Canada is Burning.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Well at least until Jan. 26 that is.

For those of you not in the loop, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper suspended the country's legislature for more than 7 weeks in a bid to stave off a challenge from opposition parties seeking to bring down his government.

Harper, re-elected in October to a minority government, said Governor General Michaelle Jean, who acts as the country's head of state, agreed to his request to close Parliament until Jan. 26. The government's first order of business will be a budget scheduled for Jan. 27, Harper said, calling on the opposition to work with his administration on a "stimulus" package for the ailing economy.  

The political crisis was sparked Nov. 27 when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty presented a fiscal update that included cuts to funding for political parties, limited civil servants' right to strike and failed to offer a stimulus package to spur economic growth. The three opposition parties said they would oppose the plan and banded together.

The main opposition Liberals agreed to Dec. 1 was to form a coalition with the New Democratic Party and the Parti Quebecois in a bid to accelerate a stimulus package for the economy and oust the Harper government. The turmoil centers on how to manage Canada's response to the global economic crisis.

So in a bid to buy time, Harper refused to grant the opposition a vote in Parliament that would have brought down his government, instead asking Jean to let him suspend the legislature. The three opposition blocs combined hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons, Parliament's lower house.

Harper admitted no errors in judgment today. Nor did he seek absolution during a nationally televised address on Wednesday.

The procedural move is unprecedented, marking the first time a prime minister has requested the suspension of the legislature to avoid a so-called confidence vote. Parliament's suspension comes less than three weeks after the session began.

"For the first time in the history of Canada, the prime minister of Canada is running away from the Parliament of Canada," Stephane Dion, the Liberal leader who would head the coalition government, adding he will "respect" the governor general's decision.

Harper's Conservatives went into the Oct. 14 election with 127 seats in Parliament and increased their total to 143, still short of the 155 needed to control the legislative agenda. The government needs support of at least one other party to pass legislation.

Harper, prime minister for almost three years, has since backtracked on the political funding and labor rights. He and Jean met for about two hours this morning. Jean didn't speak to reporters after the meeting.  The role of Jean, Queen Elizabeth II's representative in Canada, is mostly ceremonial.

In the Commons yesterday, Liberal MP Ken Dryden (my MP!) said the Prime Minister broke faith with Parliament in the economic update. "How do we repair the irreparable?" Mr. Dryden asked. "To the Prime Minister to help him with his answer: Sorry, it is over; we cannot trust him any more. We need a new prime minister."

Liberal MP Derrick Lee, meanwhile, compared Harper's move to suspend Parliament to the burning of the Reichstag in Germany by the Nazis.  Hyperbole much?  But kinda true too.

Tags: burning, Canada, Conservatives, Harper, liberals, minority, ndp, parliment (all tags)




by canadian gal 2008-12-04 11:46AM | 0 recs

After all that Harper did & said to convince the Canadian voters that he "isn't Bush", doesn't this prove otherwise? I mean, what's more Bushian than shutting down the other branches of government so that one can expand one's power? I hope this blows up in Harper's face in January as the Tories go down in flames.

by atdleft 2008-12-04 12:17PM | 0 recs
Glad you diaried this.

I just noticed it on CNN, and was about to ask for your opinion. Quite a few bloggers appear concerned with Dion's alliance with Bloc Quebecois, claiming that Harper's government strengthened its minority position in the recent elections and therefore do represent the will of the people.

Your take? I guess I'm glad we don't have to look northward for an escape route anymore!

by Sumo Vita 2008-12-04 12:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Glad you diaried this.

i kind of agree.  the alliance with the BQ is alarming which is kind of why im writing this with a bit of trepidation.

however harper is utter fail with this move.  but we can still be your escape route since i predict that it will all be over in about 8 weeks.

by canadian gal 2008-12-04 01:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Glad you diaried this.

I hope so. Canada's always been this reassuring liberal fallback - I'd hate to see it flip. Thanks for the invitation, regardless!

by Sumo Vita 2008-12-04 02:11PM | 0 recs
Re: sheesh.

Annex Canada!

by MumbaiBurns 2008-12-04 01:40PM | 0 recs
Quite the Bushian maneuver.

I bet George wishes he had the option of simply not letting Congress act against him.

Oh wait, he did.

Well, Mr. Harper is in quite a lot of trouble, it seems.  You can only put off the inevitable for so long before it catches up to you.

by Dracomicron 2008-12-04 11:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.
CG, what happens when the legislature is back in session?
Isn't this just postponing the inevitable for Harper?
by skohayes 2008-12-04 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.


by sepulvedaj3 2008-12-04 12:08PM | 0 recs

And the Liberals & the NDP should be shouting from the rooftops every day between now & Jan. 27. Make Harper so miserable in these next 8 weeks that he'll actually want to step down by then. ;-)

by atdleft 2008-12-04 12:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

exactly.  dion is highly unpopular (even amongst liberals) and i guess harper is hoping that he can pull a rabbit out of his hat between now and the end of january.

not likely though.

by canadian gal 2008-12-04 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

Probably not.  The Liberals and NDP are uneasy bedfellows, and the Conservatives are bouncing in the polls.  Time is frankly on the Conservatives' side, as a three-way coalition between parties with a sometimes unpleasant history is shaky enough at best.

Harper is an ineffective leader, but the Liberal leader Dion is even less effective.  Frankly, the only politician in the bunch who acts like a professional is the sovereigntist.

by ogondai 2008-12-04 05:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

i disagree.  they are all goons. ;)

by canadian gal 2008-12-04 05:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

So, are Canadians going to take to the streets?

Seems like some kind of major protests are in order, no?

by Bush Bites 2008-12-04 01:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

Canadians aren't that French lol.  Harper might try to dissolve parliment again and hope this made the liberals look bad and get fewwer seats.  I don't really know how all that works.  This is the stuff I don't like about parlimentary representation, although almost everything else about it is better IMHO.

by goodleh 2008-12-04 01:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

well there have been some protests.  but this issue is a bit mixed with the people.  some people are getting caught up in the whole english canada rhetoric and also we just had an election here.  

the problem is that so many dont really understand the issues since they are mostly related to the unveiling of a federal budget and the hidden right-wing cuts.

the other thing is - many people despise dion.  if there was a different leader of the liberal party - we would probably have a majority liberal govt.

by canadian gal 2008-12-04 01:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

Also, it's winter. No one's going to take to the streets.

I remember watching Peter Mansbridge interviewing Jean Chretien right after he left office, and they were talking about the Clarity Act. (For non-Canadians/Canadaphiles, the short version is, the Clarity Act makes it harder for Quebec to try to secede in the future.) Chretien was saying that his advisers were warning him that there would be protests in the streets of Montreal against the Clarity Act, but Chretien was confident that there would be no protests or riots or chaos.


Parliament passed the bill in March, when the average daily high temperature is just 2 degrees Celsius. Nobody's going to be protesting when it's cold outside.

Rather than actually contributing to the conversation, I just wanted to share a fun story.

More seriously, I don't see how the coalition lasts, especially after the new Liberal leader is picked. Even if the NDP didn't get angry at either Rae/Ignatieff/LeBlanc when they took over, I feel like any one of them would gladly let the coalition fall apart to try to win an outright majority as the new leader. But that's a dangerous game to play, especially if Dion (who doesn't seem like he'll be a very effective PM) can't deliver good legislation himself.

If anyone wins from all of this, it's Jack Layton. Once the new coalition takes over in January, he'll get to be "Minister Layton" and he'll take a pretty important portfolio. It'll be the NDP's first chance to really help govern, and it could end up with a lot of good, progressive legislation. It'll boost Layton's prestige considerably. Even if the Liberals have a majority government in the future, I think the NDP will gain seats.

As far as the Bloc, well, who knows what they'll do? Separatism is dying in Quebec (at least at the moment), and I feel like this might be their last hurrah for a few decades.

by Fitzy 2008-12-04 01:59PM | 0 recs
Just a thought, but

I've often wondered what Quebec would do if they were to suddenly be offered independence. In a decade when France itself is integrating into the united states of Europe, I'm not surprised to hear that separatism is on the decline.

On an unrelated matter, there are certain states here in the South that I sometimes wish would secede.


by Sumo Vita 2008-12-04 02:22PM | 0 recs
Well, it won't be offered.

The ironically named Clarity Act specified that a "clear" majority and a "clear" referendum question, without defining either term.

Separatism is on the decline because of demographics.  Francophones used to be shut out of economic opportunity before the nationalizations of the 60s and language laws of the 70s.  Those who remember actually being oppressed (as opposed to imagining Ottawa being tyrannical through equalization payments) are aging and dying off.  Also, Canada's economy has been doing rather well since the last referendum in 1995.

The most hardline separatists are afraid of the economic consequences of an independent Quebec (there were Yes on Sovereignty sings with the Canadian loonie on it, a rather confusing ad).  The tortured referendum questions are many a result of Quebec wanting all of the benefits of independance but none of the risks.

by corph 2008-12-05 05:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

This is just like what they did in Australia with PM Whitlam.

For a ceremonial head, Queen Elizabeth seems to overthrow left-wing Prime-ministers or prop up right-wing ones an awful lot.

by Jess81 2008-12-04 01:22PM | 0 recs

in canada, the queen generally rubber stamps all things put forth by the ruling party whomever they may be.

by canadian gal 2008-12-04 01:24PM | 0 recs
Re: huh?

Gough Whitlam.  Was the Prime Minister of Australia and a socialist, and in an unprecedented move, the Governor-General removed him from office.  The reaction in Australia was "they can do that?"  They can.

So this has happened before.

by Jess81 2008-12-04 01:27PM | 0 recs
Re: huh?

oh i see.  but in this case the GG is really a figure head.  the days that the queen had an effect on cdn politics is decades old.

by canadian gal 2008-12-04 02:36PM | 0 recs
The Queen,

through the GG, has the authority to dissolve Parliament.  Other than tradition, the main reason she doesn't is that the GG is toast if the same party gets returned to office.

In the brillant British miniseries "to play the King", the King gets dragged into publicly opposing the lovable but evil scheming Prime Minister.  The Government is reelected and the King is forced to abdicate.

Abdicate, v.  To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

by corph 2008-12-05 05:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

What I find interesting is that the rap on Michaelle Jean is that she's supposedly a BQ sympathizer, although I'm not sure how many people actually believe that.  But I'm not sure the last time the Governor-General actually said no to anything.

by Steve M 2008-12-04 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

Doesn't this just give Harper time to find the correct incentive to buy off the BQ?

by Demo Dan in Dayton 2008-12-04 02:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

And people think Canadian politics bland. There are a number of subsets here. There is a deep regional cleavage. The West especially resource-rich Alberta is Tory blue but population rich Ontario and Quebec just don't care for Harper and the Conservatives. Harper fell short of a majority by what 12 votes or something like that so it's a minority government. While I disargee with it, the prorogue manuever was brillant if cowardly Parliamentary speaking. Harper is now going to take his case to the people who just don't want another indecisive election. And it has been lost that what drove the Liberals, the NDP and the BQ into each other's arms was that Harper was going to cut off public financing of political parties. It's all really fascinating to watch.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-04 02:37PM | 0 recs
good analysis.

and seriously - if dion wasnt the leader of the liberals we wouldnt be having this conversation.

by canadian gal 2008-12-04 02:42PM | 0 recs
Re: good analysis.

Agreed. Dion must go for the sake of the Liberals. Too much of an academic.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-04 07:07PM | 0 recs
we'll see how resolved the opposition

really is in Feb.

by FLS 2008-12-04 04:32PM | 0 recs
Ken Dryden

So your PM is the HOF goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens?  Cool.

I don't think we have any sports star politicians that big here in the States.  Heath Shuler (former Redskins QB) is the only one I can think of.

by Will Graham 2008-12-04 04:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Ken Dryden

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) is a complete waste of space as a senator but was an excellent pitcher.  And former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ) was a pretty major basketball star.

by DaveMB 2008-12-04 05:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Ken Dryden

Both Bunning and Bradley were Hall of Famers.  Going back, Gerald Ford was a first team All American Football Player.  Byron "Whizzer" White was an NFL star and college super star before becoming a US Supreme Court Justice.  

Ex-Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne was a Congressman and lost trying to be Governor recently.

Steve Largent who was a really good pro receiver in the NFL became a Republican congressman.  J.C. Watts, a celebrated quarterback at the University of Oklahoma was the last black Republican in Congress and one of only three black Republicans to serve in the House in the last 100 years.

Ex Pirates pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell became a North Carolina congressman.  Tom McMillan, who was a star basketball player at Maryland became a Maryland congressman.  He was also about 6 foot eleven.

Somebody named John K. Tener was a major league baseball player, Congressman, Governor of Pennsylvania, and President of the National League.

by David Kowalski 2008-12-05 08:03PM | 0 recs
The System Crashing Down

This is Canada's 2000.  We suffered when our undemocratic system awarded an election to the guy who won fewer votes.  Now, your country is dealing with a similarly undemocratic system.  Here are the options:

1. A government elected with about 38% of the votes, benefitting from this first past the post system that shut-out the Green Party, who earned 6.8% of the votes from 308 seats.  The Conservative program is probably opposed by most Canadians.

2. An opposition with a clear agenda that was hidden from voters before the election.  An opposition that earned a combined 44.% of the votes, relying on a party that seeks to break up the country (and is emerging as the most mature bunch in the whole thing).   This coalition is already staggering: one Liberal Member of Parliament described the proposed junior member of the coalition as "vicious".

The referee in all this is a former TV reporter appointed to represent a foreign head of state who inherited her title.  The Governor General with few real duties, suddenly exercising of them.  Of course, one can also say that all this may be very democratic: the Canadian electorate appears strongly divided about which way to go to the point of paralysis, and the Parliament reflects that.

The main winner?  Probably Jacques Parizeau, a sovereigntist who encouraged the founding of the federal sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois with a goal of breaking up the federal Parliament into a divisive group of smaller parties a la Italy.  He's getting his wish.

by ogondai 2008-12-04 05:28PM | 0 recs
Re: The System Crashing Down

I could talk electoral systems all night long. But if you go the other extreme to proportional representation then you end up with Israel. I forget the number of parties in Canada but it's in double digits though I suppose only five major parties.

Last week I read a Vermont pamphleteer who wants to break Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine off and join them with the Maritimes and form a new nation of New Acadia. Not sure if he wanted to include Newfoundland in the mix.

I must say it's really nice to see folks discuss politics outside the US.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-04 07:04PM | 0 recs
Re: The System Crashing Down

Well I for one am all about Cascadia, although my version has it somewhat expanded, running from Alaska to the north to San Jose to the south to Yellowstone to the east.  

by thezzyzx 2008-12-05 05:12AM | 0 recs
How about the rest of the northern tier?

Join with Alberta-Ontario to form ???? (I don't have a name.

by Hughsterg 2008-12-07 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

burning? canada?

come on! canada doesn't burn...its pretty mellow...

by obama4presidente 2008-12-04 05:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

When I was in Canada I burned pretty much 24/7.  It was cheap and delicious, too.

by Koan 2008-12-04 07:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

hey they dont call us commies for nothing.

by canadian gal 2008-12-04 07:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

Educate me please, what can Harper do without a legislature?

Also, if there were another election right now, the conservatives would continue to win by double digits over the libs.

Things are weird up there. Now may be our best chance to invade! Third time's the charm!

by MNPundit 2008-12-04 06:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

meant to reply to you below.

by canadian gal 2008-12-04 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

harper cannot do anything without the legislature in session, he is hoping the cdn people will get onside and that the coalition will break up.

the problem is - people HATE dion (liberal leader).  if someone else was at the helm, i certainly think more people would be up in arms about this.

by canadian gal 2008-12-04 06:27PM | 0 recs
My brother who lives in Quebec is so pissed off

about this - calling Harper a dictator!

Dion is irrevelent now that he's lost the election and will be ousted at the next party convention by a vote of no confidence should he not give his resignation by then, which the latter would be the anwer to getting someone more appealing to win against Harper.

Not selecting Ignatieff was the liberals biggest mistake. How a man of such intellect was passed over for Dion is beyond comprehension!

Obviously Harper did not want to suffer the same embarrassing fate as Clark, I'll never forget Bob Rae's speech which sealed the vote of no confidence against him, but it's unbelievable that Harper would use such tactics. I hope the canadian people will make him pay! Using the bloc quebecois as an excuse is just so lame, everyone can see through this.

What I don't understand though, if Trudeau repatriated the charter from England why does the governor general still have any decision power over parliament? The Queen relegated that power back to Canada, didnt't she? They both remain as figureheads simply as a traditional good gesture for the queen until she dies, isn't it?

A friend from Toronto hinted that there's talk about Rae and Broadbent getting together to start a new party, is there any truth to this? It's a shame about Rae, who would have also been a good candidate, but was rejected by the East Indian delegates because of his religion and for heading the commission which investigated the bombing of Air Canada by Indian radicals.

by suzieg 2008-12-05 12:07AM | 0 recs
Protest march in winter? Same brother was in

anti-war marches before the Iraq war with tens of thousands of quebecers in below zero weather regardless of the harm it was doing to his heart which is 1/3 atrophied.

by suzieg 2008-12-05 12:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Canada is Burning.

At last Canadian politics can compete with the Americans for a few weeks at least.

by canadian 2008-12-05 05:50PM | 0 recs
Off With Her Head!

The Monarchy is back! Canada should do what the Americans did 232 years ago.

by Zzyzzy 2008-12-06 09:30AM | 0 recs
But what would happen... singing "God save the [insert proper monarchy title according to gender]"?

Every once and a while a little Anglophilia never hurt anybody.

Now when it comes to Bushies with Canadian accents, that probably wasn't the best/moral move but I know I for one sleep a little better knowing that besides being the "terre de nos aieux" you have to address the bench up there as "my lord/lady".

That said, I hope Harper gets bounced all the way back to Alberta and the GG (is that right?) feels shame.

by AZphilosopher 2008-12-07 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: But what would happen...

i honestly dont blame the GG - she was boxed into a corner.  for a more detailed cha about this - i suggest going to the moose link up top.

by canadian gal 2008-12-07 12:13PM | 0 recs
Re: But what would happen...

Couldn't she have required the request in writing and just kept dodging it?  That's a polite society way of saying "You couldn't possibly be insane enough to make that request".  That way, she could thread the needle.

by AZphilosopher 2008-12-07 02:14PM | 0 recs
Re: But what would happen...

no not really - essentially she had to say yes.  but for harper to even ask is unbelievably arrogant.

by canadian gal 2008-12-07 02:48PM | 0 recs


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