Monday, December 01, 2008

Stephen, it's not a coup d’état. Stop whining.

My, my, my. What. A. Mess.

"Tactically, a coup d’état usually involves control by an active portion of the country's military, while neutralizing the remainder of the armed services' possible counteraction. The acting group either captures or expels the political and military leaders, seizes physical control of the most important government offices, means of communication, and the physical infrastructure, such as key streets and electric power plants."

- Wikipedia (so take it with a grain of salt if you wish and do your own damn research)

Unless I've missed the military presence on the streets of Ottawa, I don't see the aformentioned scenario happening. Dion, Layton and Duceppe, who've been at each other's throats for the last few months, have decided to act as one throttle and lean in the direction of Harper. I'm amazed that they've been able to stay in the same room, let alone pull this off, and the 30 month agreement will probably dissolve at the first act of overheated mon pays (Duceppe), ego (Layton) or walking into a sharp object (Dion). It's sneaky, I'm not convinced it's a good idea and it's rickity. But it ain't no coup.

In black and white:

"Canada's Parliament is based on Britain's Westminster system and follows the conventions of responsible government. That means the government must have the confidence of the House of Commons in order to function.

Therefore, if the government loses the confidence of the House, or doesn't have it, the House is supposed to get a new government...The Governor General essentially has two options: dissolving Parliament and sending Canadians to the polls, or finding a new government that does have the confidence of the House. If the country has recently had an election, like in the present case, then finding an alternative coalition government is preferable.

Parliament Hill has only ever seen one real coalition, and that was back in 1917, when Sir Robert Borden managed to combine his own Unionist party with the Liberals

- CTV News, Democracy or Bloodless Coup

This is a game of numbers. If the greatest number of seats in the house are in favour of a coalition, that coalition will form the government, full stop.

I don't know if any of this is a good idea, even with my usual feeling that Harper has impulse-control issues and makes his policy up on the fly depending on how badly he wants to look tough on any particular morning. I'm not alone in this: the Globe and Mail endorsed Harper a few weeks ago, and ran this Lawrence Martin piece yesterday:

"Up until now, the Prime Minister has been able to get away with his strong-arm tactics, his disavowing of his own election law being another recent example. But the economic update did much to expose the essence of him. My suspicion is that we don't know the half of what went on in his first term and that if there were more journalistic inquiry the extent of his attempts to put a stranglehold on the system would be found to be startling.

Last week, a bureaucrat with close ties to the PMO, said Mr. Harper has told colleagues, “When I'm hiring someone, I want to see fear in their eyes.” It may be an apocryphal story, seems to fit the mould. In any case, the fear isn't in the eyes of others now. It's in his own

I hadn't heard the phrase prorogue before yesterday, it amounts to Harper closing this session of parliment and letting the opposition linger before pulling this stunt in the spring. It's the equivalent of taking his soccer ball and going home, leaving the other kids with nothing to play with after school. Of course, he's gotta go back to school eventually, and they'll be waiting. It'd be a cheap trick, and the odds appear 50/50 that he's going to play it.

The National Post crowd is predictably sulking or hysterical, but even David Frum appears to see at least some of the writing on the wall:

"The Harper government may manage to prorogue Parliament. But sooner or later, Parliament will have to meet again. And when it does, the government will face a wall of mistrust, resentment and non-co-operation. Nothing will pass. No legislation will get through. Question Period will be pandemonium. If there was a second-term agenda, it is now utterly dead.

Coming out of the October election, the government’s best strategy was to play for time, avoiding an election for the 12 or 18 months it will take for the economy to recover from the U.S. financial crisis. Before the Ottawa Parliamentary manoeuvre, that strategy was feasible: The Liberals would not want another election until they had chosen a new leader and raised some campaign funds.

But now? Now that schedule is sure to be accelerated. The next election will arrive soon, probably very soon - as unemployment is rising, as families are cancelling vacation plans, as retirees confront RRSP declines of 30% and 40%. And how will the government explain why it has been obliged to return to the people so soon: “Sorry to bother you again, but you see our first priority after returning to office was to rewrite the campaign finance laws to beat down our opponents - and we did not count the votes carefully enough to realize that we probably couldn’t get away with it. Vote for us so we can try again!”

That too seems an invitation to a catastrophic defeat."

Dion ran a lousy campaign. Layton was overconfident. Harper was dismissive. Duceppe is single minded. Flaherty tried to pawn off economic responsibilities and play for time. The results are plain to see. These people are running the country. 2009's gonna be great.


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