Chirps from the Disenfranchised

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
— Edward Blake (1729-97)

If you look to the right on your screen and scroll down a bit, you’ll find my Twitter feed. Twitter has given me the ability to micro-blog all day — and the past few days have certainly given me more than enough to tweet about.

I have, of course, no way of knowing whether any of these little pixellated blasts of ire have done any good, for anyone. What I do know is this: they have reached others (judging by the feedback), given aid and comfort to those who shared the views; made more than one who didn’t think for a moment; perhaps changed a mind. As days go, not a bad return on work.

Here, however, is where the pieces must be summed up. Die-hards of all persuasions will likely detest the following. Such is life.

No Coalition

One billion for Québec, over and above anything else, plus its share of the bailout and “do something” monies. That’s bad enough. Read (and thanks to Raphael Alexander for this) the concordat of the coalition carefully: it talks about creating a government for Canada and Québec.

Not for Canada and a foreign nation. Not for Canada and a province. Québec treated as an equal: a nation-state in fact. How any Canadian patriot could sign such a document or support it is beyond me, for no province is above the others in the sense of being a co-equal nation-state to the country itself. But this is what “Captain Canada”, le Professeur Dion, and Jack “I never met a bandwagon I didn’t jump on” Layton have signed onto: the de facto separate and equal status of the nation-state of Québec.

And money, too: the BQ and PQ (did you forget there is a provincial election going on in Québec, where the PQ can trumpet the success of the federal separatist wing in time for the vote on Monday?) would have settled for the equal treatment alone.

The coalition is a triumph of overwrought egos, who (according to Jack Layton on Monday) began cooking this up even while the last election was still going on. So much for making Parliament work. The Conservative camp followers may have jumped on the phrase “coup” but, separately, I will call this an attempted peaceful coup d’êtat, complete to Stéphane Dion today telling the Governor-General what she can and can’t do when the Prime Minister visits her tomorrow.

A few people have broken ranks. Frank Valeriote, the Liberal MP for Guelph, has spoken out against the coalition. The “wise men” (who were trumpeted, but not actually asked and confirmed before the press conference) have mostly bowed out. Only the unrepentant Paul Martin, the last Prime Minister to take to the national airwaves to plead for his job (“Daddy so much wanted to be Prime Minister and now I’ve made it, so please don’t take Daddy’s prize away from me”: how embarrassing!) hasn’t clearly distanced himself. Meanwhile, the old meddler, Jean Chrétien, and Ed Broadbent, look to live out their dreams once more through Dion and Layton.

Then there’s the Premiers. Campbell of BC, Stelmach of Alberta and Wall of Saskatchewan are dead set against the coalition taking power without letting the Government get to a budget, at least. Considering that these are the three provinces paying into Confederation at the moment one might think their views would carry weight. No. Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador is neither here nor there, but leans toward no. McGuinty of Ontario has not come out in favour (“just send us money and stop playing games”) and Charest of Québec used the opportunity to reassert his independence of the whole Ottawa scene. Not exactly a vote of confidence, even with Manitoba, PEI and Nova Scotia sitting on the fence.

On the other hand there’s New Brunswick’s Graham, who laid down a multi-year deficit plan today and wants a billion or so as soon as possible. Oddly enough, he’s a Liberal. A precursor of the coalition in office? One wonders…

Then there’s Ignatieff, who’s staying at arm’s-length (and silent). Rae, on the other hand, is happy to join in — and has been lecturing us that those who defend a non-coalition Canada are patriots and thus evil, and that those who don’t support the coalition are unCanadian. Using the tactics of US Senator Joseph McCarthy — or US President George W. Bush, with his “those who are not with us are against us” ideology — to tar and feather anyone who stands up rather than acquiesce is really a page from the Bolshevik school of debate. Of course, he’s on all fours with his leader — and the leader of his former party — on this score.

The leaders of this little venture — which, incidentally precludes (if everyone honours their agreements, a dubious prospect given recent history) an election before 2011 at the earliest and thus no way for us to validate their policy gamble — have drool rolling off their chins, they are so mad to seize power. This issue isn’t “a lack of a bailout and stimulus package”; it’s not even “taking our money away” any more. Now it’s simply “hating Harper” and a lust for revenge upon the Canadian people for not voting Harper out on October 14.

I do not acquiesce to being disenfranchised. Should the coalition take power, count on me at least to be part of your extra-parliamentary opposition. Should my MP (who is a Liberal) not join Valeriote, I will work actively to toss her the next time we are allowed by “our betters” to vote. She did not campaign in September and October on this. As far as I’m concerned, she’s crossed the floor into never-never land.

Face The Music, Mr. Harper

Meanwhile, over on the elected Government benches, the Fearless Leader (for those of you who remember the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons) has flattened his lip by stepping on it solidly with both feet.

Canada does not have the same sort of economic woes as does the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, etc. Brain-dead middle managers thrive on “best practices”, adopting the solution to a problem someone else faced; real leaders work to solve the actual problems at hand. We should not be copying the G-20 precisely because we are not in the same condition as the G-20. So I supported the tenor of the Economic Statement last week (in fact, I object to the behind-the-curtain stimulus already unleashed in almost all cases).

As for how our political parties are funded, I agree with the Prime Minister: the subsidy on a per-vote basis should go.

Now any half-wit with two brain cells to rub together could have seen that trying to take the mother’s milk of politics away from the Opposition parties, all of whom (and none more than the BQ — apparently Québéçois will vote for a separatist party, but they won’t pay for one) are far more dependent upon those per-vote subsidies than are the Conservatives, even those the CPC, as the primary vote getter in the land, stood to lose the most absolute dollars by this move, would lead to a backlash. Indeed, none of the Opposition parties could support that initiative. It is one for a day when one holds a clear majority — and not before.

Disciplining the public sector unions was a necessary step toward trimming Ottawa further, and was quite necessary.

So the Prime Minister, doing the right thing, stepped in one of the largest cow patties of all time last week.

The resulting explosion — and walking into a long-planned trap — has left Harper scrambling. Personally, I wouldn’t have pulled back everything that he did. (The per vote subsidy, yes: this isn’t World War I, and there’s no need to die for a muddy hill for no strategic purpose.) However, he has risked the Conservative Party and its position in Government unnecessarily. For this, there must be an accounting: not to calm the Opposition, but to face the CPC and its members.

Putting himself under leadership review for this blunder is thus required, and (if a prorogation is obtained) before the House sits again.

Now the Conservative Party may well give Harper a ringing endorsement: a review, after all, is a simple “yes/no” vote on whether to have a leadership contest. If so, atonement is over. If a significant minority wants a review, however, he should face one. Conservative Governments are not yet the norm: to lose one in such a cavalier manner should require him to face opponents.

(Indeed, all the Federal Party Leaders are well past their best-before date. As anyone who’s ever seen a client and an outsourcer fight endlessly over contract performance, there comes a time to turf the faces at the table on all sides, and start again with new people. Ottawa today is in precisely this position.)

I do believe that the Conservative Party has come far enough now that it need no longer be held together by Harper personally. I also believe its members by and large know what the price of failing to support a leader would be. It is therefore quite safe — from a party point of view — to do this. If it sways a few on the East side benches, so much the better. But it is the health of future Conservative Governments which is being cared for here.

I did not vote for Stephen Harper. I did vote for his party — and my local candidate had to measure up to receive that vote, for I have always known I was electing an MP to Parliament, not a Prime Minister. I am a member of the Conservative Party, and proud to be so. Mr. Harper, it is time to account to us.

Election or Not?

The one stream of consciousness through all of this is the abhorrence most Canadians seem to show at the thought of another election. In some ways election 2008 concluded a little prematurely. (One can always demonstrate after the fact that a few more days would have favoured one trend line in the opinion polls or another; nevertheless, with Thanksgiving weekend falling right before the vote, there was a sense of incompleteness going into October 14.) We need to resolve the nature of our Government before further damage is done.

First of all, to those who complain that elections cost too much, shame on you. Some of the people I know who think this way want the coalition, and all the spending, yet they’re unprepared to pay the cost of governing themselves. I would far rather spend another $300,000,000 to handle another vote than drop $30,000,000,000, establish multi-year deficits, increase taxes and then discover it was wasted — a likely outcome! 1% of what’s at stake with these stimulus proposals is hardly unreasonable.

Second, to those who think being asked to go to the polls is such an imposition, I say “sit down and shut up”. How hard is it to go and vote? There are many advanced poll days to facilitate scheduling issues; you are not asked to face a complex ballot. One “X” is all that’s required of you. If you can’t do that, then stay out of the way afterward: your “non vote” said “I don’t care what happens” just as much as it says “none of the above choices, please”. The world is imperfect — and not perfectible — and no candidate or party will ultimately match your personal constellation of moral evaluations and issues of conscience fully. Accept that that is how it is, or give consent by inaction and then be silent.

Third, why on earth should anyone think a second vote in close proximity to the last is “something to be avoided”? Our Parliamentarians are proving themselves unable to share the sandbox, each grabbing the toys and screaming “mine! I get to be in charge!”. We asked them to govern and represent us and they only care about themselves, their egos, their power, their petty rivalries. For heavens’ sake, the chance to toss them out and put better, more mature, “real adult” people in there is not something to avoid: it is something to welcome.

I can understand those still tired from having worked in their local EDAs on the last campaign — who may have been through provincial and/or municipal votes this fall as well — and who know they are the first rank of volunteers this time out too — wanting not to do it all again quite so soon. But no one said self-government was easy. Nor was it meant to be. Just as the left (I won’t use the term “progressive” as it means anything and nothing) deplores the Conservatives’ money (raised, Obama style, a few dollars at a time from many people) and considers it an unfair advantage so, too, the right deplores the media “bias” they think they detect — and the many-on-one experience of campaigning against the left. These are the challenges designed to weed out those strong and mature enough to go to Ottawa on our behalf and act morally and appropriately.

So I welcome an election. Let the coalition partners run and try and convince us to vote for them. Let the Conservative Government run on merit to be given a majority. Or, let the coalition lapse and the individual parties seek to win enough ridings so that one of them governs. Anything but a shadowy deal in Ottawa that locks us out through at least two Prime Ministers (if Dion goes as planned) sitting as people who, against all tradition since 1896, avoid facing the Canadian people.

The Governor-General may well grant a cooling-off period through prorogation of the House, but the BQ should not be a part of any government even without taking Cabinet seats (as they are in the documents sent to Rideau Hall), and thus an election is in order — and should be welcomed.

Let’s find out, not via talk radio and polls, but at the ballot box, where Canada stands.

A Final Word

The other theme that runs through my head is that it is not surprising that it is the urban megaplexes and the have-not provinces that tend to lean toward handout city, and the rural areas and have provinces who are happy with the Conservative Government. Before the 1980 referendum I said that language and culture would never be the breaking point for the country, but that economics would be. Alienating those with money by the ursurping of power by those who don’t have it for their own benefit would lead to those who have ultimately deciding to break off in their own economic self-interest.

I hope not to see this soon, even though there are reasons I think I will see it in about a decade or so. (That’s for another day.) But there is no question in my mind but that Dion’s comments tonight on the television, talking about wedging his green initiatives in with the deficit financing of handouts in the East and adoption of the NDP position on taxation, would be more than enough to trigger a groundswell of Western Alienation and Separation.

The first step toward leaving is to stop participating. That’s over 40% of Canadians. The second is a triggering issue. The third is a champion to carry the day. We’re perilously close to only needing one of the three.

The next Prime Minister has to think of the West as more than a hinterland to be plundered. He or she doesn’t need to come from here: we’re not tribal in the way Quebeckers are (and did you notice all three coalition leaders are born in Québec?). But any hint of colonialism and the clock will be ticking. I’m Ontario born and bred, and didn’t move west until I was 46. Eight years on, and I listen to people in Toronto and Ottawa who go on about how “wrong” we all are because we don’t support their ideologies, and my anger rises. I have become one with Western Canada, and I can assure you I do not being treated as a second-class citizen because of my province of residence, or the way my neighbours and I choose to think or vote.

When the West decides “enough is enough”, it won’t be played for years to see what “benefits” can be extracted. There probably won’t even be a separatist party. Just a joint referendum — or series of them — that adheres to the Clarity Act and sponsored by our provincial governments.

That’s the ultimate dice that are being thrown by the little boys and girls screaming at each other on Parliament Hill today.

2 responses to “Chirps from the Disenfranchised

  1. There’s no precedent for proroguing Parliament to avoid votes. It hasn’t been done since King Charles I dissolved the Short Parliament of 1640. It’s a very bad precedent to set.

    Like you said, we vote for MPs. If one government falls on a non-confidence vote, the law of the land says that another may rise. The GG is required to ask. It just hasn’t been tested because our First-Past-the-Post system is stacked in favour of majority governments where this does not come up.

    Coalitions are not a new idea, but it’s something like electoral reform that parties with a clear shot at FPTP majority — Conservatives now, Liberals under Martin — hate because coalitions set precedent that limits future growth potential.

    That’s why Day’s Alliance-BQ plan was abandoned. That’s why Harper’s CPC-NDP-BQ plan was abandoned. That’s why Martin never gave me the Lib-NDP-BQ coalition that I wanted.

    By creating an existential threat to the Libs, Harper made the Libs happy with the prospect of permanent minorities. It doesn’t seem like such a bad prospect to me. Compromise would improve the legislation that gets passed.

    I don’t understand the animosity against the Bloc. Bloc MPs represent their constituents just as much as my MP does.

    You say Westerners are not tribal, but that doesn’t jive. It seems to contradict what I know of the history of Social Credit, of Reform, of Alliance, and of other West-based parties. The West had independence movements too, but they rejoined the establishment like the Bloc is trending.

    The West has more ridings per capita than Ontario. That doesn’t seem like underrepresentation to me.

  2. Hi, Leo:

    Charles I prorogued indefinitely, and not at the request of the Prime Minister of the day. Not quite the same thing. A short pause is all this is. I expect the Government to fall as February dawns.

    Coalitions do limit growth and often become permanent governments where the ministries shift around but those outside the coalition never get a look in. The Netherlands is an example of this.

    Bloc MPs are the equal of any other. I personally hold no animus toward them. I’d like to see STV brought in to replace FPTP. Yet I’m a Conservative. Surprised?

    What the West is isn’t tribal — we don’t see ourselves as a “nation” even culturally — but protest-based. The Progressives, Social Credit, Reform: these are all protest movements that institutionalise themselves over time.

    As for “more ridings per capita”, well, fair enough — one slight side benefit of provincial boundaries, as the Atlantic provinces know well. Where we are underrepresented is in this new coalition, i.e. it isn’t national, really.

    The NDP are often the “opposition” out here, with the residue of the Liberals placing third. (Everyone but Alberta has also trusted them with Government more than once.) But the bedrock at the moment is Conservative. Perhaps that will change with another protest party rising. What won’t happen is for the West to join in the happy Liberal/NDP feel good “progressive” viewpoint, at least any time soon. (The exception is in the five ridings that make up the City of Vancouver and a few others in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, where true three-way races occur and where the Liberals can find some votes.)

    I like to see national Governments represent most if not all of the country. At the moment, with the exception of Newfoundland & Labrador, that’s the Conservatives. PR might change that, or you might still see large blue blocks across the West (a lot of these ridings were won by more than 50%). Time will tell.

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