Parliamentary Democracy, Canadian Style
Prime Minister Harper was elected to a second minority term just two months ago, at the beginning of October. His government’s Throne Speech passed through Parliament without trouble at the end of November. Surprisingly, last week the government chose to follow that up with a quarterly financial update full of partisan nastiness, including a pledge (which was subsequently withdrawn) to eliminate public funding for political parties – something that would have done great damage to the other parties’ ability to compete in the next election. Somewhat incredibly in light of the current worldwide financial crisis, he also pledged to present a federal government surplus in the next budget. As a result of stricter rules on credit reserves and various other factors,
Back to the political plot: following the quarterly update, the other parties in Parliament (the Liberal Party and the New Democrats), with the support of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, put together a coalition to defeat the Harper government. Had the Prime Minister not prorogued Parliament, he would surely have faced and lost a confidence vote next Monday. Minority governments in
Parliament is now prorogued until January 26 of next year, when the government will present a new Throne Speech (sure to be very brief and sure to be followed by a vote of no-confidence), meant to be followed immediately by the presentation of a budget on January 27. The Governor General’s decision to prorogue Parliament, effectively to allow a minority government to avoid a vote of no confidence, is unprecedented in
Although we will never know for sure, presumably Her Excellency’s decision to agree to the prorogation was based on a perceived need for leadership and continuity in a time of economic crisis, and a lack of confidence that the Liberal-New Democratic coalition would be able to hold long enough to get anything done. There’s some tension, though, between this sense of urgency and the decision to go six weeks without a Parliamentary session. There’s also very little hope that the Harper government will be able to achieve, well, anything now. Canadians are likely to go back to the polls again very soon, for their third election in less than two years. It is difficult to imagine that anyone will get a majority in Parliament next time, either.
- posted by Cristie Ford