Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Surrealism in Ottawa

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen HarperI haven't commented on the shenanigans in Ottawa yet, because they struck me as so surreal that I couldn't believe it was anything more than hot air. I did comment on the Conservatives' ill-advised and quickly withdrawn proposal to cut public funding of political parties, but the possibility of changing governments mere weeks after an election seemed too preposterous to be real. I had trouble processing it. Surely this was just political posturing.

Well, now I've processed it. Trying to explain it to American friends has been challenging. A legal coup, stable instability, what do you call it? I'm having trouble finding any good guys in this story. They're all nuts.

First of all, I think the Liberals and the NDP are just plain wrong. The cautious, stay-the-course economic strategy of the Conservatives may not have been sexy, but given our position of relative economic strength, a very wise one. It's like steering on ice, the last thing you do is jerk the steering wheel around. Bringing down the government over this issue is insane, and could cost Canada dearly. (In passing, why do parties criticize each other most loudly about the things they're doing right? It makes me despair of ever seeing rationality in politics.) (OK, so I'm not that naive. I gave up on that years ago. But I keep trying anyway.)

Of course, it will likely backfire on the coalition in the long term if they actually take power. They will get blamed for the mess, and they will probably deserve some of that blame, although by no means all. I doubt this has occurred to them.

And it is really not clear to me just who the prime minister will be. Stephane Dion is a lame duck. Is he still planning on stepping down as Liberal leader, or will they relent in their desire to have his head on a platter after he engineers a successful power grab despite their worst showing at the polls ever?

It is also rather dishonest, given the Liberals' repeated election promises not to form a coalition with the NDP. I suspect it might take me more elections than I had foreseen before I'll be able to stomach voting Liberal again.

On the other hand, the Conservatives' stance of offended virginity is a bit much. And trying to turn this into a Canadian unity issue is disingenuous. The Bloc Quebecois is very pragmatic about all this and much too comfortable in Ottawa to seriously want separation. They'll support the coalition the same way they often supported the Conservatives, with no more negative impact on national unity. Trying to demonize them to score political points is arguably much more damaging.

And Ed Schreyer is unfortunately right. What the coalition is proposing is entirely legal and within the rules. While Jean may grant the Conservatives a brief prorogation of Parliament, ultimately the other parties are fully within their rights to bring down the government and propose themselves as an alternative and she should give them the chance to try. They are playing by the rules, much as it galls me to admit it. I think it's political insanity, and rather reprehensible, but they have the right to do it.

You know, I'd been telling people that I couldn't vote Liberal for a while because they had dug themselves such a deep hole that it would take a term or two or three before the Conservatives had dug themselves deeper. Well, the Conservatives were digging, all right, but now the Liberals have pulled out a shovel of honking big proportions. The only thing that could possibly redeem them is if they shock me with astonishingly adept governance. I'm not holding my breath.

And when I'm finished being really, really mad at the Liberals and the NDP I'm going to be furious with the Conservatives for bringing this on themselves with their partisan arrogance.

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Barbara Martin said...

Have you heard what Broadbent said during a TV interview? Its really too bad our country seems to be getting away from democracy. Nor are they following the rules set by our forefathers.

If Harper thinks he can stir up national sentiment into a unity issue, I would prefer to live in Quebec as a minority. I did it once before and I can do it again. This is radical for me, considering I'm from Alberta.

Just to put your thinking cap back on, Janet; have you considered that Harper has an underlying agenda to dissolve Canada's constitution in order to join with the United States as a North American union? I'd like to know your thoughts on this.

Janet said...

No, I didn't see anything on TV. I'm in a situation where I have a lot of time to surf, but little access to a TV. I have seen articles where he accuses Harper of lying.

I lived for 20 years as a minority in Quebec. Only in Montreal did I ever encounter any antagonism, and that was very rare. Mind you, I do speak French. Most of English Canada has a rather distorted view of what goes on in Quebec, because their window into the province is the Montreal Gazette. I haven't read it lately, but at one point I thought that most of the editorial staff should be institutionalized. Certifiable nut cases.

No, I don't believe in Harper the boogie man. Although I find him a little too inclined to descend into nasty partisan mudslinging (and to reward those who do) I'm inclined to believe he gets worse press than he deserves. (Most of the political class is guilty of that particular sin.) I actually find his lack of anti-Americanism rather refreshing, because I am a dedicated non-fan of bigotry of any kind, and that particular brand of bigotry is too acceptable in Canadian society. But that doesn't mean I think he'd sell us out. Presuming the Americans would even want us. That's not an automatic given.

I hope I'm not just projecting my own attitudes onto him. In any event, he is capable of great political pragmatism, which is why he has got as far as he has.

What makes you think he might be inclined in that direction?


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