Who is Canada's head of state?
If you answered 'The Prime Minister' take a seat at the back of the class. Its actually our Governor General, Michaëlle Jean . And she now takes centre stage in sorting out the political power play that is currently being acted out in Ottawa. I'll get to the reason why this is vitally important at the end.
I've heard a number of people in the past couple days asking questions like: "What's going on"? We're being bombarded from all sides about how "the other guys" are trying to subvert democracy but you can toss out all the claims by the various party leaders about protecting democracy and the interests of Canadians. Whether its the Conservatives or members of the opposition parties its all smoke and mirrors at this stage. This has absolutely nothing to do with what's right or wrong and everything to do with gaining or maintaining power.
Stehpen Harper called an election for October 14th 2008, breaking his own promise of fixed election dates in an attempt to gain a majority mandate. That's the prerogative of the party in power and its a game all sitting governments play...trying to pick the optimal time to go to the polls. And while the Conservatives did manage to increase the size of their minority, it remained just that...a minority, with the opposition parties having numerical superiority in the House of Commons. Harper would continue to lead a Conservative government, but he would need the support of at least one opposition party in order to enact any legislation.
After winning the election Harper did what all leaders do, he spoke graciously about working with the other parties in order to provide Canadians with good government. But seeing a Liberal party in transition with a lame-duck leader and little left in their war chest to fight another election, he decided to gamble.
Like a shark smelling blood in the water he attempted to do what Tonya Harding did to Nancy Kerrigan....cutting off political funding to political parties would effectively knee-cap the opposition, especially the Liberals. It is far easier to raise funds when your's is the party in power. There are plenty of special interests out there who are willing to spend hundreds and thousands for dinner parties where they'll have the ear of the Prime Minister or a key cabinet member. On top of that it would likely destroy a party like the Greens.
Barack Obama just won what's been described as a landslide victory in the US, but the overall popular vote was surprisingly close....and Obama spent McCain into the ground in achieving his victory. The point is simply that it takes major dollars to win a political campaign, and with the Conservatives flush with cash the next election would have put the Tories at a huge advantage and likely would have handed Mr. Harper his coveted majority.
Harper likely envisioned things playing out in one of two ways. Either the opposition would cave and the economic update would have passed, or it would have been defeated and an election would ensue. If it passed Harper would have been able to bide his time and call an election when the conditions were best for a Conservative majority victory, and during the campaign the Tories would have the bucks to own the airwaves with their message. If the gambit failed and an election ensued Harper could point at the Liberals and blame them for an unnecessary election....Either way, likely handing Mr. Harper a majority mandate. In other words, heads the Conservatives win, tails the Liberals lose.
The only problem is it didn't work. Instead of choosing door A or door B the opposition parties banded together and built a door C, the C standing for Coalition. Suggesting that coalitions are undemocratic is ridiculous, unless you don't consider countries such as Israel or Italy to be democracies.
Now its Harper fighting for political survival and this is going to get nasty. I've already mentioned how the coalition is being referred to as undemocratic. We're also hearing how its unconscionable for the Liberals and NDP to work with a 'separatist' party. I put separatist in quotes because the Bloc's mantra is to promote Quebec's interests within confederation. We're also hearing the term 'coup d'etat'....evoking images of a military take-over. Its a bit of a stretch to suggest that parties representing a majority of the popular vote in the just completed election are overthrowing the government....but hyperbole knows no bounds in a situation like this.
Likewise the Liberals/NDP/Bloc claim that they're protecting democracy and are swooping in to save Canada from financial ruin during the global financial crisis...they're every bit as full of shit as the Conservatives. There's nothing altruistic going on here on either side, its all about power.
In movies you'll see an epic battle between hero and villain where the villain loses his sword. The valiant hero hands the villain back his weapon and the fight ensues with the villain playing dirty at every turn until the hero finally does him in. That's the movies, in the real life game of politics there are no valiant heroes, only seekers of power. Harper had the opposition down on the matt with his foot on their throat and he was going to cripple them. Now they've sprung up and turned the tables, and they're not going to back down giving Harper a chance to finish them off later.
Now...back to the quiz. What role does our head of state play in all this?
Its the Governor General's call as to whether the opposition parties are allowed to form a government or not. If she decides on that course of action we'll have a new Prime Minister, Stephane Dion...and the legislative agenda will be set by the Liberals in consultation with the NDP and Bloc. If she decides against a coalition government then...brace yourselves...we get to have another election.
I'd urge anyone with a strong opinion, one way or the other, to write the Governor General. You can find her contact information here:
Personally I have no problem with a coalition government because....
- We don't need another election.
- We don't want another election.
- We can't afford another election.
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