Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Responding to the Critics of the Coalition

I find it is interesting to listen to the unfolding debate regarding the current Canadian political situation. There is virtual universal condemnation of the heavy handed politically motivated "economic update statement" made by the the Conservatives last Thursday. There has been serious questioning of the judgment of Stephen Harper. Randall Denley of the Ottawa Citizen deemed it "one of the dumbest stunts in the history of Canadian politics". It is hard to imagine that if Harper had the power to wind the clock back a week that he wouldn't want to tweek that "economic update statement" just a bit. Looks like it is too late to put that genie back in the bottle. (Or, Jack back in the box.)

Now, however, there is serious criticism being leveled at those of the Liberals, New Democrats and the Bloq who have negotiated the terms of a proposed coalition government. Much of it, I don't necessarily disagree with. John Geiger, The Globe & Mail editorial board editor views Stephane Dion as
...a guy who could not control his own party, pretending that he can now control a government populated with his former political enemies in the NDP, propped up by separatists — the very people that Mr. Dion entered public life to defeat. Now he's going to give them legitimacy, he's going to also give them more power in Ottawa than they have ever enjoyed. More smart, yes. But this isn't smart. This is dumb.
He further opines that:

...if Mr. Dion becomes prime minister, he's only going to be there for a few months. And to accomplish that, he has had to enter a pact with union-beholden social democrats and separatists. Mr. Dion lacks the moral authority to form a government.
He characterizes the proposed coalition as
...inherently unstable. These three leaders have been at each others throats throughout their political lives. They have no common policies, only a common interest in attaining power through the back door. No matter what their agreement states, it seems highly doubtful that a Prime Minister Dion could keep this together for long, nor is there much hope that Mr. Dion could deliver the kind of leadership required during such uncertain times. That's the point: it's time for leadership in Ottawa, and since the incumbent prime minister and opposition leader are incapable of providing it, we need look elsewhere.

It is this final sentence that leads to the recommendation of the G&M that Harper resign. And the chances of that happening? I can see the headline now;

Harper Resigns! Leaderless Conservatives Beg Canadian Public For Time!

It is true that the Coalition proposes to install a lame duck leader as Prime Minister responsible for governing what may be a rickety coalition. Some have characterized it as akin to "herding cats." But, whether we like it or not, they represent a majority of the Members of Parliament that we elected less than two months ago. It is unfortunate for Stephen Harper and his supporters (which numbered just under 38% of the electorate in our recent election) that he is apparently about to lose the confidence of the House. He, and the rest of us will now have to deal with the consequences of his ill thought out "economic update statement" of last Thursday.

Ultimately, while we can argue ad nauseam about the viability of the proposed coalition and whether or not it would be the correct path for the country, there is no disputing the right of those making the proposal to do so under our current parliamentary system. If it goes ahead it will be a very difficult process. My hope is that if it does proceed, that those involved will truly start to behave like consensus builders who seek to find what unites us rather than hyper partisan politicians whose primary goal is to find what issues divide us so that they can exploit it for there own political gain.

The only alternative to the coalition proposal is more of the same from Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. Does anyone honestly believe that they will ever evolve into a group that truly understands that for a minority parliament to work, it requires compromise and communication with your opposition? Can anyone foresee a time when they would would be able to regain the trust of the current opposition? I think this is why people such as Bob Rae are saying "There is no going back." The trust was broken, and the opposition is now intent on changing the face of parliament. Call it a power grab, call it partisan politics, isn't that the game the Conservatives have been playing all along? The real question is, will anything change if this new group comes to power? That will be the real test.

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