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Saturday 29 November 2008

Stephen Harper: The Joe Clark of our times

Yesterday, Stephen Harper said the following:

While we have been working on the economy the opposition has been working on a backroom deal to overturn the results of the last election without seeking the consent of voters. They want to take power, not earn it...The opposition has every right to defeat the government, but Stephane Dion does not have the right to take power without an election. Canada's government should be decided by Canadians, not backroom deals.

The Prime Minister is, of course, showing a profound ignorance of how parliamentary democracy works. The government is formed by whoever is able to obtain the confidence of a majority of democratic representatives elected to the House of Commons. At present, it appears that Harper does not have that confidence and that will be determined whenever there is a vote of confidence. If it can be determined that someone else does have the confidence of the House to form a government than the Governor General is obliged to allow that person to try to form a government and meet the House of Commons and test it.
Stephen Harper speaks as if Canadians chose him and his party as the government on October 14th. They did not. Canadians chose 308 Members of Parliament and the composition of the government is determinded by those 308 representatives (hence the term "representative democracy). It is what a majority of those 308 MPs decide that is crucial.

Harper also speaks as if the democratic will of the people is that he be in power. This is despite the fact that his party only recieved 37% of the vote while the Liberals and NDP received 44% of the vote. He has forgotten that he leads only a minority government and it is this bit of political amnesia that has created the current crisis.

Like Joe Clark he tried to govern as if he had a majority. Like Joe Clark he ignored the need to receive the support of at least some Opposition MPs. Like Joe Clark he assumed that because the leader of the Liberal Party had resigned and because that party is in the middle of a leadership contest there is no way they would vote to topple his minority government. Like Joe Clark, Stephen Harper thinks he's a brilliant political tactician and is cleverer than everyone else. Like Joe Clark, he's not.

Unlike Joe Clark, Stephen Harper is a hypocrite since, when the situation was reversed, Harper had no problem with the notition that following a defeat on a motion of confidence the Official Opposition could attempt to form a government if they obtained the support of the House:

As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons fail to support some part of the government’s program. We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority. Your attention to this matter is appreciated.
From a letter to then-Governor General Adrienne Clarkson signed by all three opposition leaders: Gilles Duceppe, Jack Layton and Stephen Harper(September 9, 2004)
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Anonymous said...

Obviously this A.Lehrer is a junkie or a misled liberal who works at general motors. For him to compare Joe Clark to Mr. Harper shows himself to have no knowledge of What the liberals had turned Canada into just a short while ago. I remember a bunch of croanies in office who used the taxpayer to fund their own swine trough full of money where all the LIberal OInkers went to fund their dinners, social club activities or just about anything else they wanted.? I remember a government who taxed and taxed us to death while filling their own pockets. A liberal government supported by the NDP. Stepen Harper brought some pride and respect back to the canadian government .. a man who is trying to end the the free ride of these oinkers in Ottawa, along with the Senate ..the other useless bunch of Liberal appointees who are on permanent vacation... Harper should not have backed down on the thirty million.. the poles say so. By the way I am a Canadian voter who voted for Stephen Harper Not the other 307 Mps.
What I would like to do is take BC, Alberta, saskatchewan and form Canada west..and cut loose all the Eastern whining freeloaders. Bc lost their lumber industry to the US because the Liberals did nothing to help out when the crisis hit. NOw Ontario wants us to bail out their auto workers...go find a new job..just like we did...the writing is one the wall. Maybe you could get a job in the lumber industry.. Gary

Andy Lehrer said...

Sorry anonymous, I'm neither a junkie nor a liberal nor a GM employee.

However, I do wonder what Harper's been putting in his pipe since he has only 143 seats yet must have though he had 155 - otherwise he wouldn't have been arrogant enough to act as if he had a majority when he does not.

I understand that the possibility your government will go down the drain because of Harper's tactical ineptitude must be painful to you but your lashing out like this is unhealthy. The only person you can blame is Stephen Harper, soon to be at Stornaway.