Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Canadian Coup And Now Who Looks Stupid?

I grew up in Olcott Beach, NY. From my vantage point the sun set on Toronto every night. Toronto was magical – it was a real city with a tower and a 48% exchange rate on cash money. They had the best FM radio stations in the world , with all of that CFNY and The Mars Bar. Canada gave us SCTV, House Of Frightenstein (best children's show ever), and 1:00 AM curling matches. Before US Homeland Security ruined everything on the NY border, high school students in western NY towns were empowered to skip school and spend the day in Toronto. It was the thing to do, not so long ago, to be buying used albums on Young and Bloor.

Then Dubya got elected. The teat of Canadian kindness all but dried up. “You people are stupid and retarded,” Canada would say. “We pay our citizens to have babies in Canada, and provide free healthcare, eh? And what do YOU do in the US? Let morons steal your government. You embarrass North America. Major assholes, eh.” For eight long years, my Canadian friends have gone out of their way to shove my head into a dirty toilet because of Dubya. I thought you were my friend until I found out you were waiting for my nation to screw up, just so you could have a self-righteous laugh.

Well, well. What’s up with Canada these days, hmm?

Oh looky thar! Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shut down parliament to avoid a No Confidence vote, because he’s a dillhole conservative who hasn’t the first clue about what he is doing (and he is ruining everything). That’s what I said - what a poopchute Stephen Harper is! As much as I hate to point fingers, 46% of you Canadians elected him. At least I can prove Dubya stole our elections…

So tell me, Canada, how does it feel when you can’t find your own asshole with both hands? Doesn’t it suck? Don’t you just hate being defined by your bad management? Don’t I know it. Baby baby baby. Mmm.

Canada - I wouldn’t dare kick you when you are down, as much as you have kicked me, and so we have a choice. Either you let me help you work through your pain and make the world better, or you better ask me to laugh at your greasy arteries full of back-bacon and Tim Horton’s crullers. What’s it going to be, Mr. I’m Better Than You Eh? It’s your call.

There’s an awful load of dripping mess in the world, dear Canada, and it might behoove us to be pals again and work stuff out. My arms are wide open. No matter how you choose to go forward, I’m certain the sun sets on your shiny city in Ontario – with or without your consent. I’m here. You’re there. We are inches apart.

O Canada

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Anonymous said...

Mo, as we say in Québec, this is all Canada's fault (that's right, blame Canada!) ;)


Mojopo said...

I was SO tempted to post "Blame Canada", but since Karma came around before me, why be a prick about it? HA!

widepart said...

NOT IN ONTARIO! Bushlite (Harper)(the Conservative Party) did not win! Ontario is still very much left of centre. It is in the west that Bushlite(Harper)(the Conservative Party)have their strength. Canada's redneck's live out there. Oh, there are pockets of the left leaning, right thinking peoples out west but just not enough to keep the Conservative Party at bay.

Yesterday a dear friend sent me this short article which better explains what happened this week from a left of centre view point.

The Case for the Coalition
Harper is a dangerous driver, and we're taking away the keys.
By Michael Byers
Published: December 3, 2008

As a failed politician, I won't be sitting by the phone hoping that Prime Minister Dion will offer a cabinet position. I can't even look forward to watching from the government backbenches as Jim Prentice leads Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Or will it be James Moore?
Canadian politics are currently so full of uncertainties -- some unavoidable, others intentional -- that predictions are mere speculations. So let's move on to what we actually know about the constitutional and political situation.

MPs are everything

Canadians never vote directly for a "government." Instead, we elect a member of Parliament in our local constituency. It is only after 308 individual MPs have been chosen that the process of forming a government begins.

The Constitution Act of 1867 doesn't even mention the prime minister or political parties. MPs are everything.

How MPs organize themselves is entirely up to them. This is why two MPs are able to currently sit as independents; there could just as easily be 308 of them. Most MPs have organized themselves into groupings known as parties. This simplifies the process of forming government but doesn't change the constitutional pre-eminence of individual MPs.

There is just one basic requirement: The government must at all times enjoy the confidence of the majority of MPs in the House of Commons.

By unwritten constitutional convention, the Governor General calls upon the leader of the party with the most MPs and asks him or her to try to form a government that enjoys the confidence of the House. When that party holds a majority of the seats, the result is a foregone conclusion. This gives rise to the illusion that parties win the "right to govern." But they just get to try to form a government first, and happen to have enough seats to deliver.

Things are different when no party emerges from the election with a majority. Again, the Governor General calls upon the leader of the party with the most MPs and asks them to try to form a government that enjoys the confidence of the House. To obtain that confidence, the newly designated "prime minister" must persuade MPs from other parties to provide their support. If he or she fails, it is open to another party (or parties) to indicate that they can get the job done -- whereupon the Governor General will let them try.

Since the 308 individual MPs whose preferences drive this process are directly elected by Canadians, all of this is entirely democratic.

A whiff of tyranny

The current whiff of tyranny comes from Stephen Harper, who has deliberately misled Canadians by asserting that "Stéphane Dion does not have the right to take power without an election." To the contrary, Dion has the right -- provided, again, that the Governor General asks him to try to form a government.

Later today, Harper will likely ask the Governor General to prorogue (in essence, recess) Parliament, enabling him to dodge two confidence votes on Monday. A new parliamentary session would begin in the New Year.

The Governor General shouldn't heed his request, and here is why.

Normally, the Governor General is just a figurehead. Most of her powers can only be exercised with the advice and consent of the government. But she is not bound by the advice of a prime minister who has lost the confidence of the House -- as Harper all too evidently has done. The publication of a coalition agreement by Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe proves that Harper is prime minister in name only. Michaëlle Jean can, and should, be taking her advice from Dion.

That said, the Governor General might agree to prorogue Parliament in order to avoid Harper's wrath. But this would reward bad behaviour while only delaying the inevitable, since the Conservatives will be defeated at the first opportunity. Nor can Jean escape the spotlight: if she agrees to prorogue, she'll have to read the speech from the throne in January, and then see it defeated.

We elect MPs to decide

The Conservatives argue that Canadians did not vote for a Liberal/NDP coalition supported by the Bloc Québécois. But we live in a parliamentary system rather than a direct democracy. MPs are elected to go to Ottawa, debate issues in depth, and make decisions based on the information they acquire. They are not bound by a precise, predetermined electoral program. They are not even bound to stay in the same party, as Stephen Harper demonstrated when he persuaded David Emerson to become a Conservative in January 2006, just two weeks after having been elected as a Liberal.

Countries with electoral systems that are more representative than ours, including Australia, New Zealand and Israel, are accustomed to coalitions being formed after the results come in. Again, it is in no way anti-democratic to allow the majority of recently elected MPs to decide who will form government. Nor is it improper for them to discuss a possible coalition -- or indeed just about any other matter -- in advance.

Who's afraid of the Bloc?

The Conservatives claim that the Liberal/NDP deal with the Bloc Quebecois is improper because of that party's separatist agenda. Putting aside the fact that Stephen Harper concocted a similar arrangement with the Bloc in an attempt to defeat Paul Martin's minority government, this argument disrespects the millions of Canadian citizens who voted for Duceppe's party. They weren't just voting for separatism; they were voting for a social democratic party with a full range of policy positions, many of them quite similar to those of the NDP.

Indeed, the Bloc did not even campaign on separation in the last election. Instead, it ran against Harper and his economic, social, cultural and environmental policies (or lack thereof).

It is also significant that the Bloc has agreed to support the coalition for at least 18 months despite the fact that Liberals and NDP refused to make any concessions on the status of Quebec in Confederation. In other words, Jack Layton and Stéphane Dion stood up for a united Canada during the negotiations. As for Duceppe, he knows there's little support in his province for separation right now. The deal with the Liberal/NDP coalition provides him with an excuse for ignoring the issue.

Harper is the issue

Stephen Harper is the predominant issue for all three opposition parties. Frustration over his policies hit a boiling point with the release of the economic update last week. Eliminating public financing for political parties, stripping the right to strike from civil servants, misleading Canadians about the state of federal finances and refusing to advance an economic stimulus for an economy in free-fall -- all this piled on top of a long list of previous grievances.

More than anything, it is Harper's confrontational style and his penchant for deception and personal attacks that have turned MPs from all four parties against him.

Jack Layton could have sat back and watched Harper put the boots to the Liberal Party. In his five years as leader, Layton has steadily increased the number of NDP seats from 13 to 37. He has developed a fundraising machine that rivals the Liberals and greatly exceeds the Bloc and Greens, making his the only opposition party that could survive without public financing. As Bill Tieleman argued in these pages (from, I think, a narrow party perspective), inaction on the part of the NDP might have been the best strategy. It would also have been wrong.

Making Parliament work

MPs are elected to make Parliament work, and Layton has excelled at that. It was because of Layton that Paul Martin's 2005 budget included $1.4 billion for affordable housing. It was because of him that the Climate Change Accountability Act was adopted by the House of Commons in June 2008, with support from both the Liberals and Bloc. It was because of Layton that the residential schools apology took place in the symbolically important venue of the House of Commons -- a fact publicly acknowledged by Harper in a rare moment of magnanimity.

Conceivably, the NDP could benefit electorally from being in cabinet. It's important to be the conscience of Parliament and a source of progressive ideas; it's better to put those ideas into action. At the same time, nobody is thirsting for power in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. For all the good that it accomplishes, the coalition will still be blamed for negative developments beyond its control.

For all these reasons, the coalition is a "power grab" in one sense only. Stephen Harper has demonstrated that he's a thoroughly dangerous driver. With support from the Bloc, the Liberals and NDP are taking away the keys.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Karma... But you know, you Americans are such trend setters, see now a few years on, mini-Bushes are getting elected all over the planet. Cause, if you had one, we can have one too, dammit!


Minnie-sota said...

"At least I can prove Dubya stole our elections…" Hahaha, Mojo, so true.

I think Canada and the US can find firm common ground regarding our asshats in government.

::waving to Canada::

Christine said...

We know where our asshole is! He'll be very easy to find (on break until January... with the rest of 'em)

I've been bitching about "lack of leadership" lack of "pizazz" to pick from in Canadian politics for years.

Rockets 2010... or... January... or - whenever.

I'll put a poutine machine in every cafeteria and a cup holder in every bus. No more precious Tim spills in traffic! NO MORE!

we're fucked.

widepart said...

I'm waving back.

Now I really want to find out what makes an "ASSHAT" AND "ASSHAT"....then maybe by gene therapy or other means we can end their desire to destroy countries and keep them from continually pissing off us progressive thinking peoples.

PapaPig said...

I feel empathy for the middle and the left in Canada. No sooner than we get rid of a moron they get one.

My friends in Canada didn't beat me up over Bush, though the sentiment I sensed over all was not good toward the US.

But if you get sick, then your friend gets sicks, you don't make fun of them, you help them through it.

Oh Canada, we still love you and hope you get well soon.

Muchacho Enfermo said...

Brilliant, brilliant post. I laughed the whole way through it. Thank you all for your continued support of us here in Canada through these retarded times. We appreciate it.

@Christine: also LOLed at your comment! I'll vote for you for sure!