Defeating the Canadian Government
It is not very often than Canadian politics is more interesting than American politics. Well we are experiencing one of those rare occcasions.
Just seven weeks after electing a Conservative minority government, the opposition parties are seriously considering replacing the government through the political device of a "vote of no confidence" and an offer to form a coalition governments to replace the Conservatives.
How does this work, you might ask! In our parliamentary system, a minority government can only continue to govern with the confidence of the Opposition . This usually requires the governing party to make concessions to encourage the cooperation of one of more of the opposition parties. It is the government's responsibility to find a way to function with the cooperation of the opposition parties, which in reality represent the majority of the electorate.
(Canada is a traditionally left of centre society even though we have a Conservative government currently)
Normally, the opposition parties are reluctant to unite against the governing party for fear of losing their distinctive position on the political spectrum. There are some real differences among them. Rarely does a single issue offend them all.
How did this situation come about that the opposition parties are planning to defeat the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. Two days ago, finance minister, put forward an economic program the Conservative hope to follow until a formal budget is presented to parliament. A couple of items in particular offended the oppostions parties. The government decided to stop public funding of the political parties. (This would hurt the cash strapped opposition parties. The Conservatives apparently are still well funded.) Also, the Conservatives are going to ban strikes among government workers for three years. But the major item that infuriated the opposition parties was the fact that the government did not put forward a major spending program to support the economy in this time of economic recession as have most industrialized countries governments around the world.
The opposition parties are working on a plan to have a vote of no confidence to defeat the government. The Liberals and New Democrats (socialists) will form a coalition and the Parti Quebecois (seperatists will promise to vote with the coalition ( for concessions for Quebec, of course). This is a serious endeavour with the retired senior politicians being called in to help arrange the political program. Ed Broadbent, former leader of the NDP and Jean Chretien, former leader of the Liberal party and Prime Minister are a crafty and knowledgeable pair. Apparently the plan is well enough developed that who will get what cabinet posts have been worked out. The Liberals will hold the Prime Minister's position and the New Democrats will get important economic portfolios.
When the goverment is defeated it must go to the Governor General, Michaele Jean, and ask her to dissolve parliament as it no longer has the confidence of it's members. She can either call for another election or inquire if their is another party which could form the government with the confidence of the majority of members. It is at this point the opposition parties can put forward their coalition plan. They will argue, it is too soon after a general election to go to the polls again and they will promise to at least hold their coalition together for a year or two. If they are persuasive, the Governor General (Queen's representative) will ask them to form the government.
This situation is unique in Canadian politics. While there have been a couple of coalition governments in Canadian history, I do not believe this parliamentary proceedure has ever resultied on a Coalition Government taking over. Normally, an election would be called with the defeat of the government.
The Conservatives are scrambling to avoid a "vote of no confidence." They have put off the parliamentary opportunity for the vote for a week. They have already rescinded their plan to drop public funding of the parties. In the next week the Conservatives will be trying to convince the public that such a move by the Opposition is irresponsible and that his government has a mandate to govern. I suspect they will offer other concessions to stop the Opposition's efforts to defeat them.
It may take quite an effort. the Opposition seems to smell blood and they do not like the arrogant style of the Conservative government. Many do not personally trust Stephen Harper.
As for me, KICK THE BUMS OUT! I am not a fan of the Harper Government.
In all fairness, I feel a greater trust in the possible Coalition to handle the economic problems facing Canada. Canada's current relative strong economic situation is built upon the economic programs of the last Liberal goverenment, with years of balanced budgets and surpluses that allowed Canada to begin to pay down it's debt. They also supported adequate regulations of banks and agencies of the government that has avoided the worst of the US situation. I do not have confidence that Stephen Harper, the ideological conservative economist can make the adjustment in his thinking to bring about progressive interventionist economic programs needed at this time.
The next week will see some fascinating politics in Canada.