Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Globe calls out Mr. Harper's anti-democratic abuse of the confidence vote

"Not everything in government is a confidence matter," is a Globe editorial that needs to be read widely and could not come at a better time. The 43 confidence votes that Mr. Harper has wielded over the opposition are an abuse of the mandate he received as a Prime Minister in a minority government. Mr. Harper should be held to account for this unprecedented thumbing of his nose at the Canadian public for doing so. Where have the media been, however? Where have the voices in our democracy been to speak out about the offensive 43 confidence votes? It's been viewed as a sport, if you will, to simply point at Mr. Dion and ignore the unspoken elephant in the room, Mr. Harper's conduct as Prime Minister.

In the wake of Mr. Harper's mutterings this week and his Justice Minister's threatening more confidence votes immediately upon their return, this editorial conveys an understanding of the damage Mr. Harper is inflicting and seeks to continue to inflict upon our parliamentary democracy:
Most public opinion polls taken in the months leading up to this federal election campaign suggested that another minority government for Stephen Harper's Conservatives was very likely. Mr. Harper was well aware of this, when he asked Governor-General Michaƫlle Jean to dissolve Parliament; indeed he predicted another minority on the campaign's first day. Now, however, he is acting as though he would in effect refuse to accept that result.

For the second time in two days, Mr. Harper announced yesterday that his party would reintroduce anti-crime legislation that the previous Parliament did not pass – and that, if the opposition stood in the way, he would be ready to force another election over it. His aides indicated that the bills would be put to the opposition as take-it-or-leave-it propositions.

This is not how a minority government should work. Confidence votes are to be limited to money bills and measures at the core of the government's agenda – not routinely invoked by a prime minister whenever he wishes to put pressure on other parties to support less important bills. If Canadians elect the Conservatives with another minority, they will be explicitly saying that they have not entrusted them with full power over the legislative agenda – that they expect them to try to work with the other parties.

It is easy to understand why Mr. Harper does not believe he would need to make that effort. If they remain in opposition, the Liberals will likely begin another costly and all-consuming leadership campaign. In the midst of it, they will be in no shape to enter yet another general election campaign.

That does not mean, however, that the Liberals and other opposition parties should be unable to call Mr. Harper's bluff. If they have deep-seated objections to an anti-crime initiative, or any other bill, then they should vote against it. Mr. Harper should not put the Governor-General in the highly controversial constitutional position of having to think about declining a request to call another election in the near future and inviting the opposition government to form a government.

This campaign is a consequence of what Mr. Harper interpreted as political stalemate. He cannot keep creating dubious scenarios until he gets the result he wants. (emphasis added)
And that, in its entirety, is worthy of agreement.

I cannot tell you how heartening this editorial was to read. The time is long overdue that Mr. Harper's free pass for his disrespect of our democracy be revoked.