Thursday, 4 December 2008

Chilling News From Canada

Carrying a vote of No Confidence after defeat on a major issue in the Commons is the standard way of forcing the relinquishing of power by a prime minister in the United Kingdom Parliament.

Canada, whose parliamentary democracy is modelled on that of the United Kingdom, has just had its Parliament prorogued by the Governor-General who represents the Head of State Queen Elizabeth II. This has been done to avoid a vote of No Confidence next Monday which, supported by an ad hoc coalition whose purpose is to remove the ruling Party, would almost certainly have been successful.

'The news of the parliamentary suspension came after a two-and-a-half hour long meeting in Ottawa between Harper and Michaëlle Jean, the governor general. Harper, speaking to reporters amid snow flurries outside of Rideau Hall, the governor general's official residence, said:

"The public is very frustrated by the current situation in Parliament and we are all responsible for it."

"Today's decision will give us an opportunity—and I'm talking about all the parties—to focus on the economy and work together." The first item of business when Parliament resumes will be the budget, he said. (Herald Tribune)

Stéphane Dion, the Liberal Party leader and head of the Opposition wrote to the Queen's representative bitterly opposing the move:

"A prime minister cannot request that the Parliament be prorogued to avoid a confidence vote,... It would be an abuse of power on the part of the Executive branch without precedent in the history of Parliament."


Barnsley Bill said...

The socialists and the Quebecois joining forces is like stalin and hitler holding hands. This is all about harper trying to scrap public funding for political parties. He is an idiot and has played into the hands of the french. Given the chance they would dig a trench and throw everybody out. if that were allowed to happen Alberta would follow suit.
Luckily they are already squabbling.

hatfield girl said...

The issues looked very iffy, BB, and if you are clearer about them it would be kind if you have a moment to set them out. What is chilling is the action taken.

Berlusconi isn't a prime minister much of Italy wanted for many reasons; but most of Italy did, and no-one thinks of shutting the Parliament to disrupt his term or deny him power.

If the Canadians want Harper out so much they form ill-suited coalitions against him they should get their general election, even if the last was recently. Not a shut Parliament on a 'we are in desperate times' argument. We don't want an instance of that, particularly in a parliamentary democracy so close to or own.

Barnsley Bill said...

He should call an election immediately, he would no doubt increase his parties share of the vote even further. Campaigning on a platform of slicing pork would be very popular at the moment.
Both the parties explicitly ruled out working with each other before the election, suddenly the liberals see their funding evaporating and the French see an opportunity to force the separatist agenda and bang.. Bu yes.. Prorogue is a very serious step that has (from memory) only been used once before in Canada's history. The Quebecois are racist scum. The last time their seperatist referendum was rejected they set about on a campaign of Blaming Jews and Foreigners. And yes they screamed the Jew word at will.

Barnsley Bill said...

Nearly forgot.. If the French get their way then Alberta will split as well. Alberta has all the oil and the liberals have been trying to ping them with usury taxes for years..

hatfield girl said...

Every word you say suggests that closing Parliament is wrong, BB. These are matters on which all the people should have their say until some kind of decision is hammered out - political funding, oil, separatism, - not things to be decided by an elite and then the agreements forced onto the electorate by denying their democracy.

I repeat, this is not a good example, the similarities are too great and the issues too familiar.

Anonymous said...

Not really so chilling.
In a record low voter turnout, Tories won 143 seats (38% of the vote), Liberals won 76 (26%), Socialists 37 (18%), Separatists 50 (10%). Independents won 2 seats and the Greens didn't win any seats but got 7% of the vote. Therefore the Tories had a minority government that depended on opposition support.
The coalition of the opposition parties had the majority of the vote and of the seats but could not vote on a planned non-confidence bill to disband the government because the Tories delayed it for a week, during which time Harper asked the governor general to save his bacon by closing Parliament.
When Parliament resumes, he has to present a budget.
We can only hope that having been thoroughly chastised by this unprecedented activity, he may stop acting dictatorially and start trying to win broader support like a minority leader should.
It's messy, but democracy often is.

Bill Quango MP said...

Democracy is the worst form of government.
Except for all the others

hatfield girl said...

Not sure that shutting the Parliament to avoid a lost vote of confidence and a subsequent general election is an expression of democracy, Dave.

hatfield girl said...

You and Mr Churchill and most of the rest of us, BQ. Though I'm quite keen on an HG autocracy if democracy doesn't suit.

Anonymous said...

Both solutions are problematic: shutting down parliament denies the free expression of our collective voice, but denying the elected government the chance to mend their ways disenfranchises the 38% who voted Tory.
Us voters in our wisdom set the scene for this debacle because we did not trust any party enough to give them a majority. This was the expression of democracy.
Minority governments work if the politicians submit to the will of the people. Harper did not and badly mismanaged his minority government, provoking this problem.
If he now puts more thought into responsible management and less into getting his own way, he can redeem himself; if not, the coalition will take over at the end of January.
Harper has been given a clip around the earhole and now knows that he will be punished a lot more if he doesn't mend his ways. I'd say that was democracy in action.

Anonymous said...

I think prorogation was the worst thing Jean could have done. The economy is in recession and now we have no effective government for nigh on two months. I'm not much fond of the Liberals or the N.D.P., but it is about time Stephen Harper got voted out. Postponing the inevitable helps no one.

hatfield girl said...

Effectively the Prime Minister has lost the vote of confidence he has denied the House an opportunity to hold by getting the Head of State to shut the Parliament. Obviously he hopes that the coalition against him will break down between now and when the House reconvenes. He, and the Head of State, are giving him a second chance at winning a vote of confidence when constitutionally the Parliament should be dissolved and a general election called to find out what the people want. Leaving Mr Harper with some kind of claim to be the person who calls a general election after he's been effectively ousted as evidenced by the closure of Parliament, is democratically outrageous.

It doesn't matter how unsavoury the Opposition coalition, (on that I couldn't speak) they, and those who elected them, are in the majority and want him out.

This is a very nasty and worrying example. A UK coalition of Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists might well choose to oust a minority New Labour regime.

I'm with Mozart on this. BB seems to think it's still Harper's election to call, but it shouldn't be. He's out now, or would have been tomorrow; or he could have tried to win the vote of confidence by stopping being dictatorial and trying to win broader support - but tomorrow, Dave, not in two months at his convenience.

Anonymous said...

Nothing much gets done over the Christmas anyway. If the government uses the delay to quietly contemplate the problem, figure out what needs to be done, and also get opposition support, we may get a better budget program than throwing taxpayers' money at bankers and hoping for the best.