Politics - Federal

Harper crosses the line in speech to nation

By Adrian Duyzer
Published December 04, 2008

In a cynical speech last night, Prime Minister Stephen Harper crossed the line from partisan into more dangerous territory as he implied that the Liberal-NDP coalition was an attack on Canada's democracy:

Canadians take pride in our history as one of the world's oldest continuous democracies. During the past 141 years, political parties have emerged and disappeared, leaders have come and gone, and governments have changed.

Constant in every case, however, is the principle that Canada's government has always been chosen by the people.

What he's saying here is clear: the coalition is illegitimate and undemocratic. It is, as some are calling it, a "coup", an assault not on the ruling party, but on the country's system of government itself.

This is dangerous language, the sort of language we're accustomed to hearing from rulers like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who use it as a blunt weapon to cast political opponents as enemies of the state. Simply put, Harper veered towards calling the coalition treasonous.

That's utter nonsense, of course. Canadians don't choose a prime minister, they elect a Parliament. The prime minister is appointed based on the confidence of Parliament, which Harper no longer has.

Coalition governments are a fact of life in most parliamentary democracies and Harper knows it. His appeal to Canadians rests on the assumption that most Canadians are not familiar with their own system of government and believe it works something like the American system (it doesn't).

This is worse than mere cynicism. This is an attempt to mislead Canadians into believing that they are at risk of a coup.

In other countries, this is a recipe for violence. I don't think that's a risk here, but I do believe that it is destructive to national unity. For that, Harper should apologize. For this entire mess, he ought to resign.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 10:01:46

In other news....only one of the three coalition party leaders were represented in a late, poorly recorded tape...

http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/artic...

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 10:03:35

In actual fact, by definition, a coup is the correct word...

see:

http://www.answers.com/topic/coup

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By Angry Canadian (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 10:38:58

I am livid! Didn't we have an election? Didn't Mr. Deon say he would step down as leader of the Liberal Party if he lost the election? This reeks of "not fair!". Grow up Mr. Deon, you lost, it's over. Let the Conservative Party get to work. Does anyone really think that a coalition with the Bloc holding the swing vote will be in the best interest of the country as a whole? I trust the Governor General will make the right decision.

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By Angry Canadian (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 10:44:53

I am livid! Didn't we have an election? Didn't Mr. Deon say he would step down as leader of the Liberal Party if he lost the election? This reeks of "not fair!". Grow up Mr. Deon, you lost, it's over. Let the Conservative Party get to work. Does anyone really think that a coalition with the Bloc holding the swing vote will be in the best interest of the country as a whole? I trust the Governor General will make the right decision.

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By Another Angry Canadian (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 10:56:08

Sorry Angry Canadian but your comment reeks of "I don't understand how my own country works!"

Mr. Dion IS stepping down this coming May. He will still do this even if he become Prime Minister of the coalition government. Then the new Liberal leader will become the Prime Minister of the coalition government.

By the way, the House of Commons DID let the Conservative Party get to work - and they strongly opposed what the Conservatives tried to do.

It's not the Oppositions fault that Harper made his bullcrap mini-budget a confidence matter (meaning voting against it causes the government to fall), or that he filled it up with stuff that he didn't campaign on, that won't help the economy, and that are designed to hurt the opposition after he promised to work with them.

Well what the hell did he THINK was going to happen? he probably thought they would just bend over for him again like they did for the past three years.

I for one am glad the Opposition finally grew a set.

As for the Bloc holding the swing vote in case you didn't notice they've been holding the swing vote for the past three years. How do you think Mr. Harper got his legislation passed with less than half the seats in the house? It wasn't magic, it was the Bloc voting along with them.

I don't seem to recall Mr. Harper saying "Sorry Mr. Duceppe I don't want your votes to support my legislation because I don't want to be in bed with 'separatists'." I also don't remember him saying "Sorry Mr Layton I don't want your party to vote along with my legislation changing the income trusts because I don't want to be in bed with 'social-ists'."

Mr Harper is a hypocrite and a bully and he has tried to run his government like he had a majority. This coalition is the House of Commons reminding Mr Harper who is really in charge...the voters who elected the House of Commons to keep the government accountable to the people.

I also trust the Governor General will make the right decision.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 11:00:55

Frank, "coup" is not the right word. It should be clear from my context that coup refers to coup d'etat, as in, "a sudden and decisive change of government illegally or by force", not "a brilliant and notable success" (http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=coup).

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 11:09:48

Adrian....if you read the definition, it also says "A sudden appropriation of leadership or power; a takeover: a boardroom coup" something that this definitely is....so yes, the word is correct.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 11:13:19

Another Angry Canadian...if the voters really are in charge then why not put it back to the voters after the Christmas/New Year break? That's what I want...

Take off your rose coloured glasses. The Bloc doesn't hold the swing vote, they get what they want. They've got the Libs/Dems by the short and curlies and they know it...so they get what they can out of the deal. With a majority like this, Liberal motions get steamrolled through the house whether or not they're good for the country. Something that Canadians just finished saying they didn't want any party to have the power to do.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted December 04, 2008 at 11:22:40

"The Bloc doesn't hold the swing vote, they get what they want. They've got the Libs/Dems by the short and curlies"

That's exactly right - Because they were voted in by their constituents!

Frank, do you have a problem with party MPs representing their constituents? Of course the Bloc has some clout. They were voted in precisely to use that clout and that's what they will do whatever leader we get.

It seems to me you have a problem with our democracy not the coalition.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 11:27:48

Rusty, I have a huge problem with the Bloc being a federal party.

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By lorne (registered) - website | Posted December 04, 2008 at 11:28:06

In today's Globe and Mail, Lawrence Martin has a very interesting column on the advice that former Governor-General Ed Schreyer has for our current G.G. He warns that to grant a suspension of Parliament to Harper in order to save his government would set a dangerous precedent in which any government in the future could expect the same treatment when facing a non-confidence vote.

The full article can be found here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/s...

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 11:29:52

I don't have a problem with them representing their constituents though. The problem arises when they're part of a coalition that claims to represent the majority of Canadians when they don't. And if they do...they shouldn't be afraid to form a real party and take it to Canadian voters....which IMO is the only option that should be available in situations like this.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 11:30:29

Lorne....that's not news. That's always been an option.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 11:32:23

Ok...been spending far to much time on RTH lol! We'll see what Monday brings...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 04, 2008 at 11:42:05

Frank wrote:

They've got the Libs/Dems by the short and curlies and they know it...so they get what they can out of the deal.

Not really. They get a government that is more friendly to their social and economic policies (they're a centre-left party as well as a Quebec-centric regional party) than the Conservatives, and they get 18 months of a parliament that isn't able to do anything too radical.

Given the state of the "separatist" movement in Quebec, that's a pretty sweet deal for the Bloc.

Remember, the same Quebec voters that elected 49 Bloc seats also threw out the Parti Quebecois for the provincial Liberals under Jean Charest. They don't want secession; they want a federal party that can promote Quebec's interests at the federal level.

That's exactly what the Bloc are doing by supporting this coalition. If they have any sense at all, they're not going to bite the hand that feeds them by demanding more than a) the Liberal-NDP coalition is prepared to give or b) the Quebec public is prepared to accept.

With a majority like this, Liberal motions get steamrolled through the house whether or not they're good for the country.

Nonsense. The liberals are still only one of three parties to the coalition. They can't pass anything unless it also has the support of the NDP and the Bloc. This all but guarantees this coalition will be either a) moderate or b) unstable and short-lived.

In other words, it's exactly what Canadians want, if your last sentence is correct.

I have a huge problem with the Bloc being a federal party.

Too bad. The Quebec voters have spoken, and they want a party that can promote Quebec's interests at the federal level. So far, I'd say the Bloc has done a very good job of that.

The problem arises when they're part of a coalition that claims to represent the majority of Canadians when they don't.

How could you possibly claim the coalition doesn't represent the majority of Canadians? It is composed of a majority of elected MPs, and it comprises three parties that received a majority of the popular vote.

And if they do...they shouldn't be afraid to form a real party and take it to Canadian voters

There is a case for forcing another election, but only if you start from the false assumption that Canadians vote in governments. Canadians vote in the House of Commons, and it is up to the members of the House to form a government that has the support of a majority of MPs and is accountable to the House as a whole.

Tradition and precedent state clearly that the opposition deserves an opportunity to form a government - particularly given that the last election was only seven weeks ago and Parliament has been in session for only two weeks.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 13:27:11

Well Ryan, it looks as if those evil separatists will be kept at bay by our professional rogue PM for a little while longer.

I wish Ms. Jean had the power to suspend the concept of "vote of confidence" for a while until Harper learns not to use it as a weapon which confounds any opposition decisions as in "you may not like this but do you really want to have another election over it".

Without it, they would have to work together and get at least two party support for any motion - true majority support, rather than the "election gun to the head" Harper strategy of the last two years.

To understand how the opposition parties got so inflamed over it - even the mild mannered academic Dion losing it by screaming in the HOuse, is to understand the sociology of bullying.

People will only take so much of a bully's abuse before they retaliate - and if you've been in a school yard, this is often dramatic! It should surprise no one with any imagination or empathy.

The use of inflammatory, divisive rhetoric like "separatists" is the bully blaming the victim.

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By Meel (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2008 at 23:18:29

What I don't get is the whole problem Conservatives have with the Bloc supporting the Coalition. If they weren't supporting the Coalition, they'd be supporting the conservatives. And don't pretend for one second they will refuse such support.

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By the dog (anonymous) | Posted December 05, 2008 at 17:54:31

I've noticed that both sides of this argument are saying that the Bloc are part of the coalition. This is another non-truth that Harper is trying to sell as fact. The agreement as I understand it is this: The Bloc votes with the coalition (the liberals and the NDP only) on all confidence bills. They do not get any cabinet positions. And just to throw in a bit of my personal opinion, at some point we will need to work with what is a political power house in Quebec and Harper is driving the wedge deeply. I'm interested to see how the Conservatives poll in Quebec after this.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 05, 2008 at 19:21:10

the dog - yes, you're right. Members of the Bloc didn't sign the coalition. They aren't a part of it. Not that it matters. Stockwell Day had a deal signed with the Bloc in 2000 to work at toppling the Liberals, but that plan was foiled by a Liberal majority in that election. Again, in 2004 the Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc had signed an agreement to possibly explore a coalition government in order to topple Martin, but instead, a general election was called. This junk happens all the time by all parties.
That's politics.

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By reality (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2008 at 13:20:41

1) the conservatives cannot pass any legislation without the bloc. we have two coalition options before us. we can either have the conservatives with bloc support or the liberals/ndp with bloc support. THE CONSERVATIVES DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH SEATS TO GOVERN WITHOUT BLOC SUPPORT. NO FACTION CAN GOVERN WITHOUT BLOC SUPPORT. as such, harper's language is rather odd. he has accused the opposition of getting to bed with separatists, knowing full well that if he doesn't do it himself his government will fall at the soonest opportunity. it is neither dion's fault nor harper's fault that the bloc hold the balance of power. this was the parliament that was elected. western canada needs to grow up and deal with the fact that quebecers have a democratic right to choose their representation and in this circumstance they have chosen representation that is opposed to the actions of the conservative minority. calling the opposition names and shutting down parliament doesn't change the reality that the conservatives lost the election.

2) what has harper done? he has manufactured a crisis, used it to divide and conquer the country along ethnic lines and then used it to dissolve parliament until further notice. crossing a line is understated. what harper has done is seize absolute power!

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