Capital Read, Inside the Queensway - Written by Kady O'Malley on Wednesday, December 3, 2008 9:16 - 76 Comments

Another trip down minority government memory lane - this time, with Jack Layton

Remember that letter that the three then-opposition leaders sent to the Governor General in 2005? Well, here’s what happened next, according to one of the “Three Amigos” himself:



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The “Three Amigos,” as the media dubbed us, worked on other reforms as well. Gilles Duceppe wanted all the changes we had agreed upon to be put forward in an amendment to the Speech from the Throne. As the most experienced Opposition leader, he clearly wanted to move into the driver’s seat, and successfully did so for the first couple of meetings. Forcing the Liberals to accept our recommendations as an amendment to the speech from the throne amounted to a game of parliamentary “chicken.” If the government refused, Mr. Duceppe pointed out, the three parties had enough votes to ensure its defeat. Waiting outside Mr. Harper’s office for our meeting to begin, I asked Mr. Duceppe what he thought would happen if the prime minister refused to accept such an ultimatum. He replied that a government defeat so soon after a general election meant the Governor General would then have to turn “to one of us” to form a government. We both knew that meant Stephen Harper and his Conservatives. I asked Mr. Duceppe if he could accept such an eventuality. He was not only clear that he could, but he would.

Stephen Harper, while less inclined to brinksmanship, nevertheless warmed to the seduction of Mr. Duceppe’s strategy. Under this scenario, Mr. Harper would become prime minister in an informal alliance with the Bloc. Unthinkable? Not to either Mr. Harper or Mr. Duceppe. The Bloc leader was willing to strategize for Stephen Harper to become prime minister, despite the Conservatives’ many negative policies - policies completely contrary to the desires and values of most Quebecers. While shocked, I could not say I was surprised.

Mr. Duceppe and the Bloc would have been key players in any Harper coalition, demanding significant dismantling of our collective capacities as Canadians as the price for his support. That dismantling was something that would coincide nicely with Mr. Harper’s ideological and visceral distaste for any federal government oversight or ability to intervene in any social or economic programs administered by the provinces but utilizing federal tax dollars.

Realizing immediately the full magnitude of what was at stake, I knew I had to walk away. I was not about to participate in any scheme cooked up by the Bloc and the Conservatives that would put the country in the hands of Stephen Harper. It was clear from the election results just three months earlier that Canadians were not ready to elect Mr. Harper as prime minister. In fact, judging from the results, Canadians were not particularly keen on any one of us being in control. None of the four parties in the House had succeeded in receiving the support of even two of every five voters. My decision made, I informed the other Opposition party leaders that I was withdrawing from the talks. The Three Amigos were down to two.

The other two Opposition parties made it clear that, with my withdrawal, the NDP had lost any bargaining leverage. But, as it turned out, the NDP proposals were included in the package of amendments. It’s just that we didn’t secure any credit for the effort. So be it.

In my judgement, shared by the NDP caucus, it was far more important to respect the wishes of Canadians. Namely, that the minority House constructed by the voters in that peculiar collective wisdom that unfolded on election day be respected and given a chance to show what it could do. And it was even more important that my party not participate in any plot to turn over the country to a difficult and potentially devastating marriage of the Conservatives and the Bloc.

-”Speaking out louder” by Jack Layton (p. 340)

Back then, Stephen Harper wasn’t just willing to work with the Bloc Quebecois to bring down the Liberals. According to Layton, he was also prepared to take over as Prime Minister, and was likely to support the Bloc in its longtime push to limit federal spending powers — which seems plausible, given that the Harper-led Conservative government would eventually promise to do just that in the 2007 Speech from the Throne:

Our government believes that the constitutional jurisdiction of each order of government should be respected. To this end, guided by our federalism of openness, our Government will introduce legislation to place formal limits on the use of the federal spending power for new shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. This legislation will allow provinces and territories to opt out with reasonable compensation if they offer compatible programs.


In contrast, the agreement signed by the three leaders on Monday states only that a coalition government “would put in place a permanent consultation mechanism with the Bloc Quebecois”, in return for the following:

The Government will not request a dissolution of Parliament during the term of this agreement, except following defeat on an explicitly-framed motion of non-confidence presented by the Opposition; or any vote pertaining to the speech from the throne; or on a budget vote at any stage in the House; or on any bill to implement a budget at any stage in the House; or on any motion in the House to concur in, restore or reinstate any Estimates; or on a supply bill at any stage in the House.

The Bloc Quebecois will neither move nor will it support any motions of non-confidence in the Government during the term of its support for this agreement, and will vote in favour of the Government’s position with respect to all matters referred to in the immediately preceding paragraph.

So — which theoretical minority PM would be more at the mercy of the Bloc Quebecois on issues related to jurisdictional powers, federal-provincial relations and the creation of national programs? Actually, forget mercy - which would seem to be more likely to go along willingly?

Discuss.

76 Comments

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Ryan
Dec 3, 2008 9:28

I’m just wondering, if it’s legally possible to do so (which I believe it isn’t)… what’s the chance Harper would simply cast off Quebec to become it’s own nation to save his job? He would then have the majority he so craves by removing the Bloc!

(Yeah yeah, I know it’s not serious but some levity is good until this is resolved I’d say.)

AMM
Dec 3, 2008 9:28

Kady,

The CONS never once in their term in office have demonstrated anything other than the ability to manipulate, twist and out-right lie to the Canadian people. It began with questioning the loyalty of those who oppose or question the mission in Afgahanistan. For those comments alone, they should have been ashamed, dismayed, and disgraced, yet they continue unabated with similar tactics. When you can’t fight with arguments, well-reasoned and well-articulated, you smear.

Why would they stop the lying and smearing when their political future depends on them surviving this week?

Jack Mitchell
Dec 3, 2008 9:29

Sounds like, of all the party leaders, Duceppe is most willing to do a deal with the separatists. For shame!

Cameron MacLeod
Dec 3, 2008 9:32

So it appears that we have Harper being disingenuous about collaboration with separatists, since clearly he did exactly that. We also have Layton flipping from being “not about to participate in any scheme cooked up by the Bloc and the Conservatives” to deciding that the Bloc wasn’t the problem (a legitimate position to take but certainly debatable). We have Dion deciding that it’s possible to work with separatist support to accomplish certain things, though many doubt his ability to draw the line (even though many others, and I think me, would contend that he built his political career on doing exactly that with the Clarity Act). And finally Harper contradicting himself in QP yesterday, saying both that the Liberals will betray Canada by working with a separatist coalition, but that the Bloc will betray independence by working with the Liberals. Can’t have it both ways.

I think I side with the majority of Canadians in supporting progressive policies, but also in wanting to tell everyone to just settle down. Stability is important when the economy is built on nothing but shared faith in itself, and both sides are kinda rocking the boat.

John W
Dec 3, 2008 9:32

As the 2005 episode shows Harper and hypocrisy are inseparable. Beyond that, he was the one who gave Quebec, the separatists, the Bloc, the PQ and all “Nation” status. Nation.

Sunny12
Dec 3, 2008 9:35

One of the most interesting things about this proposed coalition is that they have been pretty upfront on what they are planning to do. Obviously it is a bit vague and leaves flexibility, but they will need that. It’s only for 2.5 years, and they won’t do too much because they would have to get support from three parties. Not such a bad idea, though we’ll have to see if it really works. The NDP could lose a lot, they could get co-opted, and lose their identity, which could make it difficult to run as the NDP in the next election.

Tam
Dec 3, 2008 9:37

And we can’t forget who brought in the separatists into Parliament — Lyin’ Brian and his buddy Bouchard!

Make sure the earlier quotes of Harper re coalition (from 2004-5) get out there into the media!

Jack Mitchell
Dec 3, 2008 9:37

Taking a step back, what’s strange to me about the FU provocation is that Harper was thereby renouncing his ambition to win Quebec seats. Quebec is not exactly fertile ground for anti-subsidy ideology, and Quebec nationalists (i.e. 97% of Quebec francophones) are a bit protective of the Bloc even when they don’t vote for them. So trying to do away with the Bloc, as per the FU, can only be understood as an act of vengeance on Quebec for rejecting the Tories. I think there’s a line to be drawn between the rejection of Harper’s arts cuts brainwave to the party subsidy ploy: both appear to have been Harper’s own device, the first perhaps provoked the second, and both have led to his ruin.

Just visiting
Dec 3, 2008 9:37

If anything, the above suggests the Bloc has almost signed away its ability to influence the proposed coalition government.

However, it is clear that the upcoming public debate will not be allowed to focus on the facts of the situation, at least if the CPC has its way.

Harper and CPC clearly intend to mount advertising and mouth talking points intended to mislead about the issues, and to divide the country. This divisive campaign will last throughout the period of prorogation, and it will be huge, since Harper will want to spend every last penny the CPC has saving his own ass.

Will Canadians buy the divisive lies,a nd go along with Harper in making this a national unity crisis?

I honestly don’t think so. Public anxiety about Harper and his partisanship and bullying style of governing has now exploded into the open, and he is no longer trusted or credible. The real question is how much damage he inflicts on the country on his way out of office. In 6 months time, Harper will likely be back in Calgary fuming at the injustice of it all. How much is left of the CPC will be interesting.

So hang in there coalitionistas. And keep to the high ground as much as possible for your own good, and for the good of our political system.

- JV

Terry
Dec 3, 2008 9:38

Kady: The west and Quebec share a lot of common interests in terms of provincial autonomy. Surely you’ve heard that before.

I know you Central Canadians are fairly parochial, so I’ll just remind you that there is a general sentiment in the West that if Quebec wants to separate, it should be allowed to do so. Some in the west also think that perhaps a Canada without Quebec would be better for them, given that we would lose an ungrateful money sink and increase our voter share in the House of Commons.

I’ll leave it to others to decide whether it is right or wrong, or whether Harper should be playing up the separatist threat to try to appeal to conservative Liberal voters in Ontario.

Dr Riff
Dec 3, 2008 9:39

that’s all idle speculation. it didn’t happen.

jwl
Dec 3, 2008 9:42

One major difference is words and actions. Harper talked about doing accord but Dion, Captain Canada!, is actually prepared to be marionette to Duceppe’s puppeteer.

And relying on sources who are Harper’s/Cons political opponents is a bit naive, don’t you think?

Kady O'Malley
Dec 3, 2008 9:46

JWL: I’d love to hear Stephen Harper’s recollections of those discussions! Maybe he’ll give us his account later today - he’s apparently going to be addressing the nation.

Dr Riff
Dec 3, 2008 9:47

she’s just reporting this stuff jwl, she knows what’s going to be the outcome already.

jwl
Dec 3, 2008 9:55

Kady

Is Harper finally going on tv to explain himself? It’s about time. I was wondering if he could/would be bothered to address the Nation and let people know what is happening. We are this close to constitutional, and political, crisis’ and Harper’s hiding somewhere trying to figure out his next tactical move.

John W
Dec 3, 2008 9:59

Kady: Anything on whether Conservatives might be able to get some Liberal backbenchers to jump ship, not necessarily crossing floor but voting with Harper on confidence?

Riley
Dec 3, 2008 10:04

Kady,

Are you intended to be a non-partisan journalist for Macleans, or a partisan blogger? Just asking because Andrew Coyne blogs representing a certain view, and wondered if maybe that is your position as well. To represent a specific political viewpoint.

KOL
Dec 3, 2008 10:09

Jack,
Harper has tried to harness nationalism for his purposes but he does not understand it. Mario Dumont can get away (for a time, anyway) with attacking Quebec’s artists because he is a French-Canadian Quebecker. In the view of nationalists, when Harper, an anglo from Alberta, tries to do the same thing he is not only attacking Quebec’s artists, he is attacking Quebec’s culture. Similarly, a fight against Danny Williams turned into a fight against all Newfoundland. Harper’s modus operandi is divide and conquer. Unfortunately for him, divide and conquer doesn’t work in a nationalist society when the conqueror is foreign.

Dr Riff
Dec 3, 2008 10:11

the modus operandi is dialectic not debate.

Terry
Dec 3, 2008 10:13

KOL> That would also explain why the Liberals can’t make a breakthrough in the west either. The Liberals are considered to be synonymous with Ontario and Montreal in western Canada.

Ti-Guy
Dec 3, 2008 10:15

I’d love to hear Stephen Harper’s recollections of those discussions! Maybe he’ll give us his account later today - he’s apparently going to be addressing the nation.

Excellent. So when do I have to tune in to FoxNews to see it?

Kady O'Malley
Dec 3, 2008 10:16

JWL - That’s the latest rumour. I’ll post if I hear anything more concrete, I promise. If he is, in fact, planning to ask the Governor General to prorogue the House tomorrow, it would make sense to go on air tonight to explain why he feels the need to do so, rather than wait until after he makes his request, because really, nobody knows what she is going to do.

John W: Well, we’ve been hearing rumours of Liberal and/or NDP floorcrossers since the day after the election. I haven’t noticed any particular upswing, but again, as far as I can tell, anyone who claims to know what’s going on is either delusional or making stuff up.

Ti-Guy
Dec 3, 2008 10:18

Can anyone present themselves as a spokesman for “The West” or is that only available to Albertans?

Terry
Dec 3, 2008 10:20

Ti-Guy> Again, you never seem to provide any perspective, points of view, or informed commentary.

To you exist at all in these comment boards for any reason other than to hurl insults and raise the temperature of the discussion? I mean, you are on these comment boards every hour, all day, every day. You are presumably not getting paid for it. You aren’t earning any accolades for your behavior or your speech, nor are you changing any opinions or getting people to consider things in a different way.

Is this what you want out of the hours of your life that are slipping away?

Michael Watkins
Dec 3, 2008 10:22

Harper has chosen a scorched earth approach to handling this latest challenge to his leadership and is burning many bridges behind his apparent retreat from Quebec. How can it help national unity to see him and his ministers, including those who are normally friends to Quebec and ought to know better, whipping up anglo regions in the country, rekindling or fomenting anew hysteria and anger over la Quebecois?

Lost among the chest beating is one simple fact: Not every citizen who cast a vote for the Bloc Quebecois is a separatist. Harper risks turning the tide on separatist thought, which had been receding over the past decade, back to land.

Ti-Guy
Dec 3, 2008 10:24

Again, you never seem to provide any perspective, points of view, or informed commentary.

I know. I’m a parochial Central Canadian.

Right wingers are so poorly socialised they don’t even know when they’re being insulting anymore.

A reader
Dec 3, 2008 10:26

Kady, thanks for taking the time to transcribe that section of Layton’s book. It gives an interesting historical context to what’s unfolding now.

After reading this, and in the context of what’s transpired over the past 24 hours, I’d say the Bloc has two major policy thrusts: one is the promotion of generally progressive economic and social positions, and one is the devolution of federal spending power to the provinces. In the latter it has common cause with the Harper Conservatives, in the former with social democrats in the NDP and progressive elements of the Liberal Party.

Reading the coalition documents last night at 62percentmajority.ca last night, I concluded that the Bloc is stressing the former at the moment. I have to think the fact that the provincial pension plan, the Caisse de Depot, will likely need some substantial assistance in the near future, makes them less likely to advocate the second element for awhile.

As someone who worked on the Hill during Meech Lake and Charlottetown and spent that referendum and the 1995 referendum in BC, I’d have to say that the Prime Minister’s toxic behaviour in the Commons yesterday, and his willingness to summon the forces of disunity and stokes national fears and suspicions, only demonstrates further to me that he has no place leading our government, and not an iota of legitimacy left to do so.

He’s threatened our economy by adding a political crisis, creating a constitutional crisis, and initiating a national unity crisis. The man has to go.

Karol
Dec 3, 2008 10:27

Jack Layton shows terrible lack of class.
Not so long ago Jack Layton was boasting that he is making inroads in Quebec and now he was duped by two Quebeckers Dion spent political force and Duceppe who is defending his political turf.
Was Jack Layton so blind or was he so stupid?? He thought that he can undercut Liberals from left end of political spectrum take away Liberal voters and potential donors to Liberal Party and at the same time go and sleep in one bed with them, what was he thinking??
Now when Dion and Duceppe are pulling him down into separatist gutter he tries to grab on to Harper and pull him down as well.
What is it about these people that they never take responsibility for their own actions???

Terry
Dec 3, 2008 10:31

Ti-Guy> Perhaps I could learn a bit more manners. But what sets you apart from any of the other people that think that conservatives are scum such as boudica, T.Thwin, Mike T. etc. is that all of those people actually make commentary explaining why they think a policy or an action is incorrect.

I have yet to see, in all the times I’ve been here in the few months I’ve been following these boards, you actually say anything at all about an issue that was of substance. Every single post is a variation of an insult to either conservative culture or conservative representatives. You are a singularity among all the regular left-wing commentators here.

Stephen
Dec 3, 2008 10:33

>Harper’s modus operandi is divide and conquer. Unfortunately for him, divide and conquer doesn’t work in a nationalist society when the conqueror is foreign.

There’s also the fact that, as was quite nicely shown in the U.S., you can only play divide-and-conquer politics for so long before you get slapped in the face by the backlash (the Harris Tories in Ontario also found this out the hard way). Harper got some of that in the election when he attempted to micromanage the Quebec vote, and now (judging by the CTV poll which shows that the Conservatives’ scorched-earth campaign isn’t working too well) it looks like the backlash is starting to hit on a national level. If 40% of people surveyed are fine with the coalition sight unseen, what happens to Harper if it works?

Well, I mean, we know what happens - Jim Prentice steps up to the big chair and he heads home with his dream of destroying the Liberal party in tatters.

Ti-Guy
Dec 3, 2008 10:33

Anyway, I think prorogation will be a big mistake for the Governor General. She will be politicising the office by permitting the PM to escape an action of Parliament that is fundamental to its legitimacy: determining if the government has the confidence of the House. And it’s absurd to do this so soon after the session began.

I can’t see how that would be worth it with a minority government headed by a personal unpopular Prime Minister that resulted from the lowest voter turnout ever in an election no one expected and didn’t want.

jwl
Dec 3, 2008 10:34

Thanks Kady, haven’t heard those rumours. It’s too hard to keep up these days! I think Harper should have been on the tv a few days ago. I agree that he should be explaining himself before, not after, proroguing House.

Maybe before/after, someone could do a 15 minute talk on basic Canadian civics because few people seem to understand what’s happening right now and we all could use a refresher on our odd Westminster rules. :)

Ti-Guy
Dec 3, 2008 10:40

Every single post is a variation of an insult to either conservative culture or conservative representatives.

I try to avoid using the term conservative, since this radical nationalism and faux-populism has nothing to do with true conservatism.

There’s no such thing as “conservative culture.” There are cultures in which the participants are conservative or liberal/progressive, period.

Jenn
Dec 3, 2008 10:41

Well, I think I found out the “Hidden Agenda”. I’ve been shocked and dismayed at the number of Conservative commentators who end their diatribe against the “Separatist Bloc” with words to the effect that “The West” will secede and become a part of the United States. This very morning, my own boss, a Conservative, thought joining the United States, becoming a part of the Republic, was a GREAT thing to do.

I can’t stop crying. This government, whether or not it gives voice to this opinion in private caucus meetings, has certainly encouraged its supporters to vocalize this treasonous plan.

archangel
Dec 3, 2008 10:43

Terry,

Ti-Guy has my vote for ‘witty commenter of the season’ so it’s now a tie and he gets to continue. Or will you form an undemocratic coalition with others who share your aversion to Ti-Guy and stage a coup?

GG Kady O’Malley might suggest you take a break and prorogue your own ad hominem commentary.

Anon
Dec 3, 2008 10:45

I’d imagine that the networks are going to give Les Tros Amigos equal air time if Harper is really going on air.

Plus Kady, what’s happening in the GiornoVerse? Or in MuttartNation?

Michael
Dec 3, 2008 10:46

Harper going to speak to the country? Ok, but perhaps a bit of advice from WP Blatty might be useful for those who may be open to taking Harpo at his word.

Father Merrin: “Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. We may ask what is relevant but anything beyond that is dangerous. He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien, and powerful. So don’t listen to him. Remember that - do not listen.”

Jack Mitchell
Dec 3, 2008 10:48

Apropos of not much, and not that anybody cares, but I’m coming around to the idea that prorogation is the right thing for the GG to do, constitutionally. My reasoning is this: the confidence of the House can’t be based on an abstraction, it has to be based on a concrete vote — that’s how things are measured in Parliament. While it may be rather cowardly of Harper to flee the House for two months at a time of crisis, it’s thus not unconstitutional for him to do so: he’s still the Prime Minister. And we need to be very wary of the GG ever rejecting formal Advice from the PM: that’s a potentially very slippery slope. Prorogation is essentially different from dissolution in that it merely postpones the day of reckoning. So I think the GG would be right to accept Harper’s Advice to prorogue, assuming that, for his part, he’s willing to tolerate the appalling political optics of it.

Karol
Dec 3, 2008 10:48

I am glad that Liberals found their salvation in sacking Layton by using Dion. In another day or two Ignatieff will declare putsch in Liberal ranks leaving Bob Rae flapping in the wind.
Funny how it all works out in the end.

T. Thwim
Dec 3, 2008 10:52

If the economic times were other than they are now, I’d agree with you Jack.

I don’t like the idea of Canada’s government being rudderless while this all starts to crack open, however.

Rick
Dec 3, 2008 10:52

I would be interested to know more about what is meant by “would put in place a permanent consultation mechanism with the Bloc Quebecois”. Consultation on what? And to what end; that is, what actions would be required as a result of these consultations? Because it sounds like formally legitimizing the Bloc separatist position, with the eventual consequence of making the government of Quebec a partner to the government of Canada if the Bloc ever gets into power. Once elected It wouldn’t take any separatist party worth its salt two minutes to declare that they are now obviously equal governments since the Govt of Canada consults with them. At the very least that would be just one more step down that dangerous road.

Stephen
Dec 3, 2008 10:53

>And we need to be very wary of the GG ever rejecting formal Advice from the PM: that’s a potentially very slippery slope. <

True - but did Byng formally reject King’s advice that dissolution was necessary? I’m curious about that one; the historical record that I fuzzily remember is that they had many long, detailed discussions, but nothing necessarily more formal than that.

Jack Mitchell
Dec 3, 2008 11:01

Stephen: “did Byng formally reject King’s advice that dissolution was necessary?”

According to wikipedia, that sterling source which in this case is very vague on dates,

The next day, King presented Byng with an Order-in-Council seeking the dissolution of Parliament, which Byng refused to sign.

I think that would be the moment of truth in terms of Byng’s rejecting King’s Advice. (By “Advice” I mean constitutionally formal advice, i.e. King speaking as PM; not the sort of advice that helps a GG determine his/her proper course of action, assuming Byng got any of that!)

Jack Mitchell
Dec 3, 2008 11:04

Thwim: “I don’t like the idea of Canada’s government being rudderless while this all starts to crack open, however.”

I couldn’t agree with you more, but I think it’s for the electorate to decide (in due course) if Harper’s clinging-to-power routine is damaging or not. Personally I think Harper is handing the Coalition a hell of a talking point by proroguing, since “Harper is afraid to face the House” will go down very badly with the People(tm).

Geiseric the Lame
Dec 3, 2008 11:05

“This very morning, my own boss, a Conservative, thought joining the United States, becoming a part of the Republic, was a GREAT thing to do.”

Relax. The money behind that movement would get eaten alive if the 49th fell. They stir it up but they’ll NEVER dive in.

DCT
Dec 3, 2008 11:07

Being called the 3 Amigos is way cooler than being called the 3 Stooges.

IMO.

Karol
Dec 3, 2008 11:10

Michael

I did not know that this Church of Secularism and Sexual Deviancy, that you attend to calls Harper a demon. I know that they consider Margentaler their saint but I somehow missed on Secularist demons.
Could you fill us in on all that stuff??

Ti-Guy
Dec 3, 2008 11:12

And we need to be very wary of the GG ever rejecting formal Advice from the PM: that’s a potentially very slippery slope.

I don’t know if refusing to prorogue parliament is all that outrageous, particularly when it’s a attempt to undermine the sovereignty of the Parliament.

If Harper resigns at the same time, that might be acceptable, but at this point, I don’t want this government at the helm anymore. It’s lost touch with reality and the muzzled minions in the caucus are as much to blame as Harper himself. I can’t trust a single of one of those MP’s do what’s right for anyone except their party…not their constituents in their own ridings and not the rest of us.

SERENDIPPITTY
Dec 3, 2008 11:15

Geiseric the Lame Dec 3, 2008 11:05

“This very morning, my own boss, a Conservative, thought joining the United States, becoming a part of the Republic, was a GREAT thing to do”

and the hackles, were piled upon hackles, upon hackles….signifying it would be foolhardy in the hope the current pm would undertake such a venture.

Karol
Dec 3, 2008 11:17

DCT do not hold your hopes to high Kady is moving goalposts more and more toward Three Stooges Rebellion. Layton has a chance like a snowball in Hell that he will survive this fiasco politically. NDP might as well start their leadership convention right now.

john g
Dec 3, 2008 11:19

So Kady,

Any reason why you stopped highlighting where you did? If you contined to highlight the next paragraph, you’d have found this little gem.

It was clear from the election results just three months earlier that Canadians were not ready to elect Mr. Harper (replace with Mr. Dion for 2008) as prime minister. In fact, judging from the results, Canadians were not particularly keen on any one of us being in control. None of the four parties in the House had succeeded in receiving the support of even two of every five voters. My decision made, I informed the other Opposition party leaders that I was withdrawing from the talks.

So as you continue to lovingly gaze back into your special little version of 2005 where only Harper was evil (much like today I guess), how about a quick glance at what is going on today; no comment at all on the fact that this “wise man council”, thrown out there by the Liberals and NDP in an attempt to provide credibility to this coaltion…doesn’t in fact even exist? That they made it up out of thin air to try to give themselves some economic credibility? McKenna was never in; Manley was never even consulted before having his name thrown out there?

Why do you even continue the charade of posting at what is supposed to be a news magazine? Why not just take Cherniak’s old post at the head of LibLogs?

Ti-Guy
Dec 3, 2008 11:22

but I think it’s for the electorate to decide (in due course) if Harper’s clinging-to-power routine is damaging or not.

How can the electorate do that at this particular time? The media is so beholden to advertising campaign funding that it’s impossible to be an informed citizen. And CanWest and Sun Media are really desperate and shameless these days.

As well, the less shameless media has gone off into la-la land with “user-generated” content that reduces information and knowledge to simply a matter of opinion. I was appalled with that in the last campaign.

Well, I’m appalled by that every day, but…oh well.

Jack Mitchell
Dec 3, 2008 11:23

I agree with you, Ti-Guy, about the appalling state of affairs in the House. My sense is just that, because it’s not entirely clear about the proroguing (no precedents, AFAIK, at least not since the 17th century), it would be better to err on the side of deferring to the PM’s Advice. For the reasons I sketched above, but most of all because we absolutely can’t risk the politicisation of the GG’s role. Imagine if we had, oh, John Baird as our GG right now, i.e. a partisan figure willing to do the Government’s bidding. It would be almost the end of Parliamentary government. Well, if Jean is perceived to have overreached on her reserve powers then we risk the next government — Tory or Coalition — appointing some partisan figure as GG; and then the next government turfing him/her out. For me that’s a nightmare scenario and I’d be willing to tolerate (not joyfully embrace) a rudderless ship, a merely semi-legitimate Ministry, and all-out partisan political warfare for 7 weeks if it means avoiding a de jure or (worse still) de facto presidential system.

Kady O'Malley
Dec 3, 2008 11:27

John G - I think Jack Layton has explained at length why he feels differently now, and is now willing to support a coalition. You don’t have to believe him, or agree with him, to acknowledge that fact. The reason that I highlighted the portion that I did was because it addresses the question of whether the Bloc Quebecois would have had more influence over a 2005 coalition government led by Stephen Harper, or a 2008 coalition government led by Stephane Dion. Honestly, if I was motivated by some sort of dark desire to obfuscate Layton’s account of the meeting, why on earth would I have posted the entire passage? Sometimes you just get silly.

Chris
Dec 3, 2008 11:30

Kady you seem to think that just because Jack Layton said it, it must be true. Not so. If anything all this indicates is that he has a coup fetish and knows full well Canadians don’t want him as a cabinet minister.

So he’s a traitor. How you turned this against the Prime Minister is just silly. I must say, your comments during this whole affair have been viciously biased against the Conservatives. I’ve canceled my subscription to MacLeans, I can’t stand this lefty bias.

Michael
Dec 3, 2008 11:34

Jenn:
Unless my logic is flawed, your boss is a boffoon (and not just because he’s a conservative or because he obviously doesn’t respect the will of parliament.)
He doesn’t like the fact that the new coalition has acheived promise from the Bloc to not defeat it for at least 18 months (and that’s all it is) so he wants to separate? His hatred for the separatists is such that he becomes a SEPARATIST???!!!
Forget Blatty - this is more Pierre Boulle (from Planet of the Apes).

DCT
Dec 3, 2008 11:40

The media is so beholden to advertising campaign funding that it’s impossible to be an informed citizen. And CanWest and Sun Media are really desperate and shameless these days.

But the Star and G&M aren’t? Can I borrow your blinders when you are done with them?

First-timer
Dec 3, 2008 11:40

I don not usually read or post on these sites, although I must say with everything that is happening these days I cannot get enough. I am in now way an expert in any of these matters, but I heard an interesting point the other day and it made me think. With all the talk abut the coalition being un-democratic etc, and that the voters should decide, I think we are losing site of one important fact.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but in Canada we do not elect the government, in fact we do not even elect the party, what we have is a system that elects MPs, which in turn based on the number of seats a party has won, a government is formed. It is the responsibility of that government to then keep the confidence of the House so that they can effectively govern the country. That confidence has obviously been lost, and a new governement (albeit a coalition one) is being proposed that would regain said confidence and effectively govern the country. As a tax payer who is quite concerned during the present economic climate, that is news that I want to hear; that someone will responsibly take the lead and do something that would benefit us all.

Aurora
Dec 3, 2008 11:40

Harper is the Republican of the North - the talking points and tactics are so similar:

Dion (Obama) is palling around with the Separatists (terrorists). In both cases, the case is overstated. The degree of “palling around” with the Bloc is limited to consultation, just as the Conservatives consulted with them, and to a commitment not to defeat the coalition government (in which case, the Bloc are giving away more than they are taking as was pointed out in French by a Conservative in question period yesterday).

Continue to misstate something even after it has been corrected - with Obama, they misstated his voting record even after it had been fact-checked by independent sources and the statement declared false. with Conservatives, they continue to use the statement that the Bloc has a veto, or that the Bloc is part of the coalition.

Operate on the politics of division with wedge issues rather than the real issues. Even though the economic situation is the real issue, the Conservatives are drawing everyone into a discussion on Quebec sovereignty - that is why they have to continuously misstate the power of the Bloc.

Depend primarily on attack ads - rather than reassuring the public he can manage the government and respond to their concerns. Instead, he is putting all his efforts into attacking the other parties, right up to the degree of suggesting that one party, democratically elected, should have no say in Parliament.

Aurora
Dec 3, 2008 11:44

I did some calculations. The Liberals had 26.2% of the popular vote; the NDP had 18.2% of the popular vote. Together, they had 44.4% of the popular vote, compared to the Conservatives’ 37.6%. The Conservatives did not even deserve the number of seats they had! If we had Fair Vote, proportional representation, there would be no need to have a Bloc commitment to support the coalition.

Ti-Guy
Dec 3, 2008 11:46

I sketched above, but most of all because we absolutely can’t risk the politicisation of the GG’s role.

That role has to have, at some point, some substance, or it really is an impediment to democracy. There are certain realities the GG has to take into account….the loss of confidence in a minority government, a government with not very much popular legitimacy (despite its strength in the only parts of Canada that really count….The Perfect Prairie Provinces that constitute the Holy Heartland and Non-Toronto Central/Central-Southwestern Ontario), a session that’s just begun just after an election nobody wanted that Harper broke his own election law to have. And let’s not forget a government that’s been lying to us since the summer. Big lies, too.

Then again, we all know that Harper will do what comes next if His Divine Will is thwarted. And God only knows what that’ll be.

TobyornotToby
Dec 3, 2008 11:51

Terry, if you could take a minute away from your squabbles with Ti-Guy, I need to remind you that “the west” is more than Alberta, and that even Alberta is not monolithic politically.

You presume a great deal when you suggest that “the west” has a single view, or even a majority view towards a federal-provincial relationship, or towards Quebec, or towards separating from Canada.
Stop appropriating an entire region to shore up your personal opinion.

Jack Mitchell
Dec 3, 2008 11:52

Ti-Guy — Well, there’s no way on God’s Green Earth that she’ll ever permit dissolution after a non-confidence vote, that’s something substantial.

What I’d like to see is a curtailing of the Government’s ability to manipulate the agenda of the House. The Government should be able to control the agenda by virtue of its predominance in the House, not by virtue of the authority of Cabinet. Really, why is there any overlap between the Cabinet and the control of the House? The Cabinet is a separate entity. The House should be able to vote on the timing and substance of its own agenda.

Ti-Guy
Dec 3, 2008 11:52

But the Star and G&M aren’t? Can I borrow your blinders when you are done with them?

If you read the rest of my comment, I also accused the not-so-shameless media of not being all that wonderful either.

Bottom line is when most Canadians don’t even know how Parliament works, we have a serious problem. And they can’t get away with blaming high school civics courses for that. People forget how these things work if the media itself can’t be bothered to remind people.

Ti-Guy
Dec 3, 2008 11:58

What I’d like to see is a curtailing of the Government’s ability to manipulate the agenda of the House.

In my entire lifetime, I’ve never seen a minority government go to such lengths to that as this one. It seems unprecedented. Then again, I only started taking politics seriously again after Stephen Harper’s support for the illegal/immoral invasion.

Andrew (not Potter or Coyne)
Dec 3, 2008 12:05

I agree. Minority Parliament has taught us that we need to have the HoC in sole control of its agenda and perhaps even whether it is prorogued. What we are seeing now is a crisis that would have been much lessened had the PM not wielded these powers.

southernontarioan
Dec 3, 2008 12:12

Wow.. nice spin Kady.

Nothing like taking a partisan viewpoint on it.

I mean, its not like Layton is now doing what he felt so strongly opposed to before. No no no, nevermind his hypocrisy, the real story is obviously what Duceppe felt about getting Harper to sign on to the Bloc’s demands. Do you have any evidence that Harper himself agreed to form a coalition? No. You just have Duceppe’s willingness to agree to one.

I just noticed something about the wording of the agreement. The Bloc will “neither move nor support” any motions of non confidence. So what if they abstain or are absent? They will still be following the agreement and yet… the coalition would fail any non-confidence motion since the NDP-Liberals are outnumbered by the Bloc.

Michael H.
Dec 3, 2008 12:14

It is mind boggling to read the support on this blog for a coalition that gives the separatists veto power over Canadian government legislation. And now we hear that Parizeau is supporting such an arrangement because it will be good for Quebec! Stand up for a united Canada!!

Stephen
Dec 3, 2008 12:21

>In my entire lifetime, I’ve never seen a minority government go to such lengths to that as this one.

Well, how old are you? That’s the catch here - we simply haven’t had much time under a minority government.

Since 1921 (which I’m not sure if it would REALLY count as a minority, with King barely short of a majority and winning every vote without an issue thanks to Progressive support), we’ve seen, what, barely 10% of parliament’s time in minority status? With most of that coming in the last five years? Clark’s didn’t last long, Trudeau’s was a de facto majority thanks to the NDP, Dief’s was quickly scuttled… the only really raucous one was the Dief / Pearson era, and that produced three elections in about five years as well with a lot of bitterness on both sides as a result.

Brad Sallows
Dec 3, 2008 12:22

>So — which theoretical minority PM would be more at the mercy of the Bloc Quebecois on issues related to jurisdictional powers, federal-provincial relations and the creation of national programs?

Both. Those are all essentially non-supply issues. In case A, the opposition and the Bloc vote NO, the legislation doesn’t pass, and the government doesn’t fall. In case B, the same thing.

So your smoking gun is that Harper heard out Duceppe and Layton; no evidence of a formal deal. And, we know the fall of Martin’s government was not the trigger for an attempt by opposition parties to obtain the confidence of the House.

This time, we have a formal deal and we know the fall of the government will be the trigger for an attempt by opposition parties to obtain the confidence of the House.

Objective people on all sides seem to be able to agree that Bloc MPs have the same rights as other MPs. The parties are going to spin things to suit themselves: once upon a time the Liberals, NDP, and national media agreed the Bloc were separatists to be shunned; today, not so much. Once upon a time the Conservatives were willing to discuss working with the Bloc, and might have actually done so if events had unfolded differently, but today the Conservatives portray the Bloc as separatists to be shunned.

Once the media have satisfied themselves that politicians are creatures of expediency and improvisation in pursuit of power, would you all mind devoting some attention to what this coalition is planning to do with the government and the economy?

Is Dion or Ignatieff to be PM? Or someone else?
Is the $50B in planned corporate tax cuts to be retained or removed?
Is there a panel of four economic advisors or not?
Who else will enjoy privileged influence from the back rooms?
Is the $30B in planned spending to come from tax increases, rollbacks of planned tax cuts, reduced spending in other areas, bond issues, or straight from the printers at the mint?
What other goodies besides $1B in transfer payments were negotiated by Duceppe? Are any other provinces to receive special privileges?
To which provinces and companies will monies for manufacturing, auto manufacturing, and forestry go? How much?
What specific measures will be taken to backstop pensions? Which pension funds qualify? What is the maximum liability the coalition would have government take on?

That outline platform that could stand some journalistic digging.

Brad Sallows
Dec 3, 2008 12:23

>Bloc will “neither move nor support” any motions of non confidence. So what if they abstain or are absent?

Read the following lines more closely. The Bloc is obligated to support the government, which by definition means not abstaining and not being unreasonably absent.

TobyornotToby
Dec 3, 2008 12:37

Where is the veto Michael H.? It’s a written agreement, and the Bloc has agreed to observe confidence in the coalition government.

Has it occured to you that getting rid of Harper is enough for the Bloc? If you’ve paid any attention to parliament, or even the election, you would have noticed BQ members trying to particpate in parliament, trying to improve legislation, and trying to get the focus on the economy like when in the English language debate Duceppe “accused Harper of giving tax breaks on corporate profits that benefit Canada’s booming oil industry but doing little to help manufacturing in Ontario and Quebec.” (CBC website).

Or when he spoke to the Economic Club of Toronto on October where he said: “We strongly disagree with the Conservative way of managing the economy from an ideological point of view,” he told his audience. “It is very dangerous when a prime minister makes his decisions through an ideological prism instead of a pragmatic one.” (City News website)

I think if you are interested enough to come to a site like this you should develop a more nuanced view of the Bloc which has been standing up for parliament and the economy even though, it has an explicity goal of sovereignty for Quebec. Even then the BQ says it wants a cooperative relationship with Canada.

In other words unlike the Harper Conservatives, the BQ is pursusing a course of pragmatism vs. partisanship.

Harold Asmis
Dec 3, 2008 13:28

I’m just interested in AECL and nuclear power for Ontario in all this. Seems to me, no matter what, the ball is dropped here.

ps. Kady, you were once interested in the machinations of Bruce Power. It’s all blown away by this madness.

Brad Sallows
Dec 3, 2008 15:06

>Where is the veto Michael H.? It’s a written agreement, and the Bloc has agreed to observe confidence in the coalition government.

Notwithstanding what I wrote earlier, what are the enforcement provisions? The Bloc can pull the plug anytime it wants; the only sanctions the Bloc will face are the voters. Do you think the Bloc’s voters will hold it against them if they throw Canada into another period of turmoil after the Bloc finishes explaining that the coalition was not supporting Quebec’s interests? It’s not as if the Bloc can be punished by voters in the rest of Canada.

Jack Mitchell
Dec 3, 2008 15:28

Doubtless ITQ is about to post on this, but it looks like 2005 wasn’t the first time that Harper’s party plotted nefariously with the evil, evil separatists to steal power.

Michael H.
Dec 3, 2008 15:55

I have felt the need to support Canadian unity but on second thought I wonder if it would’nt be bettter for all true Canadians to encourage Quebec to separate. We need to rethink our current situation.

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