Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Not Sure I Can Buy the Prorogation...
Just re-elected Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper asked for the Governor-General Michaelle Jean of Canada to temporarily shut down (prorogue) parliament once it became clear the opposition parties were about to form a majority coalition and force him and the Conservatives (who had only a plurality of seats) out of power. And she granted it on December 4th.
I'm not sure I really get this. I am friendly with a Conservative Party official, and his defence of this move has been off-putting. He keeps saying, "the Conservatives just won a mandate to govern; they won the election; they deserve to rule; this coalition is trying to usurp democracy".
Are they? Between them, they can claim nearly 60% of the Canadian popular vote. How can a coalition of parties with 60%? of the vote be "usurping democracy" by replacing a party with only 40%?
To put it another way: the Conservative Party won the largest number of seats, yes; but they did not "win the election" any more than the potential coalition "won the election". That is the way it works in a parliamentary system: parties have a perfect right to form a coalition government. It happens all the time. It is the way parliaments work. Everyone knows that. There is just no precedent in parliamentary theory for the idea that a mere plurality confers some sort of right to govern over a majority coalition. Yet Stephen Harper keeps repeating that the coalition is trying to "overturn the results of the election"! No - the "results of the election" are going to stay exactly the same, with everyone retaining the same number of seats. It is just that a majority coalition of MPs would govern instead of a minority (plurality).
From what I can tell, all this "usurping democracy" business is all nonsense, and worse, partisan nonsense. And I'm saying that as someone who would never vote for the Liberals, NDP, or Bloc.
I mean, can you imagine what Canadian Conservatives would be saying if they were the ones who had signed a coalition agreement and were about to force out a minority Liberal Party government, and then Iggy or Paul Martin met with Michaelle Jean and got a prorogation based purely on the leader's desire to avoid losing power? I cannot doubt that the Tories would be going absolutely nuts right now, talking about how the Liberals were trampling on centuries worth of parliamentary process and custom, etc. And they'd be right, wouldn't they? AND - what if Iggy, in addition to getting a prorogation of parliament just so as to avoid getting turfed in a non-confidence vote, ALSO announced that during the prorogation, he was going to appoint EIGHTEEN new senators, especially if he had long campaigned against the prime ministerial power to appoint senators? The Tories would be screaming bloody murder!
I can't stand leftism, but still, I just don't get the Tory argument on this. Maybe there's some great one, and I just haven't seen it anywhere. But from here, it just looks like action based not on any regard for principle or custom, but on desperate desire to retain power. I hope I'm wrong.