Parliament continues to reel from the dizzying events of the past 5 days, the likes of which are virtually unprecedented in Canadian history – not to mention downright entertaining.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty unveiled what was billed as an “economic update” in Parliament last Thursday – a plan placing limitations on the public service’s ability to strike and offering little in the way of economic stimulus – that was met with loud derision and cries of disgust at Harper’s arrogance and calls for a confidence vote in the House. MPs from Canada’s other parties – Liberal, New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois – stated they would refuse to vote this update into law, forcing Harper’s Conservative government into a confidence vote that would surely defeat them.

What angered the opposition most was Harper’s – via Flaherty – blatantly partisan slam tucked inside the update that would see an end to federal funding to political parties, a Conservative Party attempt to weaken the opposition parties in light of their tenuous financial positions and render them less able to mount a strong election campaign down the road against Harper. MPs cried foul that Harper would be playing partisan politics with a piece of legislation supposedly designed to help Canada’s ailing economy.

Immediately, political and economic analysts across party lines conceded Harper had committed an egregious error in judgment at worst and a serious political misstep at best, a blunder very likely to delay much-needed economic restructuring at a time when Canada needs it most. Despite head-spinningly quick reversals by the Conservatives on many of the update’s key points – a move designed to placate the furious opposition MPs – the dye was cast and leaders Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe began talks to form a coalition government, with Dion assuming the role of Prime Minister and the parties assigning Cabinet positions weighted in favour of the Liberals and the NDP.

Fast forward to today where Governor General Michaelle Jean is flying home from a truncated European speaking tour to address the national crisis. Her role will be to weigh the options before her and determine the fate of Parliament. Experts seem to agree that one option would be to grant an anticipated request from Harper to prorogue or suspend the current seven day old sitting of Parliament, presumably so he can avoid a confidence vote and have time to prepare a budget, although this contains some problems in that there is no precedent either way for such a request under these circumstances and many believe she will not prorogue simply to allow the government to avoid a confidence motion.

The second option might be to grant a potential request from Harper to dissolve the current sitting of Parliament and call a federal election – an unlikely and unattractive alternative considering Canadians just went to the polls 7 weeks ago and voter turnout was extremely low. Jean’s third option would be to entertain the request of the Coalition members and allow them to form a government, under strict conditions, for the remainder of the term.

Canadians are understandably concerned. Conservatives who voted Harper’s people into power are furious, claiming – as Harper said himself – that the Dion-led Coalition is trying to take power without earning it. Perhaps, but the Conservatives might want to drop the smug rhetoric and accept that only 37% of voting Canadians elected the current government and a Coalition would actually represent the 63% of Canadians who voted for someone other than a Conservative MP.

Enter Gilles Duceppe. Critics of the potential Coalition are crying “deal with the devil” at the Coalition’s inclusion of Duceppe’s Bloc Quebecois, convinced the pact will give too much power to a man the fear-mongering Harper believes would separate Quebec from Canada. What Canadians need to understand is that Duceppe wants sovereignty for Quebec, for it to be recognized as a distinct society and receive appropriate benefits, but there is little in his rhetoric over recent years to suggest he is for cutting all ties and looking to create the separatist nation of Quebec and become President Duceppe. Duceppe is more about left-wing activism than separation – both of which frighten Harper – and it his left wing ideologies that enable him to enter and welcome him into this Coalition.

Once again, Harper is appealing to the fear of the unknown in Canadians – first, it was fear of how a non-Conservative government would lead Canada in these tough economic times, times Harper refused to acknowledge were bad until intense media pressure forced him to. Second, Harper instilled fear of a Stephane Dion-led Canada, a very intelligent man Harper’s attack ads so thoroughly shredded the country was unable to see that this man, while lacking charisma and a slick, articulate style in English, has the smarts and love of this country to lead us through uncertain waters.

Dion has acknowledged he will not continue to lead the Liberals, but he will be the Prime Minister under this Coalition until the Liberals hold their leadership convention in June. By accepting the leadership role in this Coalition government, he obviously fully understands this is not the way he ever wanted to become Prime Minister. He knows he took a serious drubbing and he is not the leader Canadians wanted in the last election. The Liberal party itself is allowing Dion to stand as leader because the leadership candidates don’t want a rushed selection, nor a leadership candidate with a leg up heading into a leadership convention. Dion and the Liberals know Dion is going nowhere as leader and that is why he will stand for now in what is clearly a rather thankless position.

There are those who accuse the Coalition of political opportunism and putting their quest for power first above the good of the country, and at first blush, it’s an easy position to take. To them, I say this: Who would you like to lead Canada? A man with his head so deeply buried in the sand that he misjudges the needs of Canadians and Canada or a group of committed public servants willing to put their partisan policies aside and work together in a coalition to run this great country the way it should be and not according to policies based too deeply in neo-conservative ideologies?

Watch for Harper’s own party to become angrier and most mutinous by the day as they realize his mean-spirited bully tactics have amounted to throwing the whole Conservative government under a bus.

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Taking a page from George Bush’s Chicken Little public warning strategy, this week Stephen Harper portrayed his Conservative Party as the only reliable, safe, responsible choice to lead Canada through the current economic crisis. This is not true and a growing grassroots uprising of concerned Canadians is fighting against the national media monopoly to make you aware of how to make your vote count as one for anyone but Harper.

Award-winning journalist, economist and outspoken critic of globalization Naomi Klein weighed in on the Canadian election at a recent lecture given at the University of Regina and called for a coalition of Canada’s left-centre parties to thwart a re-election of Harper’s Conservative Party. As the author of the highly prescient 2007 book, “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”, based on the premise that political leaders exploit moments of crisis to further their power and amend rules in favour of corporate capitalism, Klein sees the same tactics used by George Bush employed by Stephen Harper. Here’s how Klein expressed it:

In Canada, Stephen Harper fits the archetype of the father-figure type leader who steps in during crises and reassures the population that all will be well as long as he is given more power, she said.

“I think we need to be extremely wary of how a new Harper government would fit in as this (U.S.) crisis migrates to Canada.”

“It’s an important time for 800 people to gather,” she said, referring to the overflowing hall. “We can fall apart and look to leaders to save us, or we can rise to the occasion. We can regress or we can grow up – and it’s time to grow the hell up.”

Why should you, as an average Canadian, fight to save Canada?

First, let’s review Harper’s record. What Harper, a trained economist, fails to mention is that his Conservative government lead Canada into the current recession – Canada’s only period of negative growth in recent memory – largely due to his decision to cut the Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 7% to 6% on July 1, 2006, and then further down to 5% on January 1, 2008. This was an election promise Harper kept, in stark contrast to promises to refrain from taxing Income Trusts and to increase child care options for Canadian parents. He also overturned promises previous governments have made to Canadians, such as reneging on the Kelowna Accord for our First Nations citizens, cutting Federal funding to the arts and proposing film censorship law in the form of Bill C-10.

Harper continually speaks of electing a leader you can trust, but clearly, his flip flops and broken promises aren’t to be viewed as indications of his dishonesty, only his father-knows-best desire to do what’s needed for Canada. Canadians must see through this for the good of Canada. He portrays the other leaders – Liberal Stephane Dion, Bloc Gilles Duceppe, Green Party Elizabeth May and New Democrat Jack Layton as not to be trusted, but no one has screwed up and screwed over our country like Harper has. There have been rumblings of a Green/Liberal alliance, but nothing concrete – we must call on these leaders to put their own ambitions aside for the good of the country and encourage voters to think strategically.

On the world stage, Harper and his staff have continually exhibited decidedly un-Canadian positions, voting against a United Nations declaration supporting Aboriginal rights, failing to participate in the now-defunct Kyoto Accord and helping George Bush scuttle the environment agenda at the 2008 G8 Summit in Japan.

Closer to home, Harper Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Bernier committed a national security breach of epic proportions by leaving a classified document at his former biker-chick’s apartment – a relationship Harper knew of and did not think was a problem – for several months before anyone know it was missing.

Health Minister Tony Clement seems to be constantly asleep at the switch, stumbling his way through the Walkerton water tragedy, the listeriosis outbreak, and Canada’s position on INSITE, Vancouver’s safe injection site, as it relates to controlling the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Harper has long appealed to the segment of the Canadian population seduced by promises of tax cuts and cash incentives and ignorant of Canada’s environmental responsibilities and poor record in the eyes of the world. His policies appeal to those less interested in responsibility and more interested in entitlement.

By voting strategically, you can help to ensure the left-centre vote is not split. There are numerous groups working to help you vote to beat Conservatives in every close riding in the country that isn’t a Conservative lock to thwart a Conservative majority. Many of them explain it better that I could, so I urge you to check them out.

Avaaz.org campaign

Facebook page: Canadians United Against Stephen Harper

www.voteforenvironment.ca

Vote Pair

Anyone But Harper

The Wrecking Ball

Department of Culture