Blogs

Lessons Lost?: Mantioba's Coalitions

By Jared Wesley on Dec 4, 2008

We've heard a lot about Canada's limited experience with coalition governments in the past week.  Engaged citizens today are as familiar as ever with the 1917 Union Government, the 1925-26 King-Byng Affair, and the Ontario episode in 1985.  One prominent example of Canadian coalition government has been lost in all of the talk, however.  And there are important lessons to be learned from it.

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Considering the Governor General's Decision to Prorogue Parliament

By Harold Jansen on Dec 4, 2008

Like many Canadians, I was glued to the television to see what the governor general would decide in response to Stephen Harper's request to prorogue Parliament. I have a lot of sympathy for the governor-general: the Prime Minister put in her a very difficult position with this request. I'd also like to give credit to the opposition leaders. Rather than attacking the governor general and needlesly politicizing her decision, they pointed the finger at Stephen Harper. That's where the blame belongs, if there is any.

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Constitutional Refresher Course: What is a Prorogation of Parliament?

By Harold Jansen on Dec 4, 2008

As I write this, Stephen Harper is currently meeting with Michaelle Jean and is reportedly requesting a prorogation of Parliament. I've been asked a lot what exactly this means and how it relates to the current situation in Ottawa. So, here's a refresher course on prorogation.

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A Plea for Good Rallies

By Jared Wesley on Dec 3, 2008

I was heartened to hear that both sides in the current constitutional debate will be staging public events to drum up support for their causes.  Beyond a suggestion to dress warmly, I want to offer a quick blessing, and caution, to both sides as they plan to attend a series of rallies later this week.  If John McCain's recent presidential campaign offers any lessons, be wary:  keep the most ignorant among you from upstaging the event.  Cameras from the media and the opposing side will be on the lookout for acts of anger and zealotry, like burning effigies or inflammatory statements.  That's what will air on the evening news and Youtube. 

 

This said, best of luck to all.  Keep the messages positive, and be sure to dress in layers!

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Opinions on Both Sides -- a review

By Jared Wesley on Dec 3, 2008

I spent 12 hours Christmas shopping and listening to talk radio shows yesterday, as I made my monthly drive from Winnipeg to Calgary.  If the media buzz is any indication, it seems almost everyone in Western Canada has an opinion on the quagmire on Parliament Hill.  From Canadian Tire to Suzy Shier, Tim Horton's to Starbucks, pundits to academics, leaders to followers - everyone appears to have chosen sides between the government and the coalition.  With each side talking past each other, viewing moment-by-moment events through their own unique set of partisan lenses, it's not difficult to see how we've come to this point.  For Canadians just tuning into the saga, finding "facts" and "truths" amid the rhetoric can be challenging and frustrating.

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Andrew Potter on legitimacy in this debate

By Harold Jansen on Dec 3, 2008

Andrew Potter at Macleans.ca has a really good blog posting that's worth reading. He's been posting some interesting stuff on the crisis.

Harper and Dion take to the airwaves

By Harold Jansen on Dec 3, 2008

In case you missed it, both Harper and Dion took to national television to make their cases directly to the people. Neither really had much new to say. Here are my impressions of both speeches.

Harper

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The mess in Ottawa is an opportunity for the Greens, but....

By Harold Jansen on Dec 3, 2008

I think it's safe to say that none of Canada's four political parties in Canada are looking especially good right now: the partisan bickering and yelling, the political manouevering and scheming, the constitutional brinkmanship. There are lots of Conservatives upset with Stephen Harper, many Liberals disgusted with Stephane Dion, and even more Canadians just annoyed with everyone. 

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If the governor-general agrees to dissolve Parliament, what would the election look like?

By Harold Jansen on Dec 2, 2008

Running through all the what-if scenarios that could unfold over the next few weeks has become a favorite activity for Canadian junkies. Here's one that just occurred to me. What happens in the (unlikely, according to constitutional experts) event that Michaelle Jean granted a request by Stephen Harper for a dissolution of Parliament? We'd have an election. And here's where things would get even more interesting.

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Will the Conservative MPs Resign En Masse in Response to Coalition?

By Greg Farries on Dec 2, 2008

CFRA's Lowell Green, QR77's Dave Rutherford, and Bourque Newswatch are reporting that the Western Canadian MPs may take a drastic measure if the Governor General allows the coalition to form government - they will resign en masse.

This drastic measure - effectively removing significant political representation from a large portion of the country - would certainly push the Governor General and or the coalition to consider dissolving the House and calling an election.

Stephen Harper is the great unifier in this country

By Harold Jansen on Dec 2, 2008

Stephen Harper has been a transformative leader in Canadian partisan politics. First he united the right. Now he's united the left. Pretty impressive.

Note to coalition: Just because you CAN replace the government doesn't mean you SHOULD replace the government

By Harold Jansen on Dec 1, 2008

Wow: events on Parliament Hill are developing quickly as Canada enters almost uncharted waters: the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc have signed a deal on a proposed coalition. Given how coalition governments are foreign to Canadian political tradition, it's a remarkable thing to see this come about in such short order. I'm surprised to see this. I knew the opposition parties would be galvanized by the end of the vote subsidy, but I thought once the Conservatives withdrew it, they would relent. I was wrong.

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Constitutional refresher course: the people do not choose the government

By Harold Jansen on Nov 30, 2008

In the showdown between the Conservatives and an erstwhile Liberal-NDP coalition, one point gets obscured. In the Canadian political system, the voters do not vote for a government. When we vote, we vote for a local Member of Parliament. The formation of government is a byproduct of that, not the direct choice of Canadians. So, who does choose who forms a government. Very simply, it's the Governor General. Most of the Governor General's power's are heavily constrained by convention, in that the GG has to follow the advice of the Prime Minister and cabinet.

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Towards a citizen-based system of party finance?

By Harold Jansen on Nov 27, 2008

I always enjoy reading or listening to Andrew Coyne, even when I think he's wrong. Today's blog post praising the proposed elimination of the per vote subsidy is an interesting defence of the Conservatives' announcement. In the post, he argues that this moves towards a citizen-based finance system for political parties, arguing that party support should be a private matter between citizens and parties. If that's what we want, the problem is that the per vote subsidy isn't the biggest culprit in this respect. Remember that there are three sources of public money to parties:

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The end of $1.75 per year per vote?

By Harold Jansen on Nov 26, 2008

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the Conservatives are going to propose the end of the $1.75 per vote per year subsidy that came in 2004 as part of the reforms to party finance. The Conservatives are justifying this by saying that the country can't afford this in times of economic downturn. That explanation doesn't really make a lot of sense, considering that the $28 million that this cost taxpayers in 2007 is a tiny part of the multi-billion dollar federal budget. What seems more likely is that the Conservatives have wanted to do this since they can easily live without the subsidy. Only about a third of Conservative revenue comes from the state subsidy.

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