Tuesday, August 26, 2008

For Fuck's Sake, Stephen

Harper offers specious argument in support of contravening his own fixed election law

Many Canadians, Conservatives and non-conservatives alike are all asking themselves the same question right about now:

How can it be so hard for Stephen Harper to abide by his own fixed election date legislation?

The answer according to Harper: the fixed election law only applies to majority governments.

To a certain extent, this argument could ring true. After all: a minority government could be defeated at almost any time -- a lesson former Prime Minister Joe Clark learned the ahrd way -- triggering an election. A fixed election date law could certainly be viewed to be rather empty.

But then one should be asking how it is that Harper would bother passing legislation fixing the next election date at October 19, 2009.

Clearly, Harper intended the legislation to apply to his own government. After all, he knew full well that he had a minority government when he set the next election for October 2009. There is simply no question of this.

So one has to ask themselves why Harper would want to call an election right now.

After all, the latest polls reveal the Conservative party to still be short of majority territory. (His quest for a majority still provides Harper with no excuse for violating his own legislation.)

Meanwhile, the Conservatives maintain a very slim four point lead over Stephane Dion's Liberals -- the kind of lead that could quickly disappear during an election, leaving Canada staring down the barrel of the Liberals' Green Shift policies (policies the Canadian people cannot trust the Liberals to implement as promised).

Harper may be closer to the truth when he refers to the apparent need for a renewed governmental mandate.

"I think you really have increasingly in Parliament two different visions of where we should be leading the country, particularly during challenging economic times, and that's something I'm going to have to reflect upon," Harper mused. "It's not a question of wanting to go to an election, it's the reality,"

Harper may be right. There may be a need for a new round of elections in order to clear the air and clarify the national agenda.

But many Canadians may understand the realities of minority government quite differently, and Canadians know it works something like this: the government tries to govern, the Opposition opposes. If an impasse between the two emerges, the government will be defeated and the Canadian citizenry will judge the merits of that impasse in an election.

But, frankly, parliament hasn't reached such an impasse. Right now Canada has a government that will not effectively cooperate with the Opposition, an Opposition that will not oppose the government (choosing instead to abstain from various confidence motions instead of voting against the government).

Harper will have a hard time trying to sell the Canadian people on the notion that parliament is in crisis. And even if parliament is in crisis, most Canadians realize that Harper has as much to do with it as his Opposition colleagues.

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