Canadian politics, Conservatives

Here’s the thing…

The central argument, if you can call it that, coming from Stephen Harper this week is that somehow the formation of a coalition government is undemocratic. To whit, from his speech on December 3:

The Opposition is attempting to impose this deal without your say, without your consent, and without your vote.

I should have put the word “argument” above in quotes, as this is decidedly not an argument, it’s an ad slogan designed to rile up those that are uneducated in parliamentary procedures. It could be viewed as an “argument” if our government was an American-style Republic, as Jim Brown notes here, but our government doesn’t work that way:

“It’s politics, it’s pure rhetoric,” said Ned Franks, a retired Queen’s University expert on parliamentary affairs. “Everything that’s been happening is both legal and constitutional.”

Other scholars are virtually unanimous in their agreement. They say Harper’s populist theory of democracy is more suited to a U.S.-style presidential system, in which voters cast ballots directly for a national leader, than it is to Canadian parliamentary democracy.

“He’s appealing to people who learned their civics from American television,” said Henry Jacek, a political scientist at McMaster University.

The fact that I’ve had this discussion about two dozen times in the past few days leads me to believe that there is a fundamental misunderstanding about how our electoral process works. To start with, the 48% of you in October that could have voted but didn’t – fuck off and shut your cakehole. You have no right to raise your voice in alarm now, you had your chance and chose to sit on your hands. Those who did manage the chore of going all the way to the voting station will note that on the ballot you found a list of candidates for a position called Member of Parliament, of which you could only legitimately choose one. Nowhere on the ballot could you choose the governing party or the Prime Minister, those are chosen by the House of Commons. Whether the party chosen to lead the country is the party with the most seats or a coalition of parties with the most seats is neither here nor there – either result is possible, and the decision is not made by you, but by the House of Commons.

I have had more than one person tell me in the past few days that they are alarmed at the thought that their vote is somehow being nullified by this process – it is not. Your vote was for the Member of Parliament, and that person is still the Member of Parliament. That Member of Parliament who is right now representing you with his or her vote on a whole range of topics in Parliament, not the least of which will be the confidence motion that eventually will occur in January. Your vote counted, and still counts, through that person whom you helped choose to represent you.

That I’ve even had to explain this to people that didn’t vote for the Conservatives proves to me that it’s not all just sour grapes from Conservatives who see their government slipping away. Perhaps we should maybe make more of a point of teaching civics in high school.

You should know this shit, people. Your country depends on it.

(h/t)

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5 thoughts on “Here’s the thing…

  1. Well done, Kevvy. A good description of the matters at hand, I would say, which is what’s lacking in Canadian media coverage of this debacle. I’m surprised at how much better the papers in the U.S. are able to describe Canadian parliamentary procedure. Another in a long line of frustrations I have with Canadian media.
    Probably an indictment of our education system, as well – that’s where the crucial information that should lead to citizen engagement with the political process should be coming from, but it obviously isn’t.

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  2. No problem, Flash. Surprisely, the best description I’ve seen of this whole mess has been on a knitting blog:

    http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2008/12/03/what_is_happening_in_canada.html

    They also bring up a point that further expands on Kevvy’s civic lesson, namely that for all the rhetoric that Haper and the Conservatives are flinging about ‘separatists’ – the fact remains that, while I may disagree with the Bloc as a whole, THEY ARE LEGALLY ELECTED MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT and have just as much right to take part in the political process as any other member.

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  3. You what is the most bothersome of this whole thing? Ignorant people who refuse to change their opinion, or at the very least consider an opinion different than their own, even when confronted with facts. The self entitlement of ignorance in this country is infuriating. This is the reason we have Harper as PM. It’s exactly what the troglodytes deserve. As if the conservative right has the best interest of the working Canadian at heart! But oh no, not the French – we wouldn’t want what they have, personal transfers and enlightenment up the yingyang, they want to destroy us.
    I am going to SWEDEN.

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