Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Russell's Nightmare

Canada changed last night. It was a change which voters made consciously and deliberately. In doing so, they ignored the warning of one of Canada's best known constitutional scholars. A week before the election, Peter Russell appeared in what will become a seminal video. "This is the most important federal election in my lifetime," he declared:

What is at stake is nothing less than parliamentary democracy. If the electorate rewards Mr. Harper with a majority, it will mean that he will be able to operate as a presidential prime minister without the check and balance of Congress. It will also mean that two out of five Canadians think very little of the need to hold government accountable to Parliament. Mr. Harper has reduced parliamentary debate to "bickering" and the role of parliament in the formation of government to irrelevant constitutional stuff. I hope and pray that the parties of parliamentarians win a majority next Monday.

Russell warned Canadians that Stephen Harper has absolutely no respect for Canada's constitutional conventions. Retiring Speaker of the House Peter Milliken made the same point when he found the Harper government in contempt of Parliament.

A significant number of Canadians have forgotten that it was respect for those conventions which helped us through some of our most trying times. When Quebec separatists chose the Algerian terrorist model as the way to independence, Rene Levesque moved the cause from planting bombs in mailboxes to seeking legitimacy through ballot boxes. When he lost the 1980 Quebec Referendum, it was Levesque's respect for those conventions which was behind his pledge, "A la prochaine!"

And the next time, when Quebecers voted again on Quebec Independence -- and lost the vote by one half of one percentage point -- they returned to their homes, secure in the knowledge that they still had a voice in the House of Commons through Gilles Duceppe. Respect for those conventions allowed for a party dedicated to the breakup of the country -- a party which, for awhile, served as the Loyal Opposition. It was those conventions which have allowed Canadians, despite their differences, to talk through their problems.

Last night Canadians elected a man who does not talk to his opponents. He demonizes them. He demonized the Bloc Quebecois in 2008, when his decision to cancel vote subsidies -- a decision he made without consulting his caucus -- almost cost him his government. He belittled Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, a man whose international reputation will survive, even in defeat.

Canadians now have the government they deserve. Only a little more than 61% of us cast our ballots -- a result foreshadowed in an earlier Angus Reid Poll. I suspect that -- like voters in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan -- it won't be long until voter remorse sets in. But the nightmare has just begun.

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.


Zero said...

Sometimes it's wise not to take a loss too seriously.

Do you remember the popularity polls taken in George "the Baby" Bush's last term? His popularity dropped to 40%, then to 30%, and finally to a little below 30% where it remained no matter how badly he screwed up thereafter. Sometimes I wondered if the dead were being polled.

And speaking of the dead, it may be a good thing that the 40% of Canadians who didn't vote didn't bother. Given their apparent level of energy, we might have had a one-party parliament.

A little more seriously, following his win yesterday, Mr. Harper promised he wouldn't attempt to introduce radical measures now that he has his majority. We'll soon know if this time he's as good as his word.

One can always hope.

Keep up the good work.

Owen Gray said...

I understand, Zero, that my reaction to last night's results may appear to be extreme.

What bothers me is that Mr. Harper is a known quantity. When I used to work in Human Resources, our prime directive was "the best predictor of future performance is past performance."

Apparently, the 24% of eligible voters who gave Mr. Harper his majority have not been very bothered by his past performance.

Anonymous said...

Canadians were just not paying attention, to Harper's agenda. It was said, over 60% of Canadians, did not want Harper as P.M. Yet he won anyway???

Harper gives, banks, mine, large corporations, gas and oil company's billions of our tax dollars. There was a motion passed in the Federal House, do do just that.

Jack Layton capitulated to Harper's demand, to give these greedy corporations, another tax reduction. This will come off Canadians paychecks. Layton will do as Harper dictates. Never should have Layton agreed, to that abomination. That is not protecting Canadians from, Harper's tyranny.

If we thought Harper was a dictator with a minority. With a majority, he will give Canada to the huge company's he works for.

There will be black days ahead for the, every day Canadians citizens.

Owen Gray said...

One of the reasons Harper has his majority is because he has successfully convinced 40% of Canadians not to vote.

Low voter turn out works in his favour. The New Right here and in the United States has worked very hard to keep people away from the polls.

Colette Amelia said...

oh poo. I am so very disheartened.

I guess for people who are older than 45 the damage that he will do will fall more to the young than us...and will be up to them to correct.

But I don't think it will be very nice no matter how old you are.

may he wear out his welcome with one majority and crash and burn.

Owen Gray said...

We will be attending our second son's convocation in the beginning of June. He will be receiving his Master's degree in English.

Unfortunately, there is no great cry for his skill set these days. So he's waiting tables for fifty hours a week at two restaurants; and he has just completed a course as a personal trainer.

Mr. Harper touted the jobs he created last month. Most were part time and 11,000 full time jobs were lost.

Sometimes I picture Stephen Harper -- with his Master's degree -- waiting tables at Denny's. It's now up to the next generation to give Stephen Harper his pink slip.

thwap said...

Thanks for writing this. There used to be lines that weren't crossed in Canadian politics, but we crossed them and now we've vindicated them. (Well, electorally anyway, ... torture and contempt can't really be vindicated.)

You sound like a decent guy whose managed to keep his head.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the comment, thwap. I have always thought that most Canadians are decent folks. That's why I'm bewildered that they have put someone in office who is so obviously not a decent guy.

My analysis doesn't go very deep. It has something to do with fear. Harper is very good when it comes to scaring decent folks.

The other part of the analysis has to do with apathy. The Prime Minister also knows how to water that sorry plant.