What the hell is happening in Canada?
I was fortunate to have an excellent conversation with a few friends. The insight below might get you up to speed. Thanks for this Fardad and Greg!
for those of you who are interested...
1) canada's political system is a parliamentary democracy. this means you vote for your member of parliament to represent you in government (house of commons). your mp's job is to support or oppose the governing party. it is also your mp's job to choose the leader of their party (who ends up being either the PM or the leader of the opposition).
2) the government only functions if it has the support of the house (support of the majority of the members of parliament...ie. support of the majority of canadians).
3) if the government loses the support of the house (loss of confidence), then the government gets defeated and must step down. this is an extremely important and normal part of parliamentary systems.
4) the government can be defeated on major legislative issues or on major political statements (throne speech, economic statement or budget).
5) the conservatives had a very positive throne speech and the opposition parties supported the formation of the new government. the govt stated in their throne speech that they realized that canadians voted for a 'minority' govt because they wanted the parties to work together.
6) during the economic statement, the conservatives threw out a bunch of policies that the majority of the house could not support. in addition to the points greg outlined (*see below), there was another issue...pay equity for women. this issue is rarely mentioned. everyone talks about party financing and 'economic stimulus', but pay equity and right to strike are equally, if not, as important.
7) the opposition parties want to have a confidence vote on the economic statement and bring down the government. the constitution states that a vote of non-confidence is followed by an election, unless, the opposition can form a government. btw, it is the governor general's job to call the election and to discuss the issue of forming a new government with the opposition.
8) since the liberals and the ndp do not have adequate seats to form a government (they have less seats than the conservatives), they have had to request that the bloc support them with a promise that they will not oppose them in forming a government and will support them in any confidence motions. they also requested that the bloc keep 'separation' off the table for at least 18months.
9) the conservatives have started a major PR battle to demonize this 'coalition' and in turn have demonized the bloc and quebecers and are now playing regional politics (majority of atlantic canadian, quebecers and small 'l' liberal canadians support the coalition, westerners and conservatives are against the coalition). the conservatives are misinforming canaidans that this process is 'undemocratic' eventhough this is actually how things are supposed to function in a parliamentary democracy.
10) the conservatives, in order to delay the non-confidence vote, and prevent their government from defeat, have asked the governor general to 'prorogue' parliament (stop/delay parliament). prorogation is intended to be used when the governing party needs more time or a delay to work on policies or legislation. prorogation was never intended to be used to defer non-confidence votes since it effectively allows the government to 'hide' from the opposition. remember, it is the opposition's job to keep the ruling govt in check.
11) prorogation is granted by the GG. however, constitutional convention dictates that the GG needs to take the PM's advice in allowing the govt to prorogue parliament.
12) the GG has allowed the conservatives a prorogation of government...which essentially now sets precedence to allow any government that faces a non-confidence vote to do the same. this is a major attack on canadian democracry. it effectively allows a government to escape accountability to the house (the people).
Stephen Harper started this whole mess...he should have step down as a leader and there should be an election. the unfortunate thing is that most canadians are very misinformed about what's happening and nobody likes the leader of the opposition or the fact that the bloc is part of the support. most also don't like the fact that the opposition is in shambles and that the coalition is very unstable. it's a big, big mess...and believe me, it's going to be a very divisive issue for a long time to come (albertans vs central canadians and quebecers, conservatives vs liberals and ndp'ers).
the worst part about this is that stephen harper was irresponsible and is ruining canadian parliamentary democracy and at the end he will end up being in power and the conservative govt will benefit the most. just wait until they start to take away the right to abortion and the right to marry who you want to marry. it's all coming to a theatre near you.
Three main points but likely more that Harper did that managed to aggravate all three opposition parties at once:
Firstly, a general observation, he is running his minority government as if he has a majority ie. trying to pass measures that clearly are in the best interests of strengthening his own power and at the expense of the other parties and not good for all Canadians:
1) He tried to pass legislature that would prohibit the use of public funding for federal parties. Huge advantage for the Tories because the need public funding the least and depend largely on corporate funding. But this would almost decimate the opposition parties thereby abolishing the competition and rending Canadian democracy useless. Not a great way to make friends one week after an election especially when a minority needs consent from another opposition party to pass legislature.
2) He also proposed a measure that would make the right to strike illegal in some labour driven service sectors. Not a very middle of the road value.
3) He proposed NO STIMULUS PACKAGE at all in view of the economic downturn, almost the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with the economy for Canadians.