Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Brawling it Out at the Red Dog Saloon--oops!, the Canadian Parliament

With catcalls and shouting providing a deafening backdrop, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative) battled it out against opposition Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion for the second day running, in a House of Commons brouhaha that could end Harper's second Conservative minorty government.

The occasion: a putsch by leaders of the three opposition parties aiming at voting down Harper's Conservatives and and see the accession of a Liberal, Socialist and Secessionist coalition.

Here's how the story unfolded:

Last week, Harper introduced into his budget plans to cut off state funding to Canada's political parties. The subsidy is the lifeblood for the Liberal, New Democratic and Bloc Québecois parties, and its cut would starve them. All three parties would gang up to outnumber the Conservative votes and vote out the government in a "no-confidence" motion.

The three opposition parties then concocted an agreement between them to form a coalition and ask the nation's Head of State, the Governor General for permission to form the next government.

Alarmed, Harper withdrew the party subsidy cut, but this only encouraged the revolt.
Harper's team is producing advertising to the effect that Canada would be hostage to an unelected government, and one including a party of those wishing to break up Canada and exit Québec.

There are three possible outcomes from the crisis:

One, Harper could allow the no-confidence vote and the opposition coalition, headed by Dion and containing six Socialist cabinet members, could form the next government.

Two, Harper could prorogue (suspend) Parliament and govern without a vote, allowing all heads to cool down.

Third, the Governor General could simply refuse Harper's resignation, keep the Conservatives in power and force the opposition parties to work with the government to create a moderate way out of the crisis.

We'll wait and see. Governor General Michaelle Jean, a pretty ex-broadcaster with a well-spoken voice and manner, is currently in Europe on a tour. She's rushing back to Canada to sort this thing out. Whether she'll be in over her head on this issue remains to be seen .

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