View Full Version : What if you had a coup and nobody came?

01-08-2010, 11:42 AM
Even The Economist gets it.

Our wondrous leader here in Canada just "prorogued" Parliament for about 2-3 months. That means he's shut down the House and Senate 'till March, disbanded any Parliamentary committees, and walked away from about half of the legislative agenda he'd put into action when he got back from the last proroguation. That, BTW, was about a year ago.

We have a "minority Parliament" just now - that means that the opposition seats outnumber the government in Parliament, and in theory the Government must cobble together enough votes by appealing to some of those other guys to get its policies through.

Stephen Harper's making the most of a loophole - when Parliament's prorogued, only the Cabinet remains. No committees asking difficult questions, no opposition members getting quotes from Question Period onto the evening news. Only the Cabinet gets much media face-time, and in this case, mostly the Prime Minister.

The Economist has had the balls to call this anti-democratic. Which it is, of course. While Harper claims to be shutting the place down to go and consult with Canadians on the next steps he should take ... that's one of the functions of elected members. To represent the opinions of the people who elected them.

Harper's been very clear that he wants a majority government, so he can do what he wants. Well, the polls (and the multiple elections in recent years) have shown he couldn't get one by conventional means ... so he's gone the other route. It also had the convenient effect of stifling a committee's politically damaging questions into political decisions re the Afghan campaign ... a military campaign which Harper's used as a banner.

Thankfully, the polls today are showing a steep decline in his support, related especially to this issue. Here's hoping the electorate doesn't go back to sleep.

Ian McColgin
01-08-2010, 11:48 AM
Different forms of 'democracy' have different problems. We face problems from the 'unitary executive.' Parlimentary systems face times of strange instability (decades in the case of Italy) or rump parliments or de facto coups.

Hopefully you'll find someone who can form a governing coalition and get back on track.


01-08-2010, 12:45 PM
Unfortunately, our current prime minister doesn't seem to like democracy in any of its forms.

jack grebe
01-08-2010, 01:01 PM
I do have a coupe...........oh, coup, nevermind

jack grebe
01-08-2010, 01:02 PM
Unfortunately, our current prime minister doesn't seem to like democracy in any of its forms.
He wouldn't be related to "W" .............would he?

01-08-2010, 01:15 PM
Yes, Mr. Harper is playing rather fast & loose with the rules of our democracy. I believe I will be having a wee conversation with my local elected representative next week. I'm not very pleased with this form of governance...

01-08-2010, 02:06 PM
Y'know, this is really simply an unveiling. Harper's used this same knuckleball strategy first in Ottawa within the public service, next in his dealings with the provinces/territories in our areas of shared interest and responsibility.

Or rather, the only items on our ostensibly "shared" agendas which have been allowed to progress are those the feds themselves launch, and we'll be informed how they'll work ... rather than become partners in developing what will work for us all.

These tricks in Parliament are precisely the same, only they're occurring out in the open where the media can report on them. And Harper's reading of the tea leaves is that he's got little to lose by doing things this way. Those who've voted against him will be incensed - but they'd have voted against him anyways. His own "hard" base will see it as an expression of leadership. And any of the "soft" base of Conservative voters who are really turned off will be more turned off by the Opposition alternatives ... and at worst, join the Liberals who disapprove of Ignatieff in simply staying home on election day.

Harper's real coup has been to convince a significant enough proportion of the public that coalition governments are somehow unconstitutional ... and goading Ignatieff to publicly swear off trying to pursue one. And then to risk an election last summer ... making his own popularity plummet.

Without a united Centre-Left, there's no alternative ...which is precisely why Harper's got the leeway to dissolve Parliament now ... and avoid having the opposition chip away at his approval ratings in question period.

Keith Wilson
01-08-2010, 02:40 PM
to convince a significant enough proportion of the public that coalition governments are somehow unconstitutionalOdd. I don't know much about the details of the Canadian constitution, but aren't coalition governments a central feature of a parliamentary democracy?

01-08-2010, 02:52 PM
Odd. I don't know much about the details of the Canadian constitution, but aren't coalition governments a central feature of a parliamentary democracy?Yes, and when a party can't get a simple majority of seats in the House, in effect all governments are coalitions.

But Canada's only once, in my mind, formalized a coalition the way they do routinely in other places. And I'm not even sure that that one (back in the early 1970s) was formally written down and signed. I cannot think of a single time when a coalition government was led by a party which did not have a plurality of seats ... which is what would have to happen this time. I think that has to do with maintaining a first-past-the-post electoral system, rather than one of the variants of proportional voting.

We had a full-blown Constitutional crisis on this a year ago last Christmas, when Harper had so incensed the other parties that they actually signed such a coalition document. Harper went cap in hand to the Governor General begging for her to prorogue Parliament, rather than allow his government to fall ... and she agreed. To my personal horror! At a single stroke, that set Parliamentary accountability back hundreds of years.

The Conservatives' position, and the one they've convinced our unschooled-in-civics population to believe, is that the party with a plurality of votes has been given an absolute Constitutional right to govern; that a coalition is anti-democratic if it leaves the biggest party out.

This is balderdash, as anyone who's passed a 1st year politics course in Canada knows ... or at least it was balderdash 'till our GG appeared to agree with Harper.

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
01-08-2010, 02:53 PM
.... aren't coalition governments a central feature of a parliamentary democracy?

No, an occasional by-product of the voting system in use.

I like them.

01-08-2010, 03:10 PM
There you go Keith - yes and no. Parliamentary compromise in action.

01-08-2010, 05:31 PM
He wouldn't be related to "W" .............would he?

Not by blood. But he is a big fan. Harper is an emotionally distant man, and Canada seems to embarass him. I think that's why he wants to change Canada so badly. So he is not so embarassed by it.

01-08-2010, 05:36 PM
This is balderdash, as anyone who's passed a 1st year politics course in Canada knows ... or at least it was balderdash 'till our GG appeared to agree with Harper.

:(:( Very bad when the GG gets onside .Good Luck .

Duncan Gibbs
01-08-2010, 06:09 PM
Maybe one time when a constitutional monarchy could be to some advantage: Could the Queen be given legal council and instruct the GG accordingly...?

01-08-2010, 09:53 PM
The Queen is sort of like a parent who wishes her 143 year old son would just let go of the apron strings, move out of the house, and stop asking her for help.

S/V Laura Ellen
01-08-2010, 10:03 PM
The way I look at it.

The government was hired by the voters to do a job. If they chose not the do the job then they should refund the money (our taxes).

01-08-2010, 10:17 PM
... If they chose not the do the job then they should refund the money (our taxes).

Yeah, no kidding. We're paying them how much salary and expenses to take the rest of the winter off?

cathouse willy
01-08-2010, 10:38 PM
It's all politics, Harper is daring Prince Iggy to trigger an election he can't win soooo the foolishnes goes on.Something I can rarely do is support the party in power for example I find the Liberal party as Sylvestor the cat would say "despicable" I don't trust the Conservative party with a majority so I help elect a more social candidate, an Ndp member and then their leader threatens to cozy up to the Liberals in a" Coalition govt"You can't win

S/V Laura Ellen
01-08-2010, 10:54 PM
I think the Liberals are great. They will return to work on the 25th and then break again on the 12th for the Olympics.

It's time we threw all of them out on their asses.

01-11-2010, 03:19 PM
A good piece of analysis by Don Newman (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/01/07/f-vp-newman.html) (for all that he's very biased towards the Libs). He's arguing that this is all leading up to an election call, despite Harper's protestations to the contrary.

A budget is scheduled to be delivered the day after Parliament returns; despite this being a minority government, there's no suggestion that the other parties will be invited to contribute ideas. Especially now that Parliament's prorogued, and the Finance committees are shut down.

We can expect the budget to include something which the opposition parties can't support - which will trigger an election. And the election will occur, as Newman points out, shortly before interest rates are expected to start rising again this Fall (Bank of Canada's broad hints) ...

All the while, Harper will be able to argue that he never wanted an election ... it's all the other parties' faults!

01-12-2010, 08:03 AM
the gg has an option .. or not

i can't tell anymore

01-12-2010, 08:20 AM
I think that the GG has an option (to offer the Prime Ministership to the head of a coalition of opposition parties), but that the option is strongest just after an election ... if the party which just won a plurality cannot find enough support among other parties to create a voting majority in the House.

As we're now about 16 months since our last election, I think that if Harper loses a budget vote in March, then even if the other parties signed a coalition document the GG would be almost obliged to accede to the PM's request for another election call.

01-12-2010, 08:32 AM
times like this i check in with rex , and here ya go , first try ..

'all politics and no government '

~ rex murphy

01-12-2010, 08:35 AM
Rex is indeed the King of Canadian commentators.

01-12-2010, 08:38 AM
why do you think gg went along with the (second) request to prorogue ?

any theories , insights ?

01-12-2010, 08:47 AM
I think she felt that while this is a very dodgy and anti-democratic loophole, there was precedent which allowed this abuse in the past. Chretien and the Somalia inquiry, for instance.

Rather like how court decisions determine how certain legal provisions will be interpreted forever after, when there's been clear precedent I think the sitting GG pretty much feels bound to follow it. Same with any budget bill defeat in March - she'll pretty much have to call an election rather than allow Iggy/Jack/(bloc) to do a coalition jig.

The chance she had to stifle anti-democratic tendencies was in the Constitutional crisis a year ago; she's lost that chance now IMO.

01-12-2010, 08:58 AM
all the more reason ..

thx tom

01-12-2010, 09:58 AM
I like the function of the ‘minority’ government vs the ‘coalition’ government. The distinction I would make here is that a debate in parliament with a minority gov’t allows parties to argue for their member’s constituents in a public forum and the process of concession for the sake of resolution is transparent.

With a coalition gov’t, the deals are made in the backroom and all the citizen sees is the watered down end product of their representative’s efforts with no understanding for what this ‘union’ will cost him in the long run.

Much is made of the impossibility of any continuing function of a minority gov’t in this country. I think that has as much to do with the grab for the power absolute that exists within all of us as it may have with any disparity in this form of governing. If we would enact some form of legislation that would hold the party’s leaders accountable over their actions on at the least the big ticket items, we could see a more productive minority government operation.

In other words, if the parties can’t agree on a budget by the time that budget is due, fire the party leader and budget minister for ALL the parties, remove them from the federal political process completely (and yank their gold-plated pensions while you’re at it). I’d expect there would be a great deal more compromise and sOOO much less BS than we are currently experiencing.

What happens if they hold an election and nobody came, again?