Prime minister versus Parliament: Democracy demands Conservative defeat

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The first responsibility of a prime minister is to uphold the Canadian constitution. As prime minister, Stephen Harper broke the most solemn undertaking a government makes under the constitution: its obligation to present its spending plans to parliament.

As a result of refusing to reveal the cost of the F-35 fighter jets, or the "tough on crime" legislation, the Harper Conservatives were found in contempt of parliament. When by a vote of 156 to 145 his government lost the confidence of parliament, the Governor-General acceded to the request of the outgoing prime minister and called the May 2 election.

In the event the Harper government fails to achieve a majority, but wins the most seats, the opposition members of parliament must join together, and vote to bring down his government at the earliest occasion. A prime minister who refuses to inform the population, through their elected representatives, of how he plans to spend public money, is not fit to govern Canada. No citizen can begrudge a member of parliament for voting out a government that is default of its mandate to protect the constitution. When the public discovers the extent to which the government has been deceiving the population it will applaud the leader of the opposition, and his coalition partners.

Throughout the election campaign, the prime minister has repeatedly misled the public about how governments are chosen under the constitution. He told Canadians in the English language debates "the party that finishes first forms the government. If we don't do that we will have the third and fourth party decide who governs this country, that's not how democracy should work."

In 2004 as leader of the opposition, Harper asked the Bloc and the NDP (the very third and fourth parties he denied on national television had a role in choosing the government) for support, so the Conservatives could form a government, in the event the Liberals were defeated in the House of Commons.

Contrary to what Harper asserted in the debate, the constitutional purpose of an election is for Canadians to elect members of parliament. Voters do not choose which party governs, or who becomes prime minister. The 308 elected members of parliament decide who makes up the government. Unless one party has an outright majority, the third and fourth parties in the House of Commons have an important democratic role to play.

As outgoing prime minister, Stephen Harper can choose to meet the House of Commons, if he decides to do so. He must submit his program in the form of a speech from the throne. If parliament approves the speech by a majority vote, he continues to govern so long as he maintains the confidence of the House of Commons. Should the members opposite, outnumber him, they are entitled to vote non confidence in his government. In that event, the Governor-General would call upon the leader of the opposition to form a government, which would seek to gain the confidence of the House of Commons. Should a coalition government made of the NDP and the Liberals fail, another election would be held.

The Harper government has committed Canada to purchase F-35 jet fighters designed to be used to bomb an enemy territory prior to a ground invasion. These planes would not have been chosen to defend Canadian air space, or to undertake search and rescue missions off our coast, or in support of peace-keeping troops, since they are not suited for those missions. Since no one believes Canada should be invading a foreign land, the only purpose that could possibly be served by the jet fighters is to support an invasion by the U.S. Thus, through its purchase of the F-35, the Harper government is tying Canada to a national security policy decided in the U.S. for its own ends, and relinquishing the Canadian constitutional authority over military policy to a foreign power.

The prime minister has signed secret agreements on border security with the United States, and refused to say what constitutional powers have been ceded by these intergovernmental agreements.

When it reconvenes the Auditor-General will report to parliament that the inflated G8/G20 security budget was used for pork barrel projects in Conservative ridings that had nothing to do with security.

The failure to defend the Canadian constitution, the unwillingness to reveal secret commitments to support U.S. military policy, the mis-appropriation of public funds for partisan purposes, each on its own provides a good reason to unseat the government. Unless the Harper government receives a majority vote, democracy demands it must be defeated in the House of Commons following the election.

Duncan Cameron is the president of rabble.ca.

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