The Fall of the Harper Government
6 December 2008
This was written in response to the “Coalition Crisis” in December 2008. The title was intended as a double-entendre to also suggest the previous months, “the autumn of the Harper Government”.
Mentioned amidst some of the commentary was that the House was meant to be closed six days later anyway. Checking Parliament’s website, we see that the sitting days were to continue to December 12th, before breaking for the holidays. So the heavy-handed tactic of shutting down the House rather than face a vote he knew he would lose had the effect of teaching Canadians a new word and giving the politicians some new propaganda to play with for Christmas.
Let us imagine the scenario, had things happened the way they could have.
All comment seems to agree that the Conservative party is being run as a Harper dictatorship. Party members dare not speak out against policy, for fear of the wrath of the dear leader. To say that the maligned Economic Update was ‘Harper’s economic update’ may not be inaccurate. Harper’s Economic Update was delivered on Thursday November 27th. It was to be voted on Monday December 1st. Already by Friday afternoon of the 28th, the talk of Coalition was underway, so that on the evening of that Friday, Harper said he’d push the vote back a week, ‘to give Canadians time to contact their MPs’ and to give everyone a cooling off period. Presumably, Harper was hoping that the extra time was all that was needed to diffuse the growing threat of a Coalition.
Monday December 1st 2008
Anticipated: The Fall of the Harper Government
Actual: The news conference presided over by the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc.
The Coalition talk began to pick up steam. Conservatives had posted a website dictating talking-points to their supporters for call-in radio shows (a Macleans post on this). The week then is marked by mediocre commentary in the national press, and the dim witted web-comments by Conservative supporters who are typing ’separatists!!!’ and ‘the three stooges’, and other variations of belittlement. Up until the previous week, I used to enjoy checking out Bourque.com for a round-up of Canadian news. This past week, that site devolved into the worst of yellow journalism as it denigrated into an essentially Conservative position.
So, by Wednesday December 3rd, we’re going to be addressed by the Prime Minister. I don’t have a television and was out at the scheduled time at 7pm, so I watched it when I got home from a website.
Harper came across as an abusive husband looking to be let back into the house. His see-through charm and television makeup did nothing to convince me that he’s trustworthy. Further, he blatantly tried to exploit the ignorance of the Canadian people, by implying that the Coalition did not have the right to take power, when in fact they do. The response by Dion I have not yet seen. I clicked on it and the video never launched. This was probably because it was late in being delivered. Further, I heard that it’s quality was awful, evident from the screencaps posted on accompanying stories.
All of this only to set the stage for the dramatic visit to the Governor General’s house, where she would either let Harper’s government fall, or suspend Parliament. By noon, the news had come that Parliament was being prorogued.
Monday December 8th 2008
Anticipated: The Fall of the Harper Government
… well, as I’m writing this on Saturday the 6th, it may be too soon to tell. But Dec 8th was to be the day of the vote. So let us imagine it had gone ahead. The Harper government falls. Hipsters party on Monday night. But then what? The Coalition would take power only after Harper’s formal visit to the Governor General. He would have had to say to the Speaker that the loss of the vote demonstrates the loss of confidence in the government and he’s therefore be visiting her to ask her to dissolve Parliament and call an election. So, what happened on Thursday the 4th would have happened on the 9th. And then again, the question would have been, does the GG call for new elections, or does she allows the Coalition a chance?
The Coalition attempted to show through its documents and press conferences that it was positioned to lead the government for at least 18 months. This was in order to influence the GG into deciding to give them the chance. So, let’s imagine that she did. Somewhere around Tues December 9th or Wednesday the 10th, the breaking news is the establishment of a Coalition government. Because the hipsters had already partied on Monday, they don’t see the need to do it again.
And so … Parliament shuts down two days later, on Friday the 12th, as was scheduled. Christmastime is now all mixed up with the reality that the Conservatives are mighty pissed off to have been subject to ‘a coup’ and promise to make this special time of year toxic with their blue-branded hatred. Tidings of comfort and joy. Meanwhile, Dion is smiling everywhere and Layton is probably giving good speeches about how great things will be when they get back to Ottawa in January and deliver their throne speech.
All of this speculation is merely to say that the prorogation has probably kept the worst of this process from coming to pass before its time. But that’s not to say I wasn’t angry about it on Thursday.
I’m on record as supporting the attempts at a Coalition. I read somewhere yesterday that the prorogation allows us to test the validity of the coalition. If it falls apart by the end of January, than it was never meant to be in the first place. The events of the past week however suggest that given time, this strength of this grows rather then diffuses. I take comfort in the fact that regardless, Harper’s days as leader of the Conservative party are probably numbered.
Harper must go
My position as a citizen is this: I understand how our democracy usually works, and therefore am as prepared now as I was a month ago to live with a Minority Conservative Government. The only reason this is usually the case is because the Opposition parties always rule out working together. Even on Election night, it was clear that the NDP and the Liberals do not have enough seats by themselves to form a Coalition, and thus need the support of the Bloc.
As for the threat of the Bloc, this remains ridiculous. The Bloc do not scare me at all, I do not think of them as treasonous, and I find all call-outs to National Unity and the subsequent concept of the nation-state to be merely romantic delusion. Especially when they are promoted in web-comments by Conservative idiots quoting their dear leaders, apparently too ignorant not only to think for themselves, but to understand how our system functions.
This country is interesting because of its varied regional interests, not in spite of them. For that matter, the Bloc isn’t like other parties because Quebec isn’t like other provinces. As adults we should be able to live with that. And I think we have for the most part over the past fifteen years.
Let’s review the politics of the past decade and a half shall we? Throughout the 1990s, the Reform/Alliance party essentially was the Bloc’s Anglo equivelant, answering Western interests to the Bloc’s Eastern ones. This Western chauvinism swallowed the Progressive Conservative party ruined by the politics of Mulroney, bought new suits at Moore’s and called itself Conservative. It should be noted here that whatever genuine concerns and progressive ideas were to be found in the Reform/Alliance or the Progressive Conservatives were suddenly negated merely through the use of the Conservative label, as if to say that everyone west of Winnipeg who votes Conservative Party is incapable of believing in a progressive Canada and are born being against gay-marriage.
We should remember that this transformation was facilitated by Belinda Stronach who subsequently ran for them, was elected, but jumped ship when the pie of a Ministership was held under her nose by Paul Martin’s Liberal government. The Liberals then went on to lose an election, and Ms. Stronach found herself offering commentary at the Liberal convention in the fall of 2006. As we have seen, Canadian politics regularly delivers such WTF? moments. She subsequently quit politics, having been exposed as a power hungry go-getter who didn’t really care who was in charge as long as she had a place at the table. That’s not something I blame her for since why play the game just to be a back-bencher?
But it is to say that this game has been insidious, nepotistic, and opportunistic for a while now. Whatever Harper’s saying this week to demonize his opponents, they all understand the sport and their integrity as individuals and as a party is always subject to the hierarchy. If this country was being properly run, Dion wouldn’t be around. Someone would have had the balls by now to put him out to pasture so-to-speak, rather than let him linger on to discredit their position. Hurt feelings on Mr. Dion’s part aren’t supposed to a factor in the equation. That’s how power is exercised. The fact that Bob Rae is now stepping up to talk over Dion shows not only his ambition to lead the party, but also his qualification. Ignatieff’s fence-sitting is casting doubts on his measure as Prime Minister material.
The reason the Conservatives are currently dominant despite the weakness of their official numbers is because they don’t give a fuck about anyone’s feelings, and one can hope that this works out to our collective advantage when they draw the knives for Harper’s back. If not, as Adam Radwanski pointed out, we’re in even bigger trouble than we thought, writing: “If Conservatives are not at least seriously discussing the replacement of Stephen Harper before Parliament returns on Jan 26, he truly has succeeded in creating a cult of personality’.
The last thing we need is a Maurice Duplessis holding this country back from the wonder of the 21st Century, as that dictator of Quebec did in the 1950s. However once he died the resulting Quiet Revolution rushed the province from the 19th into the 20th Century within a decade, and tried to follow-through by upgrading itself into a nation-state.
If Harper manages to enforce a nightmare of feel-good 20C Reagan-Thatcher bullshit on us while the US resurrects itself from its social catastrophe, and Europe continues to set an example for what a mostly enlightened society could be, the end result will probably be a dramatic national révolution tranquille in twenty years, by which time the rest of the world will be used to thinking of us as just another one of those third world countries of squandered potential ruled by an idiot. The talent of this country will continue to apply for US-work visas to escape the ignorance of this place. Eventually, Canada could come to resemble the southern United States, too ignorant and stupid to understand the hell we exemplify to others.
In the past I’ve said in conversations that I respected Harper as someone who didn’t seem all that bad. Sure, he’s always come across as a bit of dick, but that was personal rather than professional. After the borderline buffoonery of Chretien and the stammering incompetence of Paul Martin, he brought dignity back to the office on his election in 2006. He seemed genuinely humble and honored by the position. He had respect for the office and it was through that respect that he dignified it. Now, it could be said, the power has gone to his head, and he’s lost perspective. He now feels entitled to be Prime Minister, and fuck all of us who don’t see things his way. I’ll be no longer saying in conversations that he’s not all that bad. To that point, I want to state that I don’t regret defending him against the hyperbole of hipsters, and may continue to downplay their predictably alarmist rhetoric. This country is run best through sobriety, John A’s example notwithstanding.
Harper thoroughly failed at being a Prime Minister this past week. Yes, he failed politically by provoking the opposition parties to rebel. But even more importantly, he failed by exploiting the ignorance of the citizens. This is simply unforgivable. Harper is on record as saying that Canadians know nothing of their country, which isn’t something I’m that inclined to disagree with. The fact that he’s used this to suggest that the Coalition lacked validity, to play up the idea that his government ‘won’ the October election makes him despicable. It’s not scandalous to say that the Canadian population is largely ignorant of their history and of how their democracy functions. It is scandalous that the Prime Minister would seek to use that to his advantage rather than attempt to correct it.
The zeitgeist makes it impossible not to compare his performance with that President-Elect Obama. In February, his speech on race was described as a ‘teaching moment’, a description that rose from his approach to the situation, and from Obama’s background as a law professor. He saw an opportunity to educate and he seized it.
Harper’s opportunity to educate the population was squandered. It’s probably fair to say that he doesn’t care. The talking-points prepared for the minions to call into radio-stations proves that the Conservatives have a vested interest in keeping us mostly stupid. Yet, I don’t feel particularly alone in the country in my awareness that Harper’s a failure, and the talking points website referenced has mostly been presented with a humour suggesting some people can see it for what it is. (I don’t listen to talk radio anyway, so the propaganda effort is wasted on the like of me). The propagation of ignorance includes:
- This is what bothers me the most. The Conservatives won the election. The Opposition keeps saying that the Conservatives have to respect the will of the voters that this is a minority and so on. …how about Liberals, NDP and Bloc respecting the will of the voters when they said “YOU LOSE”.
- And what’s this going to do to the economy. I’m sorry, I don’t care how desperate the Liberals are – giving socialists (Jack Layton) and separatists (Gilles Duceppe) a veto over every decision in government – that is a recipe for total economic disaster.
- No – do you know what set this off. When Flaherty said he was going to take taxpayer-funded subsidies away from the opposition. Now there is a reason to try and overturn an election– because the Conservatives the audacity to say “Hey, it’s a recession, maybe you should take your nose out of the trough.”
- I don’t want another election. But what I want even less is a surprise backroom Prime Minister whom I never even had the opportunity to vote for or against. What an insult to democracy
The true insult to our democracy is that such a website even exists.
On November 27th, Jim Flaherty (who should be balancing the books of a corner store in Whitby as far as I’m concerned, not the books of the Federal government) stood up to deliver an ‘economic update’. The Opposition parties were looking for an economic stimulus plan. Instead we were warned that he was removing funding from all parties, and in the weeks leading up to this, there were rumours he was considering selling-off Federal government assets in order to raise short-term cash. Again, Obama gives us some insight on what an economic stimulus package might look like. He’s calling for infrastructure investment and retrofitting of government buildings and schools. Things that would actually provide jobs. Our Minority Government is considering selling the CN Tower and wanting to fuck over their opponents.
There is no question why Harper has lost the confidence of the house. The question remains as to who our Prime Minister will be in February.
- Writen as a Goodreads Intro and published 6 Dec 2008 (08w49:2)
- 2008-2015: archived on my blog
- Sept 2015: this version produced with minor copy-edits