Despite the ranting and railing about the failure of the Governor-General to carry on and enable the Coalition of the Really Big Egos to take power after the Liberal non-confidence motion that was scheduled for next Monday, I believe that the Governor-General made a very prudent decision today. Furthermore, despite the wailing that “Harper got his way” (the sotto voce “again” is implicit in the wail), I don’t think he did. This has turned out to be a very good day for Canada and for Parliament, and our Governor-General is to be commended for offering us all a way out of the current game of chicken going on in Ottawa.
That is, of course, if we’ll take it.
Of course, with Layton chanting “Harper can’t be trusted” and Duceppe claiming “Harper’s already lost confidence” it looks as though we’ll have to endure a few more days of posturing.
The 62% Solution: Disenfranchise the Rest
So many of the Coalition’s supporters in the outside world (the Twitter hashtag #coalition, used to mark pro-Coalition tweets, has had more traffic than Christmas in the past few days, and much despair this morning) harp on the fact that 62% of Canadians who voted didn’t vote for Harper. (It’s never “didn’t vote Conservative”; it’s always personalised. They voted for MPs, parties, platforms; we voted for Der Führer.) It fascinates me that they’re quite prepared to disenfranchise — and openly so — all those who didn’t vote “with them”.
Fact: we all voted for MPs to sit in a Parliament.
Fact: none of us voted for a President independently of that.
Fact: we expect our MPs to accept the lead of someone in the House.
Fact: that lead can change without another trek to the polls.
Fact: the responsibility of the MP is to Parliament and Canada’s governance, not party or leader.
You might have balked at the last one, for parties make whether or not to say hello to a fellow MP from another party into a three-line whip matter in Ottawa today. Civility has gone by the wayside — just ask Today’s Bob Rae, with his “I don’t trust anything Harper says” how ready he is to work with all his fellow MPs. Likewise, branding the BQ as “separatists” (“sovereignists” would be a far better English translation) essentially says those MPs are not to be worked with.
Too bad. You might have contempt for Dion/Harper — each gang on the benches has contempt for one or the other of them — but we get nowhere by giving voice to that. On either side of the aisle.
100% of MPs represent Canadians. I didn’t vote for the candidate who became my MP, but for all of that she is now my MP and must represent me as much as those who voted for her. All MPs must take all strands of opinion in their ridings into account, and work with all 307 other MPs when in Ottawa. There is, in other words, no 38% and no 62%, and anyone who says so is wrong.
The Grace of a Cooling Off Period
What the Governor-General did give us all is the grace of over seven weeks to cool off and come at the country’s issues again with a clean slate. Let us remember that the Throne Speech passed: we can work together if we want to.
Politics may be a blood sport, but when annihilating the opposing players becomes the first thought of the day, the last thought of the day and guides everything in between, it’s time to sit down and reflect on who you’ve become. Of this, many are guilty, including all party leaders of the nonce.
MPs should be back in their ridings, gathering input from Canadians. I know I’ll be offering it to my MP. As she is not in the government caucus, I shall be cognisant of what she ran on in October. I will not ask her to set her views in that regard aside. I will ask her to work with others from all parties — not just some of them — to make this Parliament work as it is, to offer suggestions to help reach common ground, rather than treat the first vote on January 27 when the session resumes as the resumption of non-confidence combat. I will tell her that playing coalition games rather than dealing with the country’s business, and carrying out some strange vendetta against the very thought of the Conservatives being in power is not only unworthy behaviour, but that she will motivate me to work for her demise as an MP. In other words, keep your own party leadership’s blood-lust at bay while remaining true to the platform you ran on and working to get some portion of it into the Government’s thinking.
Idealistic? Oh, probably. But one must try. This is the gift the Governor-General gave us: to try.
Leadership Review for Harper
I voted Conservative, but I didn’t vote for Harper. He just happens to be the current party leader. I believe that during this seven week period Harper should put himself forward for review by the Conservative Party.
I really do not care at this point whether he succeeds smashingly in that review, or if the numbers suggest a leadership race should be held. The fact is that he gambled away our support with his own ego play. A blind squirrel could have found the nut labelled “torque the Opposition with withdrawal of their funds and the firestorm is on”: they were apparently looking for a casus belli but, for heaven’s sake, a motion that requires Opposition MPs to support it to pass like that won’t — and any idiot other than one blinded by political blood-lust would have seen it. So it’s time to face the music.
Indeed, doing so could do more than any other act to restore Harper as someone Opposition MPs can respect and perhaps even trust. Not those who stood to gain by the coalition directly, but those with moral fibre and an open mind.
Restore my faith in you, Mr. Harper, and show me it’s not just “all about you”.
Liberal Interim Leader Now
The other side of the coin here is that Stéphane Dion’s willingness to abandon all his principles, all his moral fibre, to become a caricature of the man he abhors (as shown by his coalition dealings) means he is willing to destroy the Liberal Party to save himself. In Dion’s case, of course, he has already resigned as leader and a leadership match is underway. All the Liberal grandees need to do is replace him with an Interim Leader. And they should, immediately.
Fact: he lied outright about the “wise men” committee
Fact: he’s indicated the open Senate seats are spoils to be awarded
Fact: he’s undone future Liberal attempts to marginalise the NDP, a party essential
Fact: he and his advisors are inept — watch last night’s video
Canadians already viewed Dion negatively. This week he’s made it worse. Apparently, to avoid joining Edward Blake in the history books, Dion will do anything and destroy his party for his five months of fame. The damage this would do to the Liberal Party is immense and perhaps irretrievable.
So, Liberals, get him out of there. Oddly enough, it would probably help the acceptance of your coalition should the Conservative Government fall in late January.
The Nature of the Bullet
The bullet we dodged today was not the Coalition taking power. It was the break-up of the country.
I was pooh-poohed this morning on Twitter by a Torontonian, whom I’ll quote verbatim, including her emphases:
Western Canadians, like Canadians everywhere, are not a monoculture. We have our leftist ideologues, our socon radicals and the like just as does Toronto, Québec, and the Atlantic region. But Western Canadians share two common threads:
Fact: Québec sovereigntists are not liked
Belief: A belief that they are an economic colony of the Toronto-Ottawa-Montréal axis
Belief: A belief that their interests are generally trodden on by “the East”
The Harper Government, for all its faults, is seen as a Government that at least attempts to include and listen to the West. (When in Opposition entreaties were made to the BQ by both the CA (2000) and the CPC (2005), these were done to in turn deal with a perceived greater evil, the outright misuse of power and theft from Canadians of the Chrétien-Martin governments, but in both cases these were proposals made swallowing hard, because dealing with the BQ was not liked in the West, period.) To overturn that Government for an Eastern one (the proposed coalition holds very few seats west of Ontario) will be seen as a form of legal coup d’êtat.
So the threat is to kick into being a Western separatist movement (and any that starts out west won’t be a hand-out driven “what’s in it for us today” form as is seen in Québec; no, this will be out and out Clarity Act conforming “we’re out of here, good-bye”, pure and simple). The Western Premiers know this: this is why they spoke out for calmer heads and no coalition, at least now.
That a region that has a high percentage of voters valuing fiscal conservatism (and sadly disappointed by the Harper Government) would, in turn, under the coalition, watch billions thrown around while taxes remain high and program spending in Ottawa is not reined in, when they are the only ones paying a surplus into Confederation would act as the trigger.
This, too, the Governor-General has given us a chance to forestall. Let us hope that at the Premiers’ meeting with the Prime Minister on January 16 some of this comes to light and aids him in deciding how to meet the House on January 27.
The Rt. Hon. Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean is to be commended for having considered what is best for Canada, not its politicians, today.