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The Liberal coalition

December 10, 2008

Some have suggested that by not supporting the Liberal, NDP and separatist coalition in Ottawa, Canadians are saying its “illegal” or “unfair”.  Some have said we in Canada don’t belive in majority rule, democracy or in decision making through deliberation.  

I don’t agree and here are some thoughts on why.

In Canada we really haven’t had more than 50% of the popular vote support the winning party since 1917 (yes there have been interregnums like Brian Mulroney’s 1984 victory), I don’t believe that by expressing opposition to the coalition assembled by the Liberals, Canadians are indicating it is “illegal” or “unfair”. Certainly this Canadian believes it to be shameful – not unfair, not illegal, but shameful. 
What the Liberals did was give the Bloc Quebecois, a party created with the purpose of breaking up this great country, a veto power over the federal government. And they afforded this separatist party that influence simply as a result of the Liberal’s intrinsic believe in themselves as Canada’s natural governing party. 

None of energy, the environment, the economy, the crumbling health care system, the wars abroad or anything else excited the Liberals enough to threaten to fall a government or to form a coalition. What did get them into a froth? The prospective elimination of taxpayer subsidies of political parties in form of a $1.95 for every vote they secured. 

This coalition is a manifest representation of the Liberal Party’s fervent and excited need for power. 

Canadians believe in responsible government which requires the confidence of the House of Commons – parliament. This confidence in and of itself infers that a majority of the lower house must support the government. It is a characteristic of the first past the post (FPTP) system that permits a party to form government with the support of the majority of parliamentarians and not the majority of the people. Just because we have FPTP does not in and of itself suggest Canadians do not believe in majority rule.

Canadians believe in hiring people, letting them get on with their job, rewarding them for success and reprimanding them for failure. Our system has an inherent job review every four or five years (or every three years in the case of Jean Chretien). Do a bad job, get fired. Do a good job and, maybe, get re-hired. In between, get to it

As an electors we want to have confidence in the people we elect. If we are constantly called up to “deliberate” then why even elect a government? Just leave the bureaucracy in place and have all policy decisions made by internet polls. That is the ultimate decision by deliberation.

Now, I have long preferred the American system of checks and balances – particularly when one party is in the White House and another holds the majority (not a super majority) in Congress. Even though he is the most powerful man in the world, the US President has far less direct power there than our Prime Minister. Through the PM’s power to appoint and fire his cabinet, appoint and fire heads of crown corporations, appoint judges all over the country and, effectively, to push policy through without recourse is too much power in the hands of one man. 

England’s Prime Minister is somewhat less powerful because his or her caucus appoints or fires the leader (and I understand that the leader representing the majority of the lower house and has its confidence becomes the PM). This ensures that the party leader and, in the case of government, the PM must keep their caucus onside.

The disappointment that this Canadian feels toward the parties that didn’t vote for Harper’s economic update is not sparked because they didn’t support him. My disappointment, and disgust, materialized firstly because of what the Liberals, NDP and separatists were voting against (subsidies for themselves) and how they were proposing to express their non-confidence (giving the separatist party veto power over a proposed coalition government).

The coalition that the Liberals put together provides a veto to the BQ and the BQ’s purpose is to break up this great country of ours.  This unacceptable for Canada. 

There are some very bright, well read and articulate people suggesting that, because of the machinations in Ottawa, Canadians believe the coaltion to be “unfair” and “illegal”.  Many of their arguments are throught through very well and communicated in very convincing ways.  

However, I think they are drawing some broad conclusions that are wrong.  Canadians believe in democracy, responsible government and a commitment to run our country that is in the best interests of…our country. These interests do not include giving veto power to separatists with the avowed goal of breaking up our federation.

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My take is that he needs to do three things:

(1) He needs to present a budget on January 26th/27th that shows the Canadian people he has a handle on the economic crisis, has accounted for sufficient stimulus.

(2) He needs to campaign hard between now and then and show the Canadian people that, if the government does fall on the 26th or 27th, the decision in respect of who forms government should be made the people and not by a back room deal comprised of the Liberals, the NDP and the separatists.

(3) He needs to do everything he can to drive a wedge into the coalition. There are numerous Liberals whose support of the coalition is very soft. He needs to show them that getting into bed with the separatists is bad for Canada. Moreover, he needs to show that the coalition would, ultimately, be bad for the Liberal Party (which is what the Liberals have shown themselves to care most about).