Thursday, December 4, 2008

To Suspend or Not Suspend....Is there another way?

I don't ever recall a time with this much intrigue in Canadian politics....nothing close. The defeat of Joe Clark's minority Conservative government almost 30 years ago might be in the same area code, but what's happening now is far more interesting.

If now appears the question facing our Governor General will be whether or not to suspend or "prorogue" parliament. I prefer the more common term 'suspend' because you don't have to define it....professionals love specialized terms designed to distance themselves from the general public. But politics is all about 'the people'...and most of us speak in simple and easily understood terms.

The thought that our elected representatives, those people we've chosen to represent us at a time of great economic uncertainty would be 'out of the office'....unsettles me. What if there's a crisis which requires a quick response? Does Prime Minister Harper get to act as supreme dictator? Given everything that's been said and written about his leadership style I imagine it is something he would welcome...but I'm not so sure about how Canadians would feel about it. When George Bush sent his nations military to war with Iraq Harper was all over US media lamenting that we weren't there by the side of our American and British friends....but I digress.

If Mme Jean refuses to grant Mr. Harper's request for suspension then his government will certainly be defeated. At that point the question would become whether or not we have an election, or is a coalition of the Liberals and NDP allowed to govern with support from the Bloc on votes of confidence.

Perhaps there's another solution.

I've been reading and listening to as much media as I can over the past few days, and I'm finding my opinions somewhat in flux. While I'm still receptive to a Liberal/NDP coalition myself, I'm also gaining a better understanding of those vehemently opposed. Little of what I learned studying Political Science at York University and since really applies.

Our system of government, British Parliamentary democracy, it allows for a coalition to rule and there would be no question as to its legitimacy from a legal perspective. But democracy at its root is defined as 'consent of the governed'. It strikes me that there are an awful lot of Canadians who are not happy and who do not consent to the type of government we've had in this country since its inception. Sure we've put up with it up until now, because however flawed (no system is perfect) it still functioned reasonably least until now.

With our system we don't get to elect a Prime Minister, although many think we do. Paul Martin became Prime Minister before being elected to a minority government when Liberals chose him to succeed Jean Chretien. Kim Campbell and John Turner were also Prime Ministers of Canada after having been chosen by their parties to lead at times when their parties formed the government. Some may not like the system, but that's the system we have.

So how do we solve this dilemma without having to first alter our constitution and system of government? Michaƫlle Jean is faced with a difficult task, and as an unelected official its one I do not envy, but here's my suggestion.

She needs to broker a settlement between the Conservatives and the opposition parties, one which will allow the current House of Commons to operate as intended. That is to say with a ruling Conservative minority working in concert with at least one of the opposition parties to ensure passage of any confidence least for another year. We can drop all the hyperbole and rhetoric about separatists and coups that only serve to further divide this country.

Mr Dion can argue all he likes about a lack of confidence in the House, and Stephen Harper can say all he wants about how this was a prearranged "done deal" and that he was never given a chance to earn that confidence. Both arguments have merit, but that doesn't matter now...what matters is that Canadians want and deserve politicians who can put partisan differences aside and find enough common ground on which to operate the government of this nation.

There's a deeper more important issue in play here, that of western alienation...and that's something I'll write about later.

No comments: