There have been red flags galore throughout this election campaign. From Bruce Carson, to "big boss" Dimitri Soudas, to fake lakes and gazebos which were required for "border security" in Tony Cement's riding -- there has been ample evidence of what Stephen Harper used to decry. But Harper himself raised the biggest flag of all last week when he questioned the opposition's right to form a government.
But asked whether the opposition parties would have the “right” to form government, Harper said “that’s a question, a debate of constitutional law.
“My view is that the people of Canada expect the party that wins the election to govern the country ... anything else, the public will not buy,” he told Peter Mansbridge.
Harper also said that if his party comes in second in the election, he would not form a government — even if asked by the governor general in the event the front-runner failed to win the confidence of the Commons.
“If the other guys win, they get a shot at government and I don’t think you challenge that unless you are prepared to go back to the people,” he said.
“We’ll be into another election before too long. That’s why I think I need a majority mandate. I think this has gone on long enough.”
Parliamentary expert Ned Franks dismissed Harper’s comments as “constitutional nonsense.”
“There’s only one requirement for being the government and that is you must enjoy the confidence of the House of Commons,” said Franks, professor emeritus at Queen’s University.
“It’s not a constitutional debate. Constitutionally, there’s absolutely no question. There are ample precedents both in Canada and abroad to support it.”
Franks accused the Conservative leader of trying to rewrite the Constitution for his own end.
“He’s trying to change not just the Constitution in terms of what confidence means, he’s also trying to change it in terms of how governments are formed,” Franks said.
So we could face a constitutional crisis when the House returns. Or we could face one later. William Johnson in The Globe and Mail reminded English Canada that nationalism's winds are blowing again in Quebec.
Pauline Maurois, who is likely to displace the Liberals and form the next Quebec government within two years, emerged triumphant from the weekend convention of the Parti Québécois with a confidence vote of 93 per cent, the highest in the party’s history. She promptly announced that a PQ government, as soon as it was elected, would enact a program of gouvernance souverainiste – that is, would occupy various jurisdictions now exercised by the federal government.
One of the reasons the Liberals are doing so poorly in Quebec is because the provincial party -- under Jean Charest for three mandates -- have tarnished the brand. And, when Quebecers wish to change governments, they only have one option.. Some might argue that Mr. Harper would simply let Quebec go. But it has never been that simple -- not when Quebec is in the middle of the country. Moreover, if Mr. Harper deals with Quebec's demands in the same way he has and intends to deal with the opposition parties, the country is in deep trouble.
Irresistible force meet immovable object. Add to that Mr. Harper's demonization of the Bloc Quebecois for his own ends. Any Prime Minister who claims -- as Mr. Harper has -- that his government has rendered Quebec separatism irrelevant is a fool. The question before us is, "How many Canadians wish to march in a Fool's Parade?"