Friday, December 05, 2008

Canada's pygmy Prime Minister

Canada is in the midst of a political crisis:
It's true that Canadians did not vote for a coalition of Liberals and NDP headed by Stephane Dion (a decent man but weak leader who Canadians rejected in the Oct. 14 election) and supported by the Bloc Québécois. Neither did we vote for right wing doctrinaire (old Reform Party/Alliance) policies like banning pay equity or removing the right to strike of public employees under the guise of belt tightening needed for the upcoming recession that Harper kept insisting did not exist. Moreover, regardless of the merits, choosing this time to unilaterally cut public funding for political parties was just plain nasty or stupid, probably both.

Yet Harper had his Finance Minister toss these into an economic update, something that most observers, including supporters of the Conservative Party, now describe as his "bully" gene or arrogance. Harper's decision clearly triggered the current crisis. Instead of an economic plan to deal with a crisis our PM opted for partisan attacks.

The opposition parties were astounded and reacted as would be expected. Let him get away with this in a minority government and who knows where it would stop. The trigger was the partisan attack, especially on their finances, which could cripple them, but Harper also chose to ignore the economic crisis and paint an overly rosy picture of Canada's economy.

They proposed a 2-party coalition. Unlike Harper, the coalition pledged to deal realistically with the economic crisis.

That's how parliament works - the government must have the confidence of the House of Commons or it falls. Rather than calling another election so soon over the last, a coalition can take power under our system.

But such a coalition would also inflame the West, which had voted overwhelmingly for the Conservatives. Westerners could view the coalition as a way to cheat them of their government. An added problem is that it would be headed by Dion, an ineffective leader who had agreed to step down in May 2009 after the Liberals had a poor showing at the polls. And, perhaps most of all, changing governments during an economic crisis seemed risky.

To combat his imminent defeat, Harper backed down on the triggering partisan ploys but to no avail. The opposition had had enough and no longer trusted him.

Accordingly, Harper ratcheted up the rhetoric. He decided to demonize the Bloc as evil incarnate, vile separatists about to destroy Canada, even though he has a long history of cosying up to them himself when he needed their support.
He said the Bloc was part of the coalition when it was not. He said the coalition leaders did not have a Canadian flag at their signing ceremony when two were there and easily visible. He plain lied.

This Harper tactic has stirred up latent Western alienation against Eastern Canada and Quebec in particular. His caucus was heard to sing "O Canada" during the crisis, which reminded me of McCain and Palin's right wing supporters chanting USA! USA! as if they had a monopoly on patriotism. Pardon me while I puke. Are we in for rallies where Conservative supporters chant "CA-NA-DA! CA-NA-DA!"?

Harper went to the Governor General and asked that Parliament be prorogued (suspended) until 26 Jan. 2009. This is the first time that a PM has ever suspended Parliament to avoid defeat. And in the midst of an economic crisis no less.

Here come the US-style attack ads.... They are guaranteed to be full of distortions and outright lies and name calling and he counts on us being stupid enough to believe them. Unfortunately, many voters can be swayed by such nonsense and a media blitz of attack ads.
His support is up.

Is this what's coming next from our PM in a month-long string of advertisements aimed at keeping power? That the Conservatives alone love this country and want what's best for it? Are supporters of the Liberals and NDP to become "The Others," not quite "real Canadians" but left-leaning socialists, just one step away from "Commie red b_astards"? Is that where he is heading, all in an attempt to save his own skin? You know they are short of ideas and valid arguments when the separatist and socialist labels come out.

When Parliament resumes in January, who knows what will happen. The coalition is unlikely to hold given that the Liberals are in the midst of a leadership race. If Harper gets his way, the hate mongers within his ranks will be out in force. Canadians of different political persuasions will be turned against each other. His supporters will be so aroused against a coalition that they will destroy opposition signs, attack opposition MP offices, and spit on coalition supporters in the street, or worse, since they are anti-Canadian. All in support of his keeping power.

Most Canadians just want our political leaders to show leadership and cooperate so that our government works. Harper had his chance earlier but blew it. No doubt he will now give the impression of wanting to consult and show respect for others. Can he be trusted? If history is prologue, the answer is no.

Frankly, Harper's actions in stirring up national disunity and in asking for Parliament to be suspended to avoid a non-confidence motion that would defeat him are undemocratic
. His mean and bullying behavior during the current crisis is what Canadians somehow seemed to know about him. It's the reason he has not gotten a majority government despite a weak and crippled Liberal Party.

  • Harper could have chosen to draw opposition parties into a common fight against the economic crisis.
  • He could have respected the views of all Canadians and solicited ideas from elected representatives of all parties.
  • He could have chosen greatness by cooperating and creating an all-party team of advisers.
He could have stepped up at this historic moment of crisis and chosen to be a giant.

But instead he chose to be a pygmy. Our PM has proven to be a small man indeed. Our Parliament is now suspended, all so he can retain power. His stature is forever diminished.


From fiscal update to prorogued Parliament in 7 days

Fanning the fires of national disunity

Charest warns against Quebec-bashing in Parliament crisis

Ottawa rhetoric likely incited sign burning, B.C. MP says

Emotions run high in the West

The first Liberal step: Replace Dion

Liberals try a new leader, Michael Ignatieff

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