A Canadian Minute

I apologize to anyone that normally reads my blog and could care less about Canadian politics. As some of you may know I have a degree in Political Science and I am quite passionate about it, but I have kept my political ramblings to a minimum because I understand that not many of you care about it as I do. However I feel the need to have this post dedicated to politics, just to warn you.

So Karina made a great point on her blog about the looming possibility of the toppling of government and the possibility that our government may soon be led by a coalition party consisting of the three opposition parties. The reason that I feel the need to blog about this today is that I feel through comments made by many Canadians, although valid, are lacking a big piece of the picture. So I will do my best to outline the big picture as best I can in an attempt to help people fully make sense of the mess that we find ourselves in.

So the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party (socialists) have formed a coalition with the Bloc Quebequois (Quebec Sovereignty) as backers. You can find the outline of the coalition agreement here. I suggest that you read it before you comment on the coalition because it does outline some pretty important things.

The biggest problems that people have with this coalition itself (not the notion of a coalition government) is that the proposed leader is a man that the liberal pary itself has rejected, he has stepped down and now he is supposed to be our PM. I for one think that the former/ interm leader Dion is a very intelligent man and a great asset to the party as an analyst, but not as a leader. The coalition has given themselves a tough battle trying to convince the Canadian public that the man they didn't feel could lead their party can now lead the country.

The second is that they have the Bloc Quebecois, the Quebec soverignty party, as part of the package. To be clear the Bloc would not be part of the coalition, but has agreed to vote with the coalition to keep it going. Ironically Harper has shunned the coalition working with the Bloc, when he himself tried to work with the Bloc to bring down Paul Martin (Canada's last PM.)

Now Canadians (well most of us anyway) know that we vote and elect representatives and not leaders. It is the party's responsibility to decide who our PM is going to be not ours. In electing representatives we vote for the party that we would most like to see run the country. In the case of the last election more Canadians voted AGAINST the conservatives not for them. The fact that the conservatives only got 37.63 of the total country's vote shows that the MAJORITY of people voted against the conservatives, the conservatives won a minority government they won 143 seats, whereas the coalition government holds a total of 163 seats. The Canadian constitution has no set rules for this situation as our parliamentary system is meant to be flexible to evolve and adapt to changing conditions. So the prospect of a coalition government is not unconstitutional because there is no rules against it.

Why do the opposition parties wish to form a coalition you ask? Well this all came to a head when the conservatives released their "economic update," which included amongst other things a cut to the subsidies that the political parties get when they obtain seats in the House of Commons. This is a $30 million cut, which many see as a way that Stephen Harper's conservatives are "sticking it" to the opposition. The Conservatives are the only party that will not be crippled by this proposal as they have significant private backing and the subsidy only accounts for 37% of their annual budget (The NDP is a close second with 52% I believe). This subsidy is used to pay for staff etc, so chances are that the people who will be most affected are not the MP's themselves but the support staff. Green Party leader Elizabeth May has even commented that this proposal is "...obviously geared toward bankrupting the Liberal Party more than helping out the Canadian taxpayer."

Unfortunately the conservatives also "stuck it" to public servants by proposing a plan (which they later withdrew) which capped salary increases and took away their right to strike. This was a slap in the face of public servants because many had recently settled a contract and this plan would roll back those wages. Secondly legislating salary caps would in turn take away any need to strike because they would be striking for nothing. Basically it was seen by many as a dig as this deal was offered as a "take-it-or-leave-it" deal which was aimed at strong arming the unions, which led to further animosity in an already strained relationship. The conservatives also promised to "modernize" pay equity which many see as detrimental to women as it will exacerbate the problem of unequal pay for equal work.

However this proposal also includes many valuable items such as:

-Cuts to substantial salary increases for federally appointed judges.
-Measures to rein in spending by MPs and top civil servants, such as new restrictions on travel and expenses.
-Elimination or trimming of the roughly $6,500-per-MP salary increase scheduled to go into effect April 1, at a cost of $2 million.
-Cancellation of Christmas bonuses for management-class civil servants and executives of Crown corporations.
-Temporary relief for Canadians from mandated withdrawals from registered retirement income funds (RRIFs), a measure estimated to be worth about $135 million.
-A likely concession that Canada is heading for both a recession and a deficit.


Why is a deficit a good thing? According to Keynesian economics countries should aim to run a surplus during good economic times and run a deficit during a recession. The idea being that during a recession a government is expected to pump money into the economy. Economic stimulus comes in the form of spending on infrastructure (roads, transit etc.) and spending in key sectors (pensions etc.)

So getting back to the original issue, many believe that Harper got caught trying to get back at those who opposed him and now he is dealing with the backlash that he brought on himself. Stephen Harper chose a bad time to unleash his political vendetta under the transparent ruse of economy building.

Three of the four parties have lost confidence in the Prime Minister and regulation states that in that case that government is defeated and another government takes over. Harper has since delayed what many see as enevitable and had the Governor General to suspend the parliament. Next step is to try to get the opposition to back down and come back after Christmas and hope that he is not voted down. If he is he can ask the Gov Gen to call an election and she can either do that or ask the opposition to form a majority. Harper is playing a deadly game of Russian Roulette and who knows how it will turn out. Is this Harper's last stand? Only time will tell.


jiggins said…
There is a reason I stay away from discussing politics of any nature - especially in an open forum. Though it is what concerns us all.. many of us anyway.

Glad you posted, wondered what was going on with u :P

Hey stop by http://refractedimage.blogspot.com/ and let me know what you think about the images there. i would love to hear your opinions. I hope you are well. See you on the next post!
Vegas Princess said…
I never knew any of this so I feel like I learned someting today. What an interesting and scary time for you all! Guess both our countries are going through some major things. Let's hope we all pull through.

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