Green and growing

My story about being a Green politician in Canada, and why it was the best thing I ever did.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

On coalitions

As I write this, the three opposition parties have said that they do not have confidence in the government, and that they will vote down the economic update. They have further asked the Governor General to consider installing a coalition government rather than have another election after two short months. The government does not like this one bit, and is fighting tooth and nail to prevent the vote and to prevent the coalition.

Canada is a parliamentary democracy. That is, the voters elect a parliament, and from that election, the Governor General appoints the leader of the party with the most seats as Prime Minister. The authority of the government comes from the House. When the government loses the confidence of the house, then the Prime Minister resigns. Normally, a new election is then called, and we start over again.

However, twice in Canadian history, the Governor General has asked the leader of party who came second to govern the country, usually because it is simply too soon after an election, which would likely achieve similiar results (much as the 2008 election results look a lot like the 2006 election results). So, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois are most certainly within their rights to point out that they can form a government, since between them, they have the majority of seats in the house, and they have agreed on a legislative agenda.

Could the government have avoided this? Of course. After the election, the Prime Minister talked about a more cooperative approach to governing. Then, he immediately turned around and, without consultation with any of the other parties, hit them with a number of budget incentives which were not even part of their election platform. His response was take it or leave it. The opposition parties all immediately said, we will leave it, and vote against it. At that moment in time, the government lost the confidence of the house. Suddenly, the budget was revised and now, may be scrapped and replaced if Parliament is recessed. However, the problem now is that nobody in the coalition trusts the government any more, and for good reason.

Steven Harper rolled the dice and lost. Remember back in September, when he asked the Governor General to call an election because he did not have the confidence of house? (Even though all of his confidence motions were passed, primarily because of a weak and divided opposition). Or harken back to 2004, when the Liberals formed the governement, and Steven Harper, as leader of the opposition, sent a letter to the governor general, signed by the NDP and the Bloc, urging her to consider allowing them to form the government. Now, he suddenly claims that a coalition is somehow a devious and underhanded backroom plot. Bull feathers.

Mr. Harper, you are done. It is time for you to leave gracefully.

As to the new coalition, I fully support their right to form the government. However, I am deeply concerned that they will not sufficiently address the issues of the day. They deserve a shot, and an opportunity to make this Parliament work. I hope they will address the true economic issues, the need for electoral reform, the issues facing aboriginals, farmers and the growing ranks of the unemployed. And whether it is carbon tax or cap-and-trade, please, please do something about global climate change.

Our children are counting on us to be the adults here.


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