Friday, April 22, 2011

Give me a majority or we'll have a constitutional crisis - Harper

The rules of Canadian parliamentary democracy are pretty basic.  When no one single party garners a majority of the seats in our House of Commons after an election, the party that wins the most seats is asked to form a government. 

But with a minority the ruling party has to appeal to enough opposition members to ensure passage of its bills.  If an important piece of legislation is defeated, say something with dollars attached to it, then the House is said to have 'lost confidence' in the government.

This is where things get interesting.  The Governor General then has the option of calling another election, or the GG can ask another party (usually the party with the 2nd most seats) to try and win the confidence of the house.

Those are the rules, this is the way the game is played.  Unless you're Stephen Harper.

In an interview on Thursday with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge, Harper was asked what he would do if such a scenario played out.  Given that Harper is bent on giving big businesses like our banks and oil companies billions of dollars in tax breaks, his budget would likely be defeated.  In other words in this scenario he'd lose the confidence of the house.

Mansbridge asked Harper if he would play by the rules.  He wouldn't answer.  He basically said that it would be a constitutional question, one that will be crossed when and if the situation arises.

Don't have to squint too hard to read between the lines here.  Having a government comprised of parties representing a majority of Canadians would be undemocratic it seems in Stephen Harper's Canada. 

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