Saturday, September 13, 2008

"In politics, you live by the sword and you die by the sword"

Andrew Stark's column in the Globe today is worth some serious thought from all parties opposing Stephen Harper: "A minority win for the Tories is really a majority win." If Mr. Harper intends to use a minority to govern as a majority, and that is in effect how he's treated his 2006 mandate from the Canadian people, which was not a majority mandate at all...then the answer is to give another party the reins of power. If Canadians don't want to give him a majority, as the polls are now bearing out, then giving him a minority accomplishes the same thing.

What Mr. Harper should have done was to govern in coalition mode, presenting legislation that the other parties could legitimately sign on to, in recognition of his minority PM status. And he should have refrained from abusing the ability to make so many pieces of legislation confidence matters. That's a glaring offence that's been committed by Mr. Harper yet still, Mr. Layton is again capitalizing on Mr. Harper's affront today, as Layton has, really, over the course of the minority parliament, chiding the Liberals for not voting down the government 43 times. The offence to our democracy belongs squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Harper for his practical abolition of minority government in this country. I would really like to hear Mr. Layton speak about the challenge that Mr. Harper poses to our democracy for a change.

Here's Stark:
But in politics, you live by the sword and you die by the sword. There is already speculation as to whether it will be possible to hold the Conservatives to a minority on Oct. 14, or whether they might win a majority. This discussion is largely irrelevant because there's little difference. Canadians must understand that to elect a Conservative minority is, in effect, to elect a Conservative majority. And this, finally, is Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion's strongest argument (and I say this as a lifelong Tory who has known Mr. Dion for many years and admires the conviction and intellect he's brought to Canadian politics).

For strategic voters on the left, an NDP seat or a Green seat would be no different than a Liberal seat as long as a minority Conservative government governed as a minority, meaningfully reined in by the opposition in Parliament. But if electing a Conservative minority is effectively the same as electing a Conservative majority, then the only option for its opponents is to defeat it entirely. And there is only one party that can do that. In which case, Mr. Dion can plausibly say that a vote for the NDP or the Greens is, except in rare instances, nowhere near as effective as a vote for the Liberals.

Put it another way. If there's less and less meaning to the notion of minority government in our system, and given that there's no tradition of coalition government in our system, then the point of voting for smaller parties rapidly diminishes. There's much discussion of a “divided left” in this election. But if anything is likely to unite the left, it's a party of the right that will govern as a majority even if it wins only a minority.
So let's work not to give him another anything government.

Thanks to a busy reader for passing this on today...:)