The Fight for Canada: Minority Rule Broken

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The Fight for Canada: Minority Rule Broken
by C. L. Cook
Stephen Harper's Conservative government fell yesterday, victim of a Non-Confidence vote in the Canadian Parliament. As per decorum, Harper visited the Governor-General this morning, who granted his request to dissolve Parliament. Harper then announced a May 2, 2011 poll for federal elections to the House of Parliament.

The minority government had survived five years in power, hanging on through unprecedented, and highly questionable, use of Parliamentary process to twice prorogue, (ending the session, thus shutting down debate) when first an elections financing scandal emerged, then again in the following year, when an inquiry into how much and which Canadian officials knew of torture being routinely practiced on Afghani prisoners Canadian Forces turned over to allies after capture. Turning over prisoners in that circumstance is a crime under both domestic Canadian law, and under international agreements the country is a signator to.

The Harper government has been prepared for the writ to be dropped for months now, and planned to use its recently released 2011 budget as the tool to bludgeon the Canadian electorate with economic bafflegab, the former prime minister's forte, but he was outmanoeuvred by Liberal party leader, Michael Ignattieff, who tabled the confidence motion in the House Friday invoking instead a Parliamentary committee's censuring of the Conservative government for "contempt of Parliament."

Stephen Chase, writing for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, quotes the Parliamentary Budget Office's Parliamentary budget watchdog, Kevin Page saying before the Non-confidence call;

“There remain significant gaps between the information requested by parliamentarians and the documentation that was provided by the [government], which will limit the ability of parliamentarians to fulfill their fiduciary obligations.”

The contempt finding is another in a long line of precedent-setting occurring during Mr. Harper's tumultuous time as first minister, and to accentuate the occasion, the Tories were cited with not just one, but three counts of contempt for Canada's preeminent institution of governance. An outstanding fourth charge will be preempted by the election.

But, none of this has apparently registered with Mr. Harper, who Gaddafi-like insists he is beset by a "coalition of conspirators," who are not revolting against his government's arrogant hubris, and disregard for the law of the land, but instead are intent on attacking his budget.
While it's true, the budget is full of holes his government contemptuously refused to fill before going to the House with it, it is really all about his autocratic tendencies. It's a point not playing prominent in the largely pro-Conservative Canadian media, but the fact is; Harper is about as popular as herpes in Canada, where even those who vote for him do so with the sad and resigned  acknowledgment of the hopelessly afflicted, suffering another of Canada's increasingly frequent poxy political outbreaks.

Sure, roughly 60% of them will trudge again to the polls, their numbers not diminished, as Harper contends, by a preternatural distaste for democratic participation, but because they are confident another minority government, regardless of its stripe, will not defend the values that differentiate the nation from the behemoth next door.
There are big problems, and bigger worries in Canada about a range of issues continually ignored, or back-burnered by Ottawa's ruling claque.

Health care, for example, once the proverbial "third rail" of Canadian politics manages now only a mention from the perennial political outrider New Democrats.

All parties voted quickly and quietly in favour of another war for the country, this time in Libya, while none call convincingly for an end to the country's decade-long money weeping entanglement in Afghanistan.

NDP leader Jack Layton did include a proviso for his party's unqualified support of another run and gun mission on the other side of the world, ironically demanding;

"It's essential to draw a lesson from the war in Afghanistan and give parliamentarians a surveillance and oversight role."

What lessons we've drawn from Afghanistan are hard to measure, and no-one that I can see is bothering to do so anyway. As for surveillance and oversight, a Canadian general schooled in, and deployed from his hitch with the  America military, (as was the case for Canadian leadership in Afghanistan) seems as close to oversight of these endless "operations" Canada is ever likely to get.

Canada has been allowed to become an international environment pariah under Harper's tenure, though none oppose meaningfully the proposed five-fold expansion of the poisonous tar sands developments in the North, or its concomitant pipelines, planned to snake their way over hill and dale through uncounted streams and watersheds across British Columbia and beyond.
Nor do the people's representatives, save the NDP's Fin Donnelly, rave in the House about the dangers posed by the inevitable parades of oil tankers that will greet processed bitumen at the end of the high fjords of the coast, then make their way gingerly through the pristine and perilous Pacific treasure, risking disaster with every passage, playing Russian Roulette with B.C.'s singular ecosystems; all to deliver energy to Asia.

No wonder they stay home; watching reruns of the Beachcombers and dreaming of better days, no doubt.    

Regardless, Canada is granted yet another opportunity, the third in Mr. Harper's hapless five years stay in Sussex Drive, to be rid of his particularly Republican brand of Parliamentary leadership. And, though Ignatieff was forced by Tory media shills to make statements denying a possible post-election coalition amongst the parties responsible for bringing down this government to form the next, what's clear to me is: Harper possesses no grounds for optimism of future influence.
Should another minority government take hold here, it will be a Liberal one, or a coalition of partners willing to hold their noses and work together rather than allowing a return of the Tory king.
Stephen Harper has seen his last days in power, and for that Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to Messr's Layton, Ignatieff, and Duceppe.

Happy voting, Canada!

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