Thursday, December 4, 2008

We Need Breathing Room!


And he got it.

Had the GG denied King Steve his prorogation, she would likely have angered many wingnuts, some of whom already see her position as a relic of the monarchy and wish to do away with it. And although her decision to continue with tradition and rubber-stamp the PM's request will assuage their fears, it actually lends some creedence to their views in a roundabout sort of way. Our system of government has operated with the implicit assumption that no Prime Minister would put the GG in the difficult position of having to rigorously interpret the constitution and actually utilize her royal prerogative in a meaningful way. Of course, Harper is a dick, and had no problem testing the will of the GG in order to save his own job. By acquiescing, Michaelle Jean has kept with tradition, but has unwittingly become complicit in Harper's political gamesmanship. And if the GG does not intervene at a time when the Prime Minister is attempting to misuse the constitution for his own political gain, then truly what function does she serve? In my opinion, her decision has set a dangerous precedent. Only time will tell.

22 comments:

Beijing York said...

Can't disagree with any of that. You summed up the situation with the GG very well. It's unfortunate because the position was originally designed as a check on the Commons, albeit in the interest of the monarchy but still a check.

RuralSandi said...

Considering all that has gone on in the last few days and the fact that Harper does not understand Canadian democracy, or chooses to change it, I think the next GG should be a constitutional expert - a professor and/or lawyer.

Beijing York said...

Good point Rural Sandi. What the hell is with this newest trend of appointing journalists as GG. Given the media's performance in the last decade it's the last place we should be looking for sound political leadership.

Red Canuck said...

I was having a conversation about this with my brother this evening, and interestingly I brought up that very point about future GG's being constitutional experts or lawyers.

Through no fault of her own, Michaelle Jean was not in the best position to interpret the Constitution, and it was somewhat telling that she was called back from a ribbon-cutting tour of Europe to face a serious duty at home.

She played it safe by choosing not to exercise her royal authority, but if her position in future will be used to advance personal political agendas, then IMO future GG's should be well versed in the constitution and fully prepared to use their powers for the good of the nation. Otherwise, PM's will become defacto Presidents.

Shawn Kalbhenn said...

I think that this break could be good for the liberals. We can use it to replace Dion and rally behind an interim leader that Canadians can support. Installing Dion as PM we would only be replacing a leader that has lost the confidence of parliament, with a leader who has never had the confidence of the people. How could we go to the polls in good conscience and ask Canadians for their vote after that? This mess has also weakened Harper's economic cred. We pick someone with a strong finance background as a steward PM and carry on with the leadership race.

Red Canuck said...

Shawn - This has only bought the Libs 7 weeks. The problem is that Harper will introduce the budget (which may or not contain a stimulus package), and the coalition will have to decide if they still want to bring him down - after which Harper will again go the GG and ask for a general election. If her actions today are any indication, she would acquiesce again, and the Libs would get destroyed in an election.

And let's not forget that at some point, Harper will reintroduce the 'public financing for political parties' bill on its own, and knowing him he will make it a confidence matter. So the Liberal troubles are far from over.

But I do agree that Dion has to go as soon as possible, and so does every single person working in the Liberal PR/marketing dept. After watching Dion stumble and fumble his way through that recorded cellphone video the other night, I've become convinced these guys couldn't run a fucking lemonade stand if their lives depended on it.

Anonymous said...

I've heard a lot about the precedent that was set of listening to the sitting Prime Minister, not much of a precedent, since it is the normal thing to do, and not a lot about the precedent that the GG avoided.

The coalition asked her to hear their voice outside of the house of commons. The last confidence vote was very recent, and it passed. If she had listened to the voice outside the house, and not the vote of the house, simply to move a confidence vote this way or that, would have been a precedent.

The next confidence vote is the next Throne Speech, only a few weeks away. If the coalition wins non-confidence, the Conservative budget will not be introduced, no legislative time has passed, and the GG will hear a vote, that is for sure!

Red Canuck said...

Anon @ 10:50 - I've heard a lot about the precedent that was set of listening to the sitting Prime Minister, not much of a precedent, since it is the normal thing to do

This is the traditional role of the GG. But as I said in my post, the PM is supposed to ensure that her job remains essentially ceremonial. Harper created a unique situation by intentionally abusing prorogation merely to avoid a confidence vote. He put her in an awkward situation, and she chose to allow him to prorogue. The precedent was not acceding to the PM's request, but acceding to a request that was made only for personal political reasons.

Gene said...

RC, you write: By acquiescing, Michaelle Jean has kept with tradition ...

Not according to him!

Red Canuck said...

Gene - Thanks for the link. I certainly feel the same way. All I meant was that previous GG's have generally rubber stamped requests from the PM, but that was always with the understanding that PM's were acting in the best interests of democracy and the country.

This PM was acting only in his own best interest, and I do believe that allowing him to prorogue under these circumstances was actually a dereliction of her duty.

Anonymous said...

The Coalition was going to bring in a stimulus package so Harper shut parliament down. No aid for the auto sector; Harper shutdown democracy. No aid for the forestry sector; Harper shutdown democracy. Harper shutdown democracy to keep his job while you lose yours!

Anonymous said...

I understood the the GG was suppose to follow the rules of parliament and not the voice of the peoples; Mr.asshole said the GG took his advise and followed the will of the many voices that were for his assholeship to stay and thereby stopping the rules of parliament by not letting the mps vote.

RuralSandi said...

I watched a bit of a call-in show on CPAC yesterday. They were discussing the coalition issue. A woman from Manitoba said she didn't vote for a coalition, she also didn't vote for a dictator.

That about sums it up.

Billy Jack said...

I am very glad the GG prorogued parliamnet. The electorate definitely did not want a Liberal government (lowest showing ever) and Dion's performance the other night solidified that. A new poll which admittedly I just glanced at would give Harper a very strong majority if an election were held now if it was between the coalition and the Conservatives.

Time to move on.

Red Canuck said...

Billy Jack - I am very glad the GG prorogued parliamnet. The electorate definitely did not want a Liberal government

You should take a moment to learn about how our parliamentary democracy works before making such statements. The job of the GG is not to make decisions based on some interpretation of what the people wanted or what the polls are showing. Harper did not enjoy the confidence of the House. Period. He prorogued the House 14 days into a session without having passed a single piece of legislation simply to avoid facing the issue of confidence. IMO the GG should not have permitted him to misuse the constitution in that way, irrespective of current polling.

Billy Jack said...

I never said the GG made a decision based on any interpretation of polls or otherwise. I just said I agreed with her decision.

As for the anti-democratic slant of your arguments, it would seem that you agree that the Libs should do anything in order to achieve power. The electorate, not parliament, should definitely be involved in any procedure that will directly affect them. This was a coup plain and simple, because the Libs can't raise enough money to stay afloat. Any other excuse about the economy, etc. is just a smokescreen by the coalition and everybody knows it.

Red Canuck said...

Billy Jack - I'm not clear what about about my comments was "anti-democratic". If you feel that our parliamentary democracy has failings, you are entitled to that opinion and certainly you would not be alone in that regard. But like it or not, it's the system we have. And under that system, the government loses the right to govern if it loses the confidence of the majority of the house.

it would seem that you agree that the Libs should do anything in order to achieve power

This is rather an odd statement. In so far as the Libs are a political party, their entire purpose is to obtain political power. No different than any other party, and certainly no different than Harper who stated publicly that he would do "everything legally possible to stay in power". If that is the standard, the Liberals did nothing illegal or unconstitutional by expressing non-confidence in the government. So calling what they did a "coup" is at best uninformed, and at worst willfully misleading.

ASD said...

Billy Jack - You clearly don't understand the Westminster Parliamentry Democracy we have in Canada. Our MPs represent all the electorate. The Cons. only got 35% of the votes in the last election which Harper imposed on us by breaking the law and costing the taxpayers over $300 Million. Now he and that pitiful excuse for a finance minister, Flaherty, are going to sit on their asses for two months, plotting how to sell public assets and pecipitate yet another election, to try for majority, while thousands of Canadians are loosing jobs and our economy is tanking. All the while the Tory Spin machine will be working in over-drive spreading deceitful, divisive poison with uncivilised gutter tactics that has become hallmark of the Cons. Shame on you Harper for cowardly shutting down the Parliament to save your ass and shame on you GG for lowering the bar on our democratic parliamentary system.

Red Canuck said...

ASD - All the while the Tory Spin machine will be working in over-drive

This is something else that prorogation has allowed the Tories to do. I fully expect to be innundated with CPC propaganda over the next 7 weeks.

MD said...

I don't think its reasonable to insist that every GG needs to be a constitutional scholar. Jean had access to learned advisors, and her decision was made after confering wiith them. I wish she had ruled otherwise, but the constitutional experts who have stated their opinion on the matter seem to be far from unanimous. There were legitimate arguments to be made either way and she made her choice. We have to live with it.

I like the recent trend of appointing notabale non-partisan Canadians (I think Adrienne Clarkson was an excellent Governor General, and Chretien's inspired choice). Given the prorogation, Harper has significantly increased his chances of being PM when the next GG is chosen. Given his hyperpartisan nature, I fear he will chose a partisan Conservative. He's already continued Martin's disturbing efforts to politicise Supreme Court nominations (although fortunately he quickly reversed himself before the election for the sake of political expediency). Canada benefits enormously from the quality of non-partisan officials (like judges and the Chief Electoral Officer). This advantage rests on our political culture, not rules, and once that culture is lost, its lost forever.

Bowler said...

MD as usual gives a measured, thoughtful response. You should be our next GG.

In fact, as a lawyer, I have no problem saying I would rather have a doctor than a lawyer as GG.

I'm not so much upset at Jean as I am at Harper. And not so much disappointed in her decision as in Dion's weak performance. I almost can't believe I am saying this, but Bob Rae as leader is looking better all the time. Sooner the better, in my view.

MD said...

Bowler:

Thank you for the flattering nomination, although I'm not sure I could tolerate insane Conservative protesters holding "Democracy, Not Dion" signs and yelling outside my residence. I'm sure that if the government is defeated in January, the protesters will be back to Rideau Hall to demand an election.

And yes, I too can't believe that the most critical taped address of Dion's career could be such a pathetic affair. But for many reasons I still feel he is is the only reasonable choice to lead coalition until May (although I think the likelihood of the coalition taking power has dimmed considerably since Thursday).