Showing posts with label liberal-ndp coalition government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label liberal-ndp coalition government. Show all posts


five questions for stephen harper: post yours here

Stephen Harper - famous for sticking to his prepared script and not answering questions from the media (that is, from the people, because that's as close as we get) - has decided he will answer questions after all.


He'll answer five questions.

Harper has transferred his famously control-freak style of governance from the PMO to the campaign trail. He will answer questions, but only five, and from a media held behind a yellow fence, 12 metres away.

The strategy described by this Vancouver Sun commentary is well-known to USians: it's exactly how Republican handlers worked GWB.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper held his news conference Thursday and declined to tell journalists — corralled behind a yellow fence over 12 metres away — why he limits the daily encounters to just five questions.

The episode highlighted the brewing issue of whether Harper, as the apparent front-runner in the race, is running a campaign in a bubble to prevent embarrassing mistakes.

After several days, it is clear his daily schedule is carefully designed to minimize political risk. Harper has not done any "walkabouts" on city streets where average voters can meet him. Moreover, the photo-ops with voters — such as at a seniors' home and a deli — have been pre-arranged. Also, people who attend rallies must be on a list to gain entry to the event.

Harper only provides one news conference per day, and it is specifically designed to ensure that it is not free-wheeling. Journalists who are travelling with his campaign tour are, as a group, only allowed to ask four questions. One more question goes to a local journalist at the news conference.

On Thursday, Harper was asked to explain why — when Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton provide news conferences with no limits on questions — he insists on no more five questions.

Harper chose not to answer that question and moved on to the next questioner. [See comments for more on this.]
In light of this, I thought we should start compiling our own five-question lists for Harper. It's not easy to do, but if we each take five, we could cover a lot of ground.

I'll kick things off. Please add yours in comments.

Five questions for Stephen Harper:

1. Why do you refuse to answer certain questions during this election campaign?

2. Do you believe Canadians have a right to know the truth about the government they are being asked to elect?

3. Do you believe Canadians have a right to ask the government questions?

4. Many Canadians feel your government and your style of leadership has been un-democratic, even anti-democratic. Without reference to partisanship or the opposition, what is your response to those concerns?

5. Given that, in the past, you have acknowledged the need for and the legitimacy of coalition governments - and given that coalition governments are constitutional and are quite common in other Parliamentary systems - isn't your ongoing campaign against a coalition government deceitful, as your real motive for opposing coalitions is simply to remain in power?


zerbisias on super bowl ad double standard, nnaf on better use for your money

If you read only one piece on this year's Super Bowl advertising hypocrisy, make it Antonia Zerbisias.

I read this on Facebook, copied with permission:
Pro-choice people have better use for their money!

By now most of you have probably heard about the anti-choice ad CBS plans to run during the Super Bowl. Multiple media sources have reported that the segment will cost sponsors Focus on the Family $2.5 million.

Here at NYAAF, we have been wondering: what kind of non-profit has an extra $2.5 million lying around to spread misinformation to sports fans? How, we wonder, was such an expense justified to their individual supporters and their board?

While extra cash lying around has never been our problem, neither has irresponsible spending. Our pledge to our supporters remains true: %100 of your tax-deductible donations go directly to helping women obtain abortions they need but cannot afford. Our board is %100 volunteer and our personal donations as board members cover all overhead costs.

In light of the high profile madness stirring around what will air on TV next weekend, we thought we'd reach out to you now and ask you to join us in a fundraising campaign. Because we know PRO-CHOICE PEOPLE HAVE BETTER USE FOR THEIR MONEY. Instead of $2.5 million on a Super Bowl ad, consider donating $25 or $250 to help break down barriers in women's access to abortion.

Help us take this campaign viral! Make a donation today and make post it to your wall or change your status to say: "$2.5 million on a Super Bowl ad? Pro-choice people have better use for their money!"

I'm about to donate myself.

National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF)


prorogation was "fundamental abuse of power". but you already knew that.

This is making the rounds through the Canadian blogosphere, and worth reading:
Canada cannot be both a parliamentary and a populist democracy.

Parliamentary Democracy In Crisis, an explosive new book analyzing December's constitutional showdown, written by 15 of Canada's leading parliamentary experts, says Canada must bridge its two largely irreconcilable democratic cultures or face an uncertain future.

Canada's two solitudes are no longer Quebec and English Canada. Today, the two solitudes are Historic Canada and The West.

Polls taken during the crisis found that Historic Canada -- Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes -- backed parliamentary democracy and the Liberal-NDP coalition supported by the Bloc Quebecois. Under parliamentary democracy, the government of the day must win and maintain the confidence of a majority of the members of parliament to retain power.

The West overwhelmingly supported the populist outcome -- a two-month prorogation allowing the minority Conservative government to avoid defeat on a confidence vote. Populist democracy, as promulgated by Reform Party leader Preston Manning, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his former chief strategist Tom Flanagan, favours the American presidential model of one directly elected leader not responsible to the legislature but answerable only to the people.

. . . .

Simon Fraser University professor Andrew Heard says Harper's prorogation was "unconstitutional... (T)his type of manoeuvre is simply unheard of among modern established democracies. It is a fundamental abuse of power to shut down a newly elected parliament at the moment when it is poised to vote non-confidence in the incumbent government."

The University of Toronto's Peter Russell says the crisis has "left a legacy that could be the basis of a serious constitutional crisis in the near future: a country dangerously divided over the fundamental principles and the rules of its parliamentary democracy."

The most damning indictment comes from David Cameron, chair of the University of Toronto's political science department. "Stephen Harper demonstrated that there was no bridge he would not burn, no low road he would not take, to stay in power. Beyond the deceit and the intentional obfuscation, what could not be forgiven was the prime minister's willingness to conjure up our national-unity demons...

"Successive prime ministers have seen it as their duty to manage the national unity file with prudence and care; to light a match near a can of gasoline -- to set east against west... simply for the sake of personal political survival was to scatter this primordial leadership obligation to the four winds."

Read the Winnipeg Free Press column here.


pissed off round-up

I wanted to do a round-up of progressive bloggers on this latest Liberal capitulation, but I don't have the time. Fortunately, Allan does. Here's another Redsock guest post to help keep us informed. Thanks to Accidental Deliberations for doing this first. - L

From various progressive blogs:

Disaffected Lib:
Puffing himself up as perhaps no one else can, Iggy said, "We are putting this government on probation." Gee, Mike, I thought a minority government with an unruly opposition was always on probation. Was I missing something? ...

Let's get this straight. The interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, our nation's Official Opposition, is content to allow Canada in the face of this fiscal emergency to wallow haplessly under the weight of Harper's visionless bailout budget. ...

If you support this budget, Mikey, you're saying "okay" to everything that's in it - and that's anything but okay to me.

To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth:
[I]t's business as usual: the Liberals will talk a good game about opposing the Conservatives, but won't do anything of significance to actually oppose them. Harper has shown, repeatedly, that he can't be trusted. And what the Liberals have come up with is "regular reports" -- from the guy who can't be trusted.

blogging a dead horse:
But by walking away from the historic Liberal-NDP coalition today, Ignatieff is perversely showing confidence in Harper ... [and] showing non-confidence in himself to be Prime Minister in these tough times.

Ignatieff has failed the very first test of his leadership. ... Michael Ignatieff, the first Leader of the Liberal Party who didn't want to be Prime Minister.

The budget falls short, but we're gonna support it, and require reports, and then watch them like hawks, and if it doesn't work the way we think it should we'll bring them down — I think Dion wrote his text for him.

Is that it? Is that seriously Iggy's only condition for passing the budget? Despite broad-based demands the budget does nothing to rectify the absurd qualification regime for EI which excludes over 60% of unemployed Ontarians from the program. ... [B]ut the Ignatieff Liberals have balked at holding Harper's feet to the fire and insisting that the budget be amended to broaden EI eligibility as a condition for Liberal support. ...

This is leadership? This is using your political advantage to leverage concessions?

liberal catnip:
As for the budget, what can you say about a finance minister who lied to the public about an upcoming surplus and who now says that the economy should show a turnaround by July? ...

Throwing financial crumbs out to a starving public is no way to ensure a solid, timely recovery but that apparently doesn't bother the Liberal party enough to bring down this government. It's politics first. What else is new?

By supporting the Tory government, Ignatieff has joined himself to Harper at the hip, and has in essence entered into a de facto coalition with the Tories, instead of becoming the prime minister of a Liberal-NDP coalition government. ...

Canadians who lose their jobs because the stimulus package did not cover the items set out in the Accord, or amount to the proper sum (at least 2% of GDP for now), should blame not only Harper when they lose their jobs, their homes and their livelihoods, but more particularly, each and every Liberal MP, and vote accordingly at the next election. ...

At a time when courage was called for, the Liberals offered cowardice.

James Laxer:
Explaining himself in answer to questions from the media, the Liberal leader was embarrassingly sophomoric. The Liberal-NDP coalition had been useful, he said, because it had forced the government to put many useful measures in the budget. On the other hand, he said the budget remained a "Conservative" budget that likely would not work. Nonetheless, he said he intended to vote for it. ... By turns, Ignatieff sounded like Demosthenes, thundering down condemnation on a government that has repeatedly failed Canadians, and then like an apple-polishing pupil asking for a report card from the head master. ...

If you vote for the Conservative budget, it becomes your budget Mr. Ignatieff, no matter what font the government uses to print its reports for you.

Meanwhile, Jack Layton has become the real leader of the opposition. He showed courage when he reached out to the Liberals to form a progressive coalition ... Michael Ignatieff has walked away from that option. Layton has retained his integrity and his clear understanding of what the country needs. Progressives now have one party and one party only available to them: the NDP.

Tiny Perfect Blog:
An update? Seriously? This is going to be different from the quarterly budget updates how?

James Curran:
And What Do You Think The Reports Will Say Mr. Ignatieff?

The reports will say nothing. Just like they always do in the realm of Stephen Harper. Hidden truths not revealed is what they'll be. Just like when Harper told Canadians there would be no deficit a mere 90 days ago. ...

Say what you want about Stephane Dion, he died fighting for the environment and some sort of principal attached thereto.

While we're at it, let me ask what the hell the rest of the 76 Liberal MPs were thinking over the last 24 hours that would lead their leader to the undramatic decision he made today? What the hell are you thinking? You think that you're doing justice for your constituents? ...

We just sold out our convictions to keep this evil, vindictive Conservative government in power.

Watching Michael Ignatieff chortle with delight at his smartness, and congratulate himself for "putting the Tories on probation", a thought struck me. ...

This morning, he held the balance of power in Canada. ... [N]ow he is asking for report cards every 3 months ... don't hold your breath that Ignatieff will show any intestinal fortitude in 3 months time. He showed none today, so what will suddenly put a spine into this sad Liberal Party caucus?

Northern BC Dipper:
If the Liberals pass up the chance to govern and support the Conservative budget, then later complain about how things would be better under their rule, are we supposed to listen? Or, you know, vote for them?

The conservatives get to continue destroying our future, while the liberals will continue to make weak noises in the corner. We will continue to see corporate welfare for irresponsible financiers, but no welfare for unfortunate individuals. Ignatieff has just given Harper the green light to continue as though he won a majority. ... This is Liberal leadership. Why do people still vote for these spineless weasels?

ignatieff talks tough but the liberals are still spineless

Shorter Ignatieff:

The budget is very bad, it's very bad, it's kind of bad, it's bad. But... it's not so bad. I'm going to live with it anyway.

* * * *

These goddamn Liberals. They get to act tough, showcase Ignatieff's tough-talking leadership, and then defeat the Government and have an election when they're good and ready, and when they feel Canadians are amenable to it.

And we're stuck with this bullshit Government and their unfocused, grab-bag budget that does more for wealthy folks remodelling their kitchens than working people thrown out of work and barely hanging on.

It's no big surprise, we knew Ignatieff wasn't really into the coalition, but it still sucks.


holding our breath as parliament reopens

January 26 has finally arrived.

On that awful day when the Governor General allowed Stephen Harper to suspend democracy to avoid a no-confidence vote, January 26 seemed so far away. Our hopes had been raised so high, thinking we'd have a new government, then crushed.

Now here we are - minus two war resisters - on January 26.

For non-Canadian readers, today is the Throne Speech, the day the Government, through the Governor General, outlines its goals and how it plans to accomplish them. Coming after the unprecedented events of last November and December, this must be the most anticipated Throne Speech in Canada in a very, very long time.

Tomorrow, Harper brings his budget to Parliament. After that, we hold our breath. Either the Government will fall and the Liberals and NDP will form a coalition government, or the Government will survive. It's theoretically possible an election will be called, but no one expects that.

Most insider-politics people believe the Harper Government will survive. And given what I know of the Liberals - that their only concern is what's good for the Liberal Party - I am inclined to agree.

Leader Michael Ignatieff probably wants more time to solidify his leadership and demonstrate himself as Opposition Leader to voters. At some point there'll be an election and Ignatieff will hope to form a government on his own terms, without a coalition. He's been able to use the idea of a coalition as a weapon, a threat, but it's unlikely he has real intentions of forming a government with the NDP.

And Harper probably has tempered his budget enough so that Ignatieff will have a plausible out. Ignatieff will be able to say he can live with it, for now.

It makes sense.

Yet still I hope.

I don't care how chastened Stephen Harper is since he got the scare of his political life last November. I don't care how many bones he's thrown the Opposition in the new budget. The economy is paramount, but it's not the only issue. I want this Government to fall for so many reasons.

Of course the future of the war resisters is foremost in my mind. Our supporters in Parliament have promised us that if there is a coalition government, the war resisters will be safe - that they will not be forgotten among the pressing economic concerns.

And although I strongly dislike Ignatieff and his right-wing values, I'll take an Ignatieff-led government tempered by an NDP coalition over this Harper Government any day.

Like tomorrow, or next week.


liberals and ndp m.p.s pledge their support to war resisters (updated story)

From today's press conference:
Liberal and New Democrat MPs pledged Wednesday that U.S. war resisters would not be deported under a coalition government.

Five Americans could face deportation by the end of the month unless there's a last-minute court reprieve or an unexpected policy change by the federal government.

Liberal Mario Silva and New Democrat Olivia Chow said their parties would protect war resisters if Stephen Harper's government were to fall after next week's budget.

Silva invoked the words of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who during the Vietnam War said "Canada should be a refuge from militarism."

"To all those brave men and women who have in fact objected to (the Iraq) war we say, bravo. We say welcome, you should be here in Canada," Silva said at a news conference in Toronto, which was attended by several war resisters and their young families.

The House of Commons passed a motion last June 3 calling for a stop to deportations of war resisters and Silva urged the government to respect that vote.

One war resister, Robin Long, has been deported since the vote and was separated from his Canadian partner and infant son. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison in the U.S.

New Democrat Olivia Chow said Canada must stop deporting war resisters and breaking up families.

"We are a nation of compassion and of peace," she said. "We really should not deport war resisters into American jails."

This week, Christopher Teske, 27, lost his last court bid to stay in the country and faces deportation within days.

Teske, who has been living in British Columbia for two years, said in a statement that he's proud of his decision not to take part in the war in Iraq and wishes he could stay in Canada permanently.

Writer Mary Jo Leddy, a member of the Order of Canada, said the trials in Nuremberg after the Second World War established that soldiers are responsible for their actions, and should be allowed to opt out of conflict if they don't believe in the mission.

"The argument that one must follow orders in all circumstances is no longer justified," she said.

"Following orders is no longer the ultimate test of patriotism."


not a newsflash: harper is a humongous hypocrite

Let me add my voice to the chorus calling Stephen Harper a hypocrite of mammoth proportions. Hypocrite hardly seems like the word. There ought to be a bigger, more expansive word to express hypocrisy of this magnitude.

The man repeatedly states he will not appoint anyone to the Senate because he is committed to Senate reform.

Then he dissolves Parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.

Then, while he shouldn't be doing any government business, since he's governing by himself, he appoints a record number of Senators, many of them clearly patronage gifts.

And, after repeatedly stating that Supreme Court of Canada appointments should be subject to Parliamentary review, he appoints a Supreme Court Justice on the same day.

And may I just say, Mike Duffy? That Mike Duffy?? I thought there must be some other Mike Duffy, besides the Conservative media hack. But no. I don't know who to credit for this little bit of brilliance, but some smart blogger said CTV stands for "Canada's Tory Voice". Much better than the also-true, but obvious, "Conservative TV".

Would you like a few irony sprinkles on that hypocrisy sundae? One of the new Senators is Michel Rivard, formerly of the Parti Québécois. In the words of Harper's own lackeys, a "separatist". On The National last night, they showed a clip of Conservative MP Steven Fletcher spouting the party line during the wrangling over the coalition: "Can you imagine a Michel Rivard having veto power...?"

Let me also note, to pre-empt the chorus of jaded cynics, that I was not surprised. Merely disgusted.

For USians and other non-Canadians reading this, Canada's unelected and often invisible Senate is something that took me a long time to understand. If you're interested, this link is very helpful: The Canadian Senate: Role, Powers & Operation.

Like the NDP, I'd just as soon as the Senate abolished altogether. It's a hangover from feudal times - antiquated and un-democratic.


two new, scary, cliched thoughts on a liberal-ndp coalition

The prospect of a coalition between my party of choice and an Ignatieff-led Liberal Party has got me thinking of two cliches.

"Be careful what you wish for."


"You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."

I will still agitate for a coalition to stop Harper. But now it's quite a bit scarier.

note to michael ignatieff supporters who are visiting wmtc

I have read many articles by Mr. Ignatieff that were published in the New York Times Magazine.

My low opinion of Mr. Ignatieff was formed by reading his own words, in long, in-depth stories. He helped make the case for pre-emptive invasion, he supports the use of torture, he supports overthrowing governments to install new regimes. This comes from the man's own words.

Some links were posted in comments in this thread, but they are only a small sample of what I've read.

Again: my judgement of this man was formed by reading his own words. Got it? Thanks.

Update: A reader alerts me that on a pro-Ignatieff blog, I am listed, along with a bunch of other people, as a "Rae Liberal". Do these people bother to read before they write? (Silly question, I know.) Earth to trolls: I am not a "Rae Liberal". I am not a Liberal at all!

Upperdate: Go look up the definition of "smear campaign". You will find it does not mention quoting the person's own published, well-chosen words.

time to bombard ignatieff with pro-coalition messages

By now you've all heard that Bob Rae has dropped out of the Liberal leadership contest. This is a big disappointment to me, but we can't waste time on disappointment.

It would hurt to see the left cut a deal with a pro-war, pro-torture apologist for U.S. foreign policy...

Geez. Just read that over. Kind of leaves a hollow pit in your stomach, doesn't it?

...but if Ignatieff represents the Liberal platform, and the coalition accord is specific to economic issues, I can live with it. I have to live with it to get rid of the Conservatives, and I have to count on the NDP to stay who they are.

That may be a lot to hope for, but I've got plenty of hope.

Write, call and email the offices of Michael Ignatieff. Tell him we want a Liberal-NDP coalition!

Etobicoke: 416.251.5510
Ottawa: 613.995.9364

Also: if you have a Liberal or NDP MP, email and call them, too.

Tell them we are the majority and we believe the coalition is best for us, and best for Canada!


the coalition is worth fighting for

I'm sick of hearing that the coalition is dead. Until it's officially withdrawn, until both parties announce definitely that there will be no coalition, I'm still fighting for it.

Why shouldn't we? Why not keep fighting for what we want? Because we're afraid of being wrong? Who gives a shit. We should be more afraid of not being heard. We should be more afraid of ending up with another Conservative government.

Here's the latest (English portion only) from Canadians for a Progressive Coalition.

+ + + +

Hello - bonjour,

This is a crucial moment. We must act together to reach out and build a new era of cooperative governance in Canada.

Last week fear spread faster than facts. We have learned that the Conservatives have a massive, well-funded, and impressively effective political machine. This machine swamped Canadians with unfounded fears about democracy and national unity. The Conservative machine is going to fully mobilize over the coming weeks in an attempt to discredit a progressive coalition - and with it the Liberals, NDP, Bloc Quebecois, unions, and all other progressive Canadians. It will be incredibly important for us to debunk these myths in the weeks ahead.

Progressives have the numbers, the skills, and the creativity to turn this around, and make this the beginning of a new era of cooperative politics in Canada. In one week we have worked together to gain over 30,000 signatures on our petition, 20,000 members on Facebook, 24,000 views of our YouTube video, 11,000 emails in our mailing list, balanced dozens of media stories, and organized successful events across the country. Other campaigns, such as Make Parliament Work and 62% Majority, have also emerged and effectively promoted the coalition.

What can we accomplish by January 26th when Parliament reconvenes?

To start, this week we must tell our MPs that we still support a progressive coalition, we must tell our friends and family that we still support a progressive coalition, and we must organize together to make a progressive coalition a reality for Canada.

This week Canadians for a Progressive Coalition will:

1. Show the progressive parties the broad, non-partisan, and cross-Canada support for a progressive coalition.

2. Turn Progressive Coalition into a central hub for news, resources, and tools for the progressive coalition movement.

3. Build a national organization with strong regional hubs and local groups, along with teams for communications, videos, research, and others, to organize outreach and events across the country over the coming weeks.

What can you do right now?

1. Write your progressive MP to tell them that you support a progressive coalition. The Conservatives are flooding their inboxes - they need to hear from you. You can find their contact information quickly at this link.

2. Write or talk with your friends and family about why you are supporting a progressive coalition. You are the best messenger. Be personal and try to reach as many people as you can. Show them our website, and our petition. Write about any concerns they have so we can respond to them effectively.

3. Get involved. Do you want to organize in your local area or region? Do you have communication, research, web, video, fundraising, or event planning skills? Email us at with your area of interest, your location, and your experience and we will connect you with the right team.

4. Please check the website daily, even if you have already signed the petition, to follow the latest news, find out about events happening in your area, and find out what we and other groups are doing. This site will be updated continually in the upcoming weeks.

5. Write letters to the editor, call in to radio shows, and post comments on news stories and blogs. The Conservatives have been kind enough to provide us with an incredibly powerful tool to find the local media in our areas. Feel free to use it.

6. Donate. So far our campaign has operated on donations from a few volunteers. To be effective, we will need your help. We have set up a PayPal donation link at the bottom of our website.

Together, we can do this!

The Canadians for a Progressive Coalition Team

+ + + +

does ignatieff as liberal leader spell the end of our hopes?

I never blog about partisan political maneuverings. It's just not my thing.

But privately, I have been hoping against hope that Bob Rae would be chosen as the next leader of the Liberal party. I worry about his baggage, sure, but I'm betting - or hoping - that most people so bothered by The Baggage Factor would be voting Conservative anyway.

However, Michael Ignatieff as Liberal leader would seem to spell the death of the Liberal-NDP Coalition.

Speaking strictly from an NDP perspective, how can the New Democrats ask us to support someone who laboured for years to promote destructive US foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq and torture of anyone declared a terrorism suspect?

Although Ignatieff backed away from his stance on Iraq, his writing, especially his frequent features in the New York Times, show his true colours very clearly. I used to read his work - or try to, repulsed as I was by his war-mongering - before I knew he was Canadian, and before I knew I was moving to Canada. I expressed my thoughts on Michael Ignatieff two years ago, and nothing has changed.

We could have lived with Stéphane Dion until May. We could have lived with Bob Rae. But Ignatieff as Liberal leader and the end of the coalition would be a crushing defeat to our hopes for change. I hope I am wrong.


"and this coalition is led by a socialist into cycling!"

In case you haven't seen it yet, the old reliable "Untergang" video is back, Harper style. If Godwin's Law offends you, do us all a favour and don't click.

From Harper Dictatorship.

62% majority petition

If you haven't signed yet, please sign and circulate: Coalition for Change: 62% majority.

As bloggers and pundits declare the Liberal-NDP coalition dead, we must sidestep their cynicism. They are more concerned with making predictions than with making change. If we decide the idea is s dead and not worth fighting for, then dead it will be. The accord can only live if we are behind it.

Rally in Toronto and Montreal this weekend.

Sign the petition. This is a different petition from the one circulated by Canadians for A Progressive Coalition. Please sign both!

[And since I haven't mentioned it lately... why not vote for we move to canada for Best Progressive Blog in the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards? Vote here.]

ed broadbent: harper disuniting the nation "for the paltry purpose of saving himself from a confidence vote"

Ed Broadbent elaborates on his statements about Stephen Harper throwing Quebec under a bus to save his political career.
Fanning the fires of national disunity

By Ed Broadbent

Since first being elected to the House of Commons in 1968, at a time of great national unity, I have never witnessed a Canadian prime minister consciously decide to disunite the nation. Until now.

After failing to bring forth an essential stimulus package last week, Stephen Harper has betrayed the fundamental obligation of a prime minister: to build and strengthen national unity in possibly the world's most difficult federation to govern.

Beginning last week, Mr. Harper has sought to avoid a legitimate vote of confidence and its unpleasant consequences not by sober or even merely partisan constitutional arguments but, culminating in Wednesday's television address, by a barrage of deliberately gross distortions. He is turning a serious dispute over the need for immediate economic stimulus into an unrelated and dangerous matter of national unity.

In the 1980s, Pierre Trudeau made a mistake in key elements of the national energy program that negatively affected the attitude of many in Alberta and Saskatchewan not only toward him but to Central Canada in general. Although his policy had that effect, no one, including myself, who was critical of parts of the program accused Mr. Trudeau of deliberately alienating Western Canada.

Now, for the first time in our history, we have a prime minister prepared to set a fire that we may not be able to put out, for the paltry purpose of saving himself from a confidence vote on Monday. In almost every sentence, paragraph and page coming from Mr. Harper, his ministers and Conservative MPs, we're getting distortions intended to delegitimize a democratically formed coalition, proposed in accordance with normal parliamentary practices, between the Liberals and the NDP.

The Conservatives have tried to link the coalition with a demonized Bloc Québécois and Quebec. Mr. Harper wants to buy time in order to stir up support from a majority in English Canada. He is turning a serious constitutional and legal issue, on which he knows he cannot win a confidence vote, into a political battle of national unity, calculating that the numbers are on his side.

Instead of focusing on accommodation, on the need for early action on the economy, Mr. Harper is launching hypocritical attacks that can lead to a national disaster, and, with the time prorogation has granted him, he will no doubt continue to promote disunity. Consider the following falsehoods that he, his ministers and their party are spreading:

1. The Bloc is part of the Liberal-NDP coalition. It's not. But it is providing needed stability by signing an agreement not to bring down the coalition during its first 18 months. Mr. Harper has relied on the Bloc 14 times in votes, and twice on budget ones.

2. The Bloc was promised six Senate seats. The Bloc, of course, is opposed to the Senate. No such offer exists.

3. According to Mr. Harper, the Canadian flag did not appear behind Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe during their press conference. This is false. The flag was visibly there.

4. The Bloc would have a veto on all the actions of the coalition government. False. The Bloc did not ask for, and was not given, such a veto. In fact, its agreement not to bring down the coalition means the opposite is true.

5. Mr. Harper and his supporters are calling all "sovereigntists" in Quebec "separatists." Although a great number of Quebeckers would call themselves "sovereigntists," a large majority of them are certainly not separatists.

Mr. Harper has failed to provide the stimulus that Canada needs as pensioners suffer and jobs bleed. The coalition would provide the stimulus, part of it immediately, if given the chance. Virtually all elements of the Liberal-NDP stimulus package were designed to appeal to all of Canada (including EI, bankruptcy, housing and infrastructure, child care, reforms to protect workers and pensioners). A few had a regional focus (the Wheat Board, forestry and the concerns of senior workers). None were designed to give Quebec preferential treatment. The central objective was to quickly follow the lead of the 19 other G20 countries and stimulate the economy to protect Canadians and promote early economic growth.

Instead of following constitutional precedent and allowing a democratic confidence vote to take place when it should, we have a power-hungry man who will be recorded as the first prime minister in Canada's history to deliberately create a political crisis and set the fire of national disunity.

Ed Broadbent is founding president of Rights and Democracy and a former leader of the federal New Democratic Party.

prorogue hangover (updated with links)

"When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern."

- Stephen Harper, April 18, 2005

"The Prime Minister has the moral responsibility to respect the rule of the House."

- Stephen Harper, April 13, 2005

* * * *

This morning the full force of yesterday's event hit me. I looked at my calendar for next week. Monday says: "Confidence Vote!!!!"

I thought the resisters were safe. I was sure after the coalition formed a government, the deportations and threats of deportations would stop. And now... what?

Believe me, I know the shut-down of Parliament has very serious consequences for thousands of Canadians. People will lose their homes, their jobs, their savings. But the thought that a family with a six-year-old boy with epilepsy - whose only "crime" is a father who was sickened by war and lies and said, "No more!" - could be expelled from this country, and the father put in prison... my heart breaks at the thought.

We can't let that happen. We won't let that happen. But we were so close.

I'd better go read yesterday's post to cheer up!


finding light on a dark day

Naturally I'm upset.

I'm upset that the Governor General allowed her office to be used for political chicanery and self-interest. And my disgust for Stephen Harper can scarcely be put into words.

But we are where we are, and we have to work with that. And we have a lot going for us.

We have a Liberal-NDP coalition in place, with real potential to defeat the Conservatives in an election. Only weeks ago, a centre-left coalition was a dream. Now we have it.

We have the Liberal leadership contest sorted out through next May.

We have six weeks for the public to get used to the idea of a coalition, and decide whether they prefer a centre-left coalition to the Harper Government.

We no longer have the excuse that there will be a change of government without an election. The confidence motion that Harper took such unprecedented steps to avoid was democratic and constitutionally legitimate, but many people didn't understand that. Now that fear has been removed from the table.

Stephen Harper has further exposed his true nature. This can only help our cause.

There are many negatives, of course. I'm not going to list all the things that could go wrong between now and a no-confidence motion in late January. You can turn on your TV or radio and hear them being listed almost any time of day, and there are plenty of bloggers for whom negativity is stock-in-trade.

Losing hope will get us nowhere. When we lose hope, we lose the incentive to work for change. And if we don't work for change, we won't get it. For me, hope is a necessary condition of making change.

Often when I blog about the resisters, people say, "But what good will it do? No one is listening." I know one thing. Doing nothing will get us nowhere. There are hundreds of inspirational quotes that are very meaningful to me, but there's a reason that only two win pride of place on wmtc.
You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing, there will be no result.
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead

Let's acknowledge the pitfalls, but only briefly, and keep working for what we want.

Here, I posted the latest email from Canadians for a Progressive Coalition. Also see Make Parliament Work.

And please, if you haven't already, take a moment to support US war resisters in Canada. They need you.

this is a dark day for canada

It is unsurprising that Stephen Harper would rather pull the plug on the House of Commons than face a no-confidence vote. It is deeply disappointing that Her Excellency the Governor General assented to his plans.

Harper has lost the confidence of the House of Commons, and parliamentary democracy demands he lose the privilege of governing. Instead, he demonizes one party, questions the patriotism of all the opposition parties, and hides behind a parliamentary sleight of hand.

Today Harper had the hypocritical gall to talk about working together, when he does nothing but divide and play politics. Now he plays the ultimate political game, as he takes his marbles and stomps off.

He is a liar, a hypocrite, an embarrassment to Canada and an enemy of democracy. The sooner we are rid of his Government the better. Canadians who are so afraid of the word "coalition" that they prefer a dictatorship need to wake up and educate themselves.

He won't be rid of this Government on December 8, but it surely will fall at the end of January.

Of course I am worried about keeping all the war resisters safe in Canada until then.

Harper kept repeating that this week "the people spoke", presumably referring to partisan emails from the Conservative supporters. Now the people must speak, constantly, and loudly. We must express our outrage in the Conservatives and our support for the coalition government.