Canadians have a once in a lifetime opportunity to protect democracy, to assert that the will of the majority means something.
We have from now until December 8 to make it clear that the majority of Canadians want Mr. Harper to leave 24 Sussex Drive.
We may need to make the case to the Governor General that Mr. Harper must not be allowed to cling to power by prorogation. He delayed the confidence motions by one week until December 8 in order to throw all the Conservative fire power – back-tracking, attack ads, illegal tape recording of phone calls, spinning on steroids – at forcing the opposition parties to blink. If it doesn’t work, he is threatening to shut down the House to buy more time. He may seek to dissolve the House (prorogation).
Why must Mr. Harper go?
The first and obvious breaking point is that he has “lost the confidence of the House.” This somewhat quaint archaic notion is critical to the functioning of Parliament, especially in a minority. Only 37.6 per cent of the voters chose this government. With that level of support and a minority of seats, but with the largest caucus in the House, the Conservatives get a shot at a minority government.
To make it work, a prime minister in a minority must consult with the opposition party leaders and try to develop a consensus. The minority government needs the confidence of the House to govern. That’s how our democracy works.
Mr. Harper forgot this. He totally ignored the commitments he made at the APEC Summit in Peru. There he dropped his election posturing that deficits were “dangerous” and described them as “essential.” There he spoke of Canada joining the approach taken by other industrialized governments to stimulate the economy through a package of investments.
Instead, as we all know, his economic statement, hyped by the Conservatives as a response to the global financial crisis, was more about trying to press post-election financial superiority to crush opposition parties.
The fiscal update was not a response to the needs of Canada’s economy. In fact, in their thinly disguised effort to dress up blatant partisanship as an economic measure, they had to make the key message one of belt-tightening austerity. This seriously backfired. Even their friends in the Conservative-friendly media criticized Harper’s message as worsening the threat of deflation.
Since last Thursday’s statement, Harper has experienced something new. For the last two and a half years, his bully tactics have been unchallenged as a fractured opposition caved in to his threats. But suddenly there was steel in the backbones of the opposition parties.
Mr. Harper is now desperate. He is not just desperate to remain Prime Minister. For the first time he is facing serious anger from his backers. His ability to stay on as leader of the Alliance Conservative Republican Party of Canada is now at risk.
We have a very short amount of time to mobilize everyone who voted Green, NDP, Liberal and Bloc. (And the 27,000+ voters in Nova Scotia who elected former Conservative Bill Casey. Now an Independent MP, Casey is voting non-confidence.)
We don’t have much time. The issues are about far more than politics.
Reading the Speech from the Throne, it is clear the Harper government was going to use the economic crisis as cover for an ideological field day, cutting and slashing of the government services and programmes. Environment, arts and culture, programmes for low income Canadians were all on the cutting block. Even in backtracking and promising more, Mr. Flaherty has only pledged to chance the budget date by one week to January 27.
Looking south of the border, we can see the benefits of moving fast to reassure society that economic stimuli are coming. Even before inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama helped quell economic panic by announcing massive investments in renewable energy and infrastructure. He is leaving details for later. Contrast that with a shell shocked Jim Flaherty on the CTV news last night, saying he was not going to announce some “back of the envelope” package.
The latest spin from the PMO is that the determination of the coalition government-in-waiting to bring down his failed government will hurt the economy through economic uncertainty. But, clearly, Harper’s approach is damaging the economy by the day.
Meanwhile, climate negotiations are underway right now in Poland under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The talks will reach their peak by December 10-13. It is my dearest prayer that the negotiating instructions to the Canadian delegation will come from a coalition government of parties that support climate action. We have time, but we do not have much time.
Join the rallies on Thursday. Blog on the mainline media sites. Write to your MP (of whatever party). Sign the petition. Go to defendourdemocracy.ca. And write the Governor General at info[at]gg[dot]ca.
Nearly one million Canadians voted Green. Greens join the call for the emerging coalition. For the sake of Canadian jobs, economy and planetary survival, support the coalition.
Elizabeth May, O.C., is leader of the Green Party of Canada. Thanks to the creative work of Richard MacArthur at Proactive Imaginations for Hire for “We’re better. Off with Harper.”