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Prorogation is a good result but could set a bad precedent

I am pleased that the Governor General agreed to prorogue the House today. I think that all parties need some time to think things over and to re-establish communication between the opposition parties and the government. It is not at all clear whether or not the Conservatives will be able to survive a confidence vote in January, but at least they have now been given the opportunity to make amends for their extremely poor choices over the last couple of weeks.

I still think that Stephen Harper should resign. I know he will not resign, but he clearly has shown that he cannot work well with the opposition parties. Harper is a bully, he tried to utilize the economic crisis as a cover to financially cripple his opponents. Since Harper will almost certainly not resign, he instead needs to do some very serious soul searching. He needs to rethink and reshape his dealings with the opposition. If Harper hopes to avoid a defeat on the budget he should get started right away on negotiating a budget with the opposition that will address their major concerns. I do not think Stephen Harper is capable of working with the opposition in a collaborative manner. I think he simply cannot change his bullish attitude.

While I think that prorogation was not a bad option, it could potentially have set a terrible precedent for Canadian politics. What happens the next time a government is certain it will lose on a confidence vote. Will the Governor General consider delaying confidence votes in other sorts of situations? Clearly this was a unique circumstance. There was an election less than two months ago. The government had not passed any legislation in the new sitting. There is an alternative government in waiting. It is unlikely that a situation such as this will ever occur again.

Perhaps the decision to prorogue Parliament this time can be seen as a positive though. If the Governor General had instead forced Harper to face the opposition’s confidence motion, she would have pretty much had to accept the coalition government’s offer to form a new government. If that had happened, then the next time we end up with a minority government, the opposition parties may quickly unite and defeat the government and form their own coalition. I think that it is important that the party that wins the most seats be given every opportunity to govern.

Clearly Harper had no regard for his opposition. He must have assumed that they did not have the stomach to oppose him on the fiscal update. Harper has rightfully backed down on the worst proposals in the fiscal update. The opposition claims that they have the right to defeat the government because there is no immediate economic stimulus package. It is not entirely true to say that there is no economic stimulus package, there just isn’t much of one. It is not entirely unwise for Harper to wait until January to announce any major economic spending. It will be more clear in late January what actions the US government is going to take. Announcing major spending for the Canadian auto sector, only to find that the US is going to do little or nothing about the problem, would mean that the Canadian government had completely wasted any money given to the auto sector. While perhaps something should have been done immediately to help the economy, the time for massive spending is in late January or early February of 2009, not immediately.

The government and the opposition now have the time to work out a compromise on the budget. I think that it is incumbent on all parties to do their utmost to work together. Canada needs strong and decisive leadership right now, not just from the government. I fear that due to the personalities involved, particularly that of Stephen Harper, there will be no great compromise. Come January 26, 2009 we could very well see the opposition moving to defeat the government. It is unclear however, depending on what is in the budget, whether or not the Governor General would dissolve Parliament, or allow the proposed coalition the chance to govern.


December 4, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment