Plans for a federal opposition coalition party to oust Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have divided members of the Yukon legislature.
Premier Dennis Fentie supports the reigning Conservatives; NDP leader Todd Hardy supports the coalition and Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell says the Yukon shouldn’t be taking sides.
The federal Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois have agreed to form an 18-month-long coalition that could topple the Conservatives as early as Monday, and install Liberal leader Stephane Dion as the Prime Minister.
The Yukon government was “concerned” with the federal opposition parties’ plan “to seize power from the democratically elected Conservative government,” said an official Yukon Party release.
“I will not — will not — sit silently by while backroom negotiations continue to form a government, to overthrow a government democratically elected a few weeks ago,” said Fentie yesterday in the legislature.
With the ongoing financial crisis, “this can be compared to a ship in stormy seas throwing their captain overboard,” said Fentie.
The coalition plan started forming last Thursday after the Conservative government’s economic update, which called for cutting public financing to Canadian political parties and presented no immediate plans to address the global economic crisis.
“It was totally unexpected that in that statement there would be attacks on electoral reform and the public service and on women’s rights,” said Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, who has been flooded with correspondence from Yukoners regarding the possible change of government.
“The prime minister, in a minority position, is bringing up dramatic attacks on certain areas while having no plan for Canadians who are struggling in these uncertain economic times,” said Bagnell.
Mitchell criticized Fentie for “closing doors” by taking sides in the federal debate.
“Whether the prime minister is Mr. Harper, Monsieur Dion or another, they will be the prime minister and that will be that,” said Mitchell in the legislature.
“Everybody needs to just calm down and allow the governor general to do her constitutionally enshrined job,” said Mitchell.
Governor General Michaelle Jean will decide whether to call an election or allow the Liberal-led coalition to form the new government.
Fentie accused Mitchell of taking sides himself simply by mentioning the coalition.
“He has now entered the debate himself by virtue of the fact that he is asking a question on the matter and asking the government to take a very clear position about not involving itself,” said Fentie.
Mitchell did take time to praise the merits of a possible Liberal coalition government.
“If the proposed coalition actually were to form a government, they’ve proposed to spend $30 billion to stimulate the Canadian economy,” said Mitchell.
“If Yukon got a third of that, there is money for a new FH Collins Secondary School, for hospital expansion and perhaps $30 million for communities to deal with infrastructure and other needs,” he said.
On Monday, NDP leader Todd Hardy introduced a motion to have the Yukon legislature support the proposed coalition.
“Mr. Mitchell, you can’t put your head in the sand, when it’s impossible to walk down the street without every person talking about this issue,” said Hardy.
“We’re elected to take strong stands,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Ottawa, Prime Minister Harper vehemently opposed a government “dependent on the support of separatists.”
“The highest principle of Canadian democracy is that if one wants to be prime minister one gets one’s mandate from the Canadian people and not from Quebec separatists,” said Harper.
At the Conservative’s holiday party on Monday night, Harper called the coalition plan “the nightmare before Christmas.”
“Sixty two per cent of people voted against giving this Prime Minister a mandate … they voted for opposition parties,” said NDP leader Jack Layton.
Liberal leader Stephane Dion credited the Bloc for allowing “18 months of political stability.”
The governments of the Yukon’s neighbouring provinces reacted similarly to the proposed coalition.
“I think there is enough blame to go around to everybody … let’s get over it and get on with what’s best for Canada,” said BC Premier Gordon Campbell on Tuesday.
“Put Canada first and stop the nonsense,” said Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach on Monday.
Sparks flew between the Yukon’s opposition leaders as the legislature filed out for recess on Tuesday afternoon.
A heated argument between the two leaders ended with Hardy telling Mitchell to “take a hike.”
“Oh yeah, real mature,” replied Mitchell, prompting Hardy to once again suggest the hike.
“Well, you take a nap,” said Mitchell.
However, the two were chatting “amicably” by the end of the day, said Hardy and Mitchell.
Contact Tristin Hopper at firstname.lastname@example.org