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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

maybe Harper is the best we have to take on a protectionist America

While I am certainly not happy that Stephen Harper was re-elected last month, now that Barack Obama is president elect, and Congress is strongly held by the Democrats, Harper may be the best person to take on a Democratic US government.

The Democrats are known to be far more protectionist in nature than the Republicans. Obama made comments during the primaries that he would re-open NAFTA to better protect workers in the USA. While NAFTA is certainly not perfect, it has become such an important part of the Canadian economy that we cannot afford to have it tampered with in any drastic way. I think that Harper, more than any other Canadian leader today, will not be afraid to stand up to Obama on trade issues.

Harper does not seem too concerned with who he angers, both at home and abroad. While I am sure that Harper will work hard to establish a good working relationship with Obama, I also do not think he will worry about clashing with Obama. It is clear that Harper and Obama do not share much of the same ideology. Harper can afford to be seen to oppose Obama as Canadians who vote for Harper are not politically that similar to Obama.

I guess I am just searching really hard for something positive about Harper and the Conservatives, but I honestly hope that I am right, and that Harper stands up for Canada in trade negotiations with the US.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

what it means for me to vote strategically

A while back I wrote a post about voting strategically in my riding for the upcoming election. I am planning on voting Liberal, not because voting Liberal in Vancouver Centre means that the Conservatives will not win the seat, but because if there is to be any hope of stopping Stephen Harper then Canada needs to elect as many Liberal MPs as it can. In Vancouver Centre the second place candidate is almost certainly going to be the NDP, so many people think I should just vote for who I really want to (I usually vote NDP, though not always). If Michael Byers of the NDP were to win in Vancouver Centre that would mean that the Liberals would have to win two seats somewhere else in order to have a net gain.

If a minority Parliament were a certainty than it would not really matter too much if Vancouver Centre elected a Liberal or a Dipper. It is my hope that the Liberals can still turn this campaign around. If the Liberals can pick up one or two points from the Conservatives, and another one or two from the NDP, and another one or two from the Greens then they are suddenly in a dead heat with the Conservatives. I think that it is still possible for the Liberals to win a minority government. That means that a seat like Vancouver Centre, which has been a safe Liberal seat for 15 years, needs to be won by the Liberals if they are to have any chance of winning this election.

If a seat like Vancouver Centre slips from the Liberals then they are in a great deal of trouble. While I think Michael Byers would be a good MP and would bring some great ideas to Ottawa, it is more important that the Liberal brand remain strong. Canada is not what most of us think it is without the Liberal Party. Canadians are a liberal people, sometimes we forget that and tilt slightly to the right, but we need to be careful right now as Harper is in my view not slightly to the right. Stephen Harper is a very intelligent man with a very well thought out view of what direction Canada should be heading in. Stephen Harper’s Canada is one based on small government that does not take active steps to help its citizens. Stephen Harper’s Canada is one where we would ignore our moral duty to fight climate change, where we would stand beside the USA on foreign policy issues rather than seek a broad consensus among many nations, where we would treat drug addicts and the mentally ill like criminals rather than like patients.

Stephen Harper’s Canada is not my Canada. I do not think that Stephen Harper’s vision of Canada is shared by many Canadians. Voters are buying into Harper’s image of strength, and the Conservatives depiction of Stephane Dion as too weak to lead the country. I say that Dion exhibits strength by not being unequivocal in everything he says. Dion realizes that there are many sides to every issue, he realizes that dissent can breed better ideas and solutions than simply overriding all opposition. Dion is more like ordinary Canadians than Stephen Harper is.

September 21, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , | 1 Comment

Liberals paying the price for waiting so long to take on Harper

The Liberals continue to trail badly in the polls and Stephane Dion is now being criticized by anonymous MPs within his own party. Clearly Dion is not going to be able to out campaign Harper. It seems that the only real hope that the Liberals have of pulling out a victory is if Harper, or a top cabinet minister, makes a horrible blunder. Best case scenario for the Liberals now seems to be a minority government where they have maybe picked up a few seats.

If the Liberals had gone to the polls earlier they may have had more traction with voters. There were opportunities to bring the government down over their immigration proposals, before that on their budget that did nothing for the environment. Both of those issues would have had at least some traction with Canadians. The timing of this election was at least partly decided by Harper, and the tone and substance of the campaign has so far been very dull, much to Harper’s advantage.

It is becoming very clear now that Stephane Dion is not clear enough a communicator, at least in English, to be able to win an election campaign. I think that the Liberals could still pull out a victory, but it will be the Liberal team, the Liberal brand, and very of a Harper majority, not Dion himself, that would lead them to victory. I thought that the Liberals should have brought down the government a long time ago. Dion was continually saying that he could perform well in a campaign. It would have made more sense to take him up on his offer, watch him sink or swim, and either deal with another Conservative government or reap the rewards of Dion’s awesome campaigning skills. If the Liberals had lost earlier, they could already be rid of Dion and well on their way to selecting a leader who can effectively communicate in both official languages.

With all this said I still hope that Dion can turn things around. I hope that other Liberals are given important speaking roles by the party. Hope only gets you so far though. As much as I dislike Stephen Harper, he has to be given some credit for sticking to simple messages and making sure that the more radical elements of his party keep their mouths shut. Dion lacks the luxury of making his campaign all about himself, he simply cannot communicate his message well enough to inspire voters.

September 16, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | 1 Comment

Harper’s swipe at Campbell a bad tactic

I was surprised to read today that Stephen Harper spent part of his time in Richmond today taking swipes at Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals, mainly taking issue with the BC carbon tax. While it may seem to make sense to attack a tax that Harper opposes at the federal level, by criticizing Campbell he may be undercutting much of the Conservative support in BC.

The BC Liberals are the closest thing that BC has to a conservative party. I know that there is a BC Conservative Party (with no affiliation with the federal Conservatives), but they run few candidates and most voters have never heard of them. Many BC Liberal voters, organizers, and volunteers, are people who would ordinarily support the federal Conservatives. I hope that some of those supporters think twice about voting for the Conservatives now that Harper has made it clear that he completely disagrees with one of Gordon Campbell’s major policy decisions. The carbon tax debate is going to be key in the May 2009 BC election, and Harper’s swiping at Campbell now could have an effect later.

With all that said, I am happy to see Harper taking on yet another provincial premier. Hopefully Gordon Campbell and Dalton McGuinty speak up during the federal campaign and highlight how counter-productive it is to have a Prime Minister who is constantly squabbling with his provincial counterparts.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , | Leave a comment

does Harper know something we don’t know?

I am surprised to be reading that there is a lot of speculation that Stephen Harper may pull the plug on his government before Parliament resumes on September 15. All the polls that I have seen over the last couple of months have shown the Liberals and the Conservatives in a dead heat, both far from majority territory, and the Conservatives still failing to gain ground in Ontario and Quebec. Further, by calling an election early, Harper would be directly ignoring the fixed election date legislation that his own government implemented.

Perhaps what Harper knows, which the public does not, is that the Conservatives are set to lose, and perhaps lose badly in the upcoming by-elections in Ontario and Quebec. I would think that Harper would like to wait and see how things turn out in those elections before pulling the plug on his government, but if their internal polling data shows a bleak enough picture, or alternatively a strong enough picture, they may want to go to the polls across the country as soon as possible.

There is also speculation that the Conservatives may want to go now, rather than wait for the economy to get even worse. Flaherty has already lowered the growth forecast for the economy this year to a very sluggish 1.1%. If things are only going to get worse on the economic front the Conservatives may as well go to the polls as soon as possible.

It looks to me like the Conservatives would be very hard pressed to win the next election, and are certainly in no position to win a majority. Traditionally, the governing party goes into elections with slightly elevated support as they tend to dominate the news, and during the campaign their numbers dip slightly. If the Liberals manage to pick up a point or two from the Conservatives, and a point or two from the Greens (who seem to be riding way too high in my view) then they could put together 36-38% of the vote. That is not enough to win a majority government, but if the Liberals could pick up 130-140 seats or so then they should be able to govern comfortably with the support of the NDP. After two and a half years of the Harper Conservatives a little Liberal/NDP action would be just the right medicine for Canada.

August 24, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment