Canada’s Conservatives Kaput?


Interesting things are happening in Canada’s government.

Basically, in the midst of economic turmoil, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party have not put forward a sane economic stimulus plan. During parliamentary debate yesterday, (A great debate, just like Prime Minister’s Questions, that again shows parliamentary superiority to our bicameral borefest.) Harper and his Conservatives spoke repeatedly of their fears of deficits.

Herbert Hoover would be proud.

Into this leadership vacuum, a left-leaning coalition of parties has decided to form. Quite the rare phenomenon for Canada. Something that’s only happened once before, during the turmoil of World War I.

Elections were held in October. The Conservative Party did increase their seats in the House of Commons, from 124 to 143. (The House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament, has 308 seats.) However, turnout was low.

And the main opposition party, the Liberals, had a terrible showing, losing 26 seats, leaving them with 77 seats. Its worst performance ever.

But, and this is an incredibly big b.u.t., the Liberal Party along with the New Democratic Party and the separatist Bloc Québécois do have enough votes – at least 155, which is the minimum to control the government – in the new Parliament to form a coalition government.

(Here’s a nice overview of the difference between majority and minority gov’ts, though coalition gov’ts aren’t discussed. They’re that rare for Canucks!)

The Globe and Mail, Canada’s “paper of record,” which endorsed Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party in the October elections, doesn’t like the idea of the coalition government.

The paper does blame Harper for poor handling of last week’s economic “debate.” But the coalition would be an “experimental and unstable government at the time [Canada] can least afford one.”

The left-leaning Toronto Star thinks the coalition should be given a chance. It is the essence of democracy, according to today’s editorial. And the coalition would be less unstable than an “opposition ready to pounce and defeat [Harper’s] government at every opportunity.”

In the wake of Harper’s do-little economic strategy, Canada’s left-leaning parties will offer a more robust economic stimulus plan – something of a no-brainer, in the United States at least.

And this type of coalition government is surely not undemocratic. In Germany, for example, it is the norm.

For a liberal Yank, like me, this episode is particularly satisfying . I found it unconscionable that someone in Canada’s government – Stephen Harper? – would try to influence the outcome of the Democratic primaries.

How a sensible, progressive country like Canada allowed a guy like Harper to come to power has always been beyond me. It had the feel of some Republican-inspired conspiracy.

So now that Bush and his Republicans are out, it seems fitting for Harper to get the boot too.

Update (Dec. 9): Stephen Harper has shut down Parliament for six weeks, in an attempt to avoid a no-confidence vote – the vehicle for which the opposition would come to power.

In this time, Harper will be putting together a budget. One that will better tackle the current economic crisis.

As for the main opposition party, the Liberal Party, their leader Stéphane Dion will step down prior to Parliament’s reconvening, which will be Jan. 26.

Dion’s replacement is Michael Ignatieff, a former professor of human rights at Harvard and an initial supporter of the Iraq War.

Ignatieff has indicated a no-confidence vote could be avoided in January if Harper comes forth with a sufficient economic stimulus plan.


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