Irony, thy name is Bloc

Michaelle Jean in Prague

The lady on the left is certainly earning her pay this month..

Over on Calgary Grit, a commentator asked the following:

Attempts to reach Pierre Trudeau for his comments on his former party reaching a deal with the Quebec separatists have been unsuccessful at this time.

I couldn’t help myself. I replied with the following:

What? You couldn’t find him? Why didn’t you look to where the soil was apparently tilling itself?

On Monday, as I waited in the emergency room while Erin received treatment for her concussion, I overheard a number of conversations talking about this whole coalition deal. And people looking for Canadians to rise up incensed against the Liberals and the New Democrats are going to be disappointed, at least here in this city which narrowly voted Conservative. The conversations I heard were primarily anti-Conservative, all noting that the coalition spoke for a greater portion of the electorate.

But late last week, I called the prospect of the Liberals and the New Democrats assuming power with the support of the Bloc to be “almost comical”, and I stand by that assessment. The Liberals depending upon the support of their staunchest opponents when it comes to the issue of national unity — which pretty much defined both parties in the mid 1990s — is almost unfathomable. What a comedown for the Grits, eh? And for the Bloc side? They agree to a government temporarily headed by the author of the Clarity Act. They’ve vacated one of their original raison d’etres, acknowledging, essentially, that the federal government can govern for the benefit of Quebecois.

For me, this newfound willingness of the Grits to share power with other partners is one reason why I like the coalition idea so much. I was angry at the Liberals back in 2004 and 2006 because they were arrogant. I am angry at the Conservatives now because they’re displaying the same sense of entitlement. But Liberals that can only govern while working with the New Democrats and the Bloc are Liberals who are humble. That’s what I’ve been looking for, for four years.

As for the Bloc? Well, they’re a reality that’s not going to go away anytime soon. Whether we like it or not, they will determine who the next prime minister will be, even if the Conservatives manage to save their own bacon.

There is some speculation here that the opposition has passed the point of no return on this one, and it’s all up to the Governor General come what may on December 8 — assuming that Stephen Harper remains leader of the Conservative party. However, given the rising rumblings both within the Conservative caucus and without, criticizing Harper for getting them into this mess, the knifes may be out for Harper. And if so, there is one way Harper can avoid losing power to a coalition government: prorogue parliament to January and resign as leader of the Conservatives. Have the Conservatives reorganize, possibly with Jim Prentice as their new leader, and approach the Governor General this January with a new throne speech and budget.

I don’t think the Liberals and the New Democrats will want to, or be able to, extricate themselves from their coalition agreement, but for the Bloc, who only agreed to support their government for a year in the event of the fall of Harper, the facts on the ground will have changed. They will have two basic parties (Conservatives-under-Prentice and Liberal-NDP) looking to them for support instead of one. That’s a choice they didn’t have a day ago.

So, whether the Conservatives like it or not, they need the support of one of the opposition parties to continue governing, and the weak link in the coalition is the Bloc. So I would suggest that criticism of the legitimacy of a Liberal-NDP coalition on the basis of Bloc support should be muted. A functional Conservative minority over the next two years depends on Bloc support.

Spot the Flag, Mr. Harper

This link comes courtesy of the Vanity Press, who really needs to join the Blogging Alliance of Non-Partisan Canadians. His commentary gives everybody what-for, but in a gentle way.

Anyway, Harper’s assessment of the opposition leaders’ press conference, really just speaks for itself:

“Yesterday, as part of the culmination of the machinations of the leader of the NDP, we had these three parties together, forming this agreement, signing a document and they wouldn’t even have the Canadian flag behind them,” [Harper] said.

Video confirms that Harper was technically right. There wasn’t a Canadian flag in the background — there were two.


The Clark Barrier Isn’t a Barrier

Interesting. I didn’t know about this.

Earlier, I spoke about the Clark Barrier, which I called the minimum length of time a minority government has to live before, upon its defeat, we go automatically to elections. This is because the Clark government of 1979 is the shortest-lived government to fall by a vote of non-confidence, resulting in elections taking place.

But I argued that this had less to do with the length of time Clark had managed to govern, and more to do with the precarious balance of the seats. The combined totals of the Liberals and the NDP were just one or two seats ahead of the combined totals of the Conservatives and the Creditistes. Now I learn that this was confirmed by the Governor General of the time, Edward Schreyer. When Prime Minister Clark asked Schreyer to dissolve parliament and call an election, Schreyer initially refused, and asked the Leader of the Opposition, Pierre Trudeau, if he could form a workable coalition that could maintain the confidence of the House. Here’s what the Globe and Mail says what happened:

Mr. Clark was defeated on a budget seven months after the election that brought his Tories to power. He asked Edward Schreyer, then the Governor-General, for a dissolution of Parliament. Mr. Schreyer, quite properly and according to constitutional convention, asked the Liberals, under Pierre Trudeau, whether they could govern with a working majority in the House of Commons. Mr. Trudeau passed, and the Liberals won the ensuing election.


The Globe editorial doesn’t spare Dion or the proposed coalition from criticism, but it shows that the election call in 1980 had nothing to do with the erosion of the parliament’s mandate seven months after an election. Instead, the Governor General made the move that Dion and his coalition partners are working up to ask Michaelle Jean for, but Pierre Trudeau refused, probably not liking the tenuous balance of the House and predicting (accurately, as it turned out) that he could get a freer hand if elections were held.

Which removes the argument that the switch in power from the Conservative government to a coalition is out of bounds of tradition. It’s not. It’s constitutional, and the moves have been made before. We are merely witnessing the machinery of this democracy as it moves on its rightful course.

A Word from Michaelle Jean

This link comes from A BCer in Toronto:

Governor General Michaelle Jean:

“The prime minister and myself need to have a conversation.”


And I bet it goes something like this: “You IDIOT! My position is supposed to be CEREMONIAL!” (thwack!)

And finally, no more politics from me this week. I’m done! I’m tired out! Tomorrow, I want to give my annual review of the nominees for the Canadian Blog Awards (I am up against some excellent competition for Best Non-Partisan Blogger), and after that, I want to talk about my writing, and how I inadvertently discovered that Saskatchewan is a lot smaller than I first thought.

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