, Italy, or Germany, when a minority government is elected, sometimes a coalition is necessary. Whether you voted for your MPs based on the refusals to form a coalition or not is, to me, irrelevant.
Unforeseen circumstances happen — no one foresaw 9/11 when they voted for Jean Chretien, no one foresaw the brutality of the First World War or the divisions of conscription when they first elected Robert Borden (eventually a coalition government), but nevertheless, they voted for them.
Italy and Israel see coalition governments form frequently. It is the way our system works.
So Harper’s ability to prorogue Parliament is unconstitutional and sets two precedents.
The first is, perhaps, most obvious: because of precedent, the prime minister is able to avoid a confidence motion, no longer answerable to the Canadian people represented through their MPs.
In 1980, Joe Clark did not dodge his judgment day and twice in 2005, Paul Martin did not avoid his. Jean and Harper have made a tremendous error that erodes unaccountability in Canada.
Furthermore, I believe the Conservative politics at play are not only despicable, but unbecoming of what I wish for in my politicians. And that is why I believe Jean made the wrong choice.
Simply put, Harper blatantly lied and sought regional issues to divide the country, then changed his tone the afternoon he walked out the doors of Rideau Hall.
He lied about BQ members receiving Senate seats. He lied about there being no Canadian flags at the signing. And he lied when he said the move was undemocratic.
The very election legitimized the actions of the elected MPs throughout their term.
In our first-past-the-post system 40 per cent support translates into a parliamentary majority. That a coalition of the Liberals, NDP, BQ, and even Green supported this motion, not only with the majority of the seats but the majority of the vote (63 per cent), demonstrates that Canadian democracy was extremely democratic.
To say Canadians did not vote for Stephane Dion as PM is fine, but 63 per cent rejected Harper and one will find the same situations in Italy, Germany, or Israel, where nevertheless, leaders of parties that did not receive the popular vote form government.
Jean allowing a prorogue suggests a subtle acceptance of Harper’s tactics. That will now be passed on to other generations of Canadians.
Additionally, though I do not support the goals of the Bloc Quebecois, they do represent many in Quebec.
They are not a federalist party, but were elected and control nearly a sixth of the House, commanding more votes than the Greens. Canadians must not ignore them.
Harper has divided the country, pitting East against West and left against right.
A leader using “socialist” as a slur is not fit to rule my country; a leader trying to disenfranchise French Canada by dismissing their elected representatives is not fit to govern Canada.
After recent events, I am proud of my party.
The Conservative tactics have been awful, and their update is a harbinger of what a majority government could bring.
This party is not like the former Progressive Conservatives. A man who believes “the NDP are living proof that the Devil exists and interferes in the affairs of men” certainly should not govern a country that prides itself on universal health care, welfare, green policy, or peacekeeping.
I believe “Tory times are tough times,” although that does not prevent them from governing well.
I hope Harper redeems himself in the eyes of his country. The months ahead will be a reckoning for all Canadians.
However, I remind all that a democracy elects a government it deserves.
Canadians must get involved and consider the political system, and who you support.