Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Is the right-wing government also about to fall in Canada?

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Originally published on on Thu, 12/04/2008 – 12:54pm

Right this second, Stephen Harper remains Prime Minister of Canada. Harper got Governor General Michaëlle Jean to suspend Parliament until January 26. If the suspension hadn’t gone through, the other three major parties would have forced a no confidence vote on Monday, dissolving the government less than two months after the last federal election. (The Governor General is the Queen of England’s representative and de facto head of state. Jean could have decided not to suspend Parliament.)

As the headline on today’s column from The Globe & Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson puts it, “What a difference five days make.”

So what brought all of this on? Lots of things, but the way Harper has handled the economy and budget has a lot to do with it. But there is this underlying concern about giving Harper a majority government. This is the third consecutive Conservative government, all minority, and the fourth minority government in a row — all previously unheard of marks in Canadian history.

Harper actually won more seats in another minority government on October 14, increasing his total from 124 seats from the last election to 143 of a possible 308 seats (155 means a majority). The Liberals and the New Democratic Party combined only hold 114 seats, so the Bloc Quebecois, a separatist party, would have to be involved.

In the last election cycle, Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion was asked whether he would form a coalition government with the NDP, and he flatly said no. Now, there may be the strangest coalition — including the separatist Bloc Quebecois — with Dion in charge.

What is all the more confusing, besides the fact that there has never been a coup on this level in Canadian history, is that Dion is still stepping down as party leader (and possibly Prime Minister) when the party elects a new leader in the spring.

The delay gives Harper time to come up with a budget that might put off a no confidence vote. But the lack of strong leadership from the two strongest parties in Canada is the primary reason for this scenario. The suspension of Parliament is rather unprecedented, and it might give Harper the breathing room he needs.

But there is a leadership vacuum. The Liberal Party would love to have seen this happen just after picking a new leader, likely coming down to two Toronto MPs — former Ontario premier Bob Rae (while with the NDP) and former Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff — along with MP Dominic LeBlanc from New Brunswick.

The coalition government, if they get a shot in late January, can hold together for a few months until Dion passes the torch. Uniting against Stephen Harper may be easier than it would seem. But underestimating Harper is a mistake. This battle will rage on for quite awhile, regardless of what happens in late January. While Harper will be the Prime Minister when Barack Obama takes the oath of office, the question will be for how long.

History of Canadian minority governments


Written by democracysoup

December 4, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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