[Marxism] Canadian parliament shuts down

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 5 09:37:55 MST 2008

(This must be a quite remarkable occurrance. Do we have any comments
about it from Canadian readers of this list? I'd like to hear them.)

and meanwhile, there's crisis in canada . . .where stephen harper, the
conservative prime minister who took office only seven weeks ago with a
minority vote, has so antagonized his political opponents with a clumsy
power play that three very disaparate parties have joined forces to shut him
down.  under canada's non-presidential british parliamentary system, they
can do it.

harper then went running to the queen.  of england.  whose governor general
granted him permission to suspend parliament until january 26.

so canada is paralyzed during an economic crisis, with no stimulus package
in place.

editorial from toronto star follows news report.

PM hangs on as Parliament shut down for seven weeks
Bruce Campion-Smith
Joanna Smith

Toronto Star
Ottawa Bureau
Dec 04, 2008 02:32 PM

OTTAWA– Prime Minister Stephen Harper has extended the life of his minority
Conservative government until the new year after Governor General Michaelle
Jean today granted his request to suspend Parliament.

Jean made the unprecedented decision after a lengthy meeting with Harper
this morning at Rideau Hall.

Her consent to prorogue Parliament means the work of the Commons has been
discontinued, allowing Harper's Conservatives to escape a confidence vote
next week that would have meant the defeat of his government.

It's a dramatic turn in a political crisis that has gripped the nation's
capital — and much of the country — for the last week, since opposition
parties rebelled against a provocative economic statement tabled by the

Emerging from the meeting, Harper said that Parliament would resume on Jan.
26, with a budget planned for the next day. The prime minister has already
pledged that the budget will contain measures to boost the country’s
flagging economy. And he acknowledged the toxic atmosphere on Parliament
Hill, saying, "obviously we have to do some trust-building on both sides."
He set aside his hardline talk that has marked bitter Commons debates in
recent days and extended a possible olive branch to the opposition parties,
saying that Canadians want their MPs to work together.

"The government is more than willing to have that kind of dialogue with the
other parties. I want to hear their suggestions."

PMO spokesperson Kory Teneycke told reporters later that the Conservative
government is prepared to do whatever it can to "defuse the situation" and
"get out of the current crisis."

He said the government is making a "good faith offer" to the opposition
parties to make suggestions for the upcoming budget but added that it only
wants specific suggestions.

"There needs to be give and take," Teneycke said.

Harper spoke in front of Rideau Hall as hundreds of people gathered on
Parliament Hill to show support for the NDP-Liberal coalition.

Jean's decision casts in doubt the viability of the opposition coalition
that had united to topple the Conservatives. In a rare show of force earlier
this week, the Liberals and NDP signed a document agreeing to form a
coalition to govern the nation, with the support of the Bloc Quebecois.

But it could be harder for opposition politicians to make the case to topple
the government in late January, just days before a budget that could deliver
aid for the country’s economy.

The decision pulls the teetering minority Conservative government a step
back from the edge of a political precipice.

But they will face another confidence test when the House returns, setting
up the prospect of a fierce battle for public support over the coming weeks.

The opposition coalition had asked Jean to refuse to prorogue, arguing that
Harper no longer enjoys the confidence of the House of Commons.

As soon as Harper finished his speech, opposition MPs began leaving the
House of Commons.

NDP MP Pat Martin said he was upset the governor general decided to rule
against the majority of parliament.

"I'd like to see the rationale," he said.

He said the coalition would remain united.

NDP Leader Jack Layton called it a sad day for parliamentary democracy.

"He's put a lock on the door of the House of Commons," Layton said.

Layton said his party will continue to express its lack of confidence in
Harper when Parliament begins again next year.

Layton also said his party expects to vote against the government at the
earliest opportunity.

When asked why he would try to bring down the government before it delivered
a budget, he said"That confidence isn't going to be restored by seven weeks
of propaganda".

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe reacted angrily, saying that the
rhetoric of recent days against his separatist party has fuelled the worst
language against Quebecers since the separatist debates of the 1990s.

Despite Harper's reprieve today, Duceppe said that the Bloc remained
determined to force the Conservatives from power. "We are still prepared to
support the coalition," he told reporters in the Commons' foyer.

A senior goverment official speaking on background said Canadians should
expect to see Harper using the break to ask the opposition parties for their
specific proposals for the economy.

The official said it is clear people are looking for something new in the
budget and Harper is unlikely to include the kind of partisan measures
intended to attack the opposition that were seen in the economic statement.

* * *

Harper adds fuel to fire TheStar.com - Opinion - Harper adds fuel to fire
December 04, 2008

If there is any contrition in Prime Minister Stephen Harper over his own
role in plunging the country into a political crisis, it was not on display
last night.

Instead, in a brief televised address to the nation, Harper was on the
attack. He accused the opposition coalition arrayed against him of seeking
to "overturn the results" of the Oct. 14 election, "without your say,
without your consent, and without your vote" and of making a deal with a
party "whose avowed goal is to break up the country" (the Bloc Québécois).

"This is no time for backroom deals with the separatists," declared Harper.
"It is the time for Canada's government to focus on the economy."

Finally, Harper closed with a pledge to use "every legal means" at his
disposal to prevent the coalition from taking power. This was a reference to
Harper's expected appeal to Governor General Michaëlle Jean to "prorogue"
Parliament for a couple of months, thereby allowing him to avoid next week's
non-confidence vote in the House of Commons.

The speech was breathtakingly audacious, both in its twisting of the facts
and its misinterpretation of our parliamentary traditions.

Canada does not have a presidential system. Canadians did not elect Stephen
Harper as Prime Minister on Oct. 14. They elected a Parliament, to which the
government of the day must be responsible. Harper's Conservatives have more
seats than any other party in that Parliament. But they do not have a
majority. That means they need the support of at least one of the three
opposition parties to govern.

Ignoring that reality, the Harper government last week brought forward an
"economic statement" that contained no significant new measures for the
economy. Instead, there were ideologically driven poison pills that Harper
must have known the opposition parties could not swallow. In response, the
opposition parties got together and decided to offer themselves up as an
alternative government.

It is not a "separatist" coalition. While it would have the support of the
Bloc Québécois on budget measures and other confidence votes, no members of
that party would sit in cabinet.

Furthermore, nothing in the accord signed by all three opposition parties
would lead to the breakup of the country. (See the text of the accord on
page AA6.) Rather, the accord calls for measures to stimulate the economy,
including infrastructure investments, enhancements in Employment Insurance,
and aid for the auto and forestry sectors. Those would be welcomed by most

For his part, Harper made a vague promise last night of "additional measures
to boost Canada's economy" in a budget on Jan. 27.

Will Harper still be Prime Minister then? It would seem so, if Jean grants
his request for prorogation today.

This request puts the Governor General in an invidious position. Many legal
and constitutional experts say she should reject Harper's request as it is
clearly designed to avoid a non-confidence vote next week. But if she did,
she would expose her office to accusations of partisanship.

If Harper gets his way, he will likely use the next two months to press his
attack on the opposition coalition as "separatist." (Interestingly, in the
French version of last night's speech, Harper used the softer term

It is a dangerous tactic, for it risks stirring up anti-Canada resentments
in Quebec and anti-Quebec feelings in the rest of the country. Then we might
have a national unity crisis layered on top of the economic crisis.

Altogether, it was not an impressive night's work for Harper.

     Los Angeles, California
     Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
     "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

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