Thursday, December 04, 2008

Prorogue watch

Assorted items this morning...

1. Hoping for wisdom from the Governor General watch...

Lawrence Martin points out the dangerous precedent that may be set if the Governor General simply accedes to a request to prorogation in this circumstance, where the government faces defeat:
"She must also consider the danger of setting an unacceptable precedent. Granting prorogation in dire circumstances for a government is tantamount to saying it should be granted at any time – that the governor-general should be a rubber stamp in the process. That means any time a minority Parliament is in trouble, facing a confidence vote, the prime minister could simply prorogue to head off the crisis.

Paul Martin could have done so in the fall of 2005 and avoided losing an election campaign that extended over Christmas. John Diefenbaker could have tried it in the early 1960s. Joe Clark could have tried it in 1979, though Mr. Schreyer said he's not sure he would have granted it.

Those leaders may have had second thoughts, realizing that the governor-general of the day might have turned them down. But with the precedent of a go-ahead for Mr. Harper, why would any future PM hesitate?"
James Travers:
Whatever she decides, Jean has in her hands a teaching moment. She can remind Canadians that this is a parliamentary democracy, one they have a civic duty to understand and that this Prime Minister must learn to respect.
2. Some of what is wrong with CTV watch. With apologies to those who feel we should say nada about such matters, but the performance and prominence of various CTV personalities in the last few days is just not helping the quality of our public debate. If you saw McGill Professor Richard Schultz correct Mr. Fife last night for repeating the falsehood that the Bloc has a veto over the coalition, you know what I am talking about.

3. Harper leadership watch...

Diane Francis:
"Clearly, Tories must stage a palace revolt. Petitions being circulated should be about unseating Harper and his accomplices, not about defeating the coalition. Peter McKay comes to mind, Jim Prentice or anyone but the PM and his inner circle."
Globe editorial:
It is hard to see how Mr. Harper can lead a minority government, and given his role in inciting a parliamentary furor while a grave economic crisis threatens the savings and livelihoods of Canadians, it is also hard to see how Mr. Harper will ever win anything other than a minority. Whether he contrives an exit from his immediate travails over the confidence vote, the Harper era appears to be approaching its end. But before that happens, there is danger Canadian unity will be harmed.
Jeffrey Simpson:
To have created three crises – or dangerous situations, if “crisis” is too strong a word – for the government and for the country in five working days represents a lack of judgment by a prime minister rarely, if ever, seen in Canadian history.

Even if Stephen Harper escapes and slays the rickety coalition of Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois arrayed against him – an entirely possible outcome – he has so tarnished his reputation that it is hard to imagine him ever winning a majority government. He has signalled to all those who worried about what he might do with a government majority that those worries were not necessarily misplaced.
4. Astute reader email watch:
"...I always thought Harper played low games, and had policies I didn't agree with, but now, it's something else.

Harper and Co. have new lows. Distorting our democratic system for his/their personal survival IS completely out of bounds." (excerpt)
5. New York Times with an interesting angle watch:
...there is wide speculation, which the prime minister has not denied, that he may try to prevent the vote by asking Ms. Jean to end the current session of Parliament, which is just over two weeks old, before Monday.

Such a request by the prime minister usually follows a long session that has passed a substantial amount of legislation. But it would allow Mr. Harper to continue to govern for up to a year before he would be legally required to ask the governor general to call the House of Commons back into session.
6. That's gotta hurt watch:

It is interesting, however, that the Conservatives' first instinct was to go into election campaign mode--buying radio and TV ads, organizing "grassroots" rallies, firing up the base. Unless they really believe another election is imminent, this kind of activity will have no impact whatsoever. At the moment, only existing Members of Parliament have the power to keep this government in place, and I have a lot of trouble believing anyone will be swayed by such an obviously-orchestrated campaign.

This instinct to fight can be traced back to the general mindset of Stephen Harper. It's worth recalling he came to power with perhaps the thinnest resume of any modern prime minister, and he's never really had a job other than as a partisan attack machine. Like the dog that finally caught the car, he's been unable to shift his role, even after nearly two years with the bumper in his teeth.(emphasis added)

7. Apropos of nothing in particular watch...