Or else what? What are the voters going to do if the parties do not play nice? Each party will blame the other if another election is precipitated. Who are they going to punish and who will they reward. Last time they rewarded Harper for breaking his own election law and for making sure parliamentary committees could not function. If Duceppe had not stopped him in Quebec he would have been rewarded for all his broken promises and ramming policy through the Liberal wimps with a majority no less.
Of course Harper is playing nice now. But at the same time he insists he will push through his program even if there is a minority. There may be some short period when parties collaborate but it is bound not to last. I predict we will see the same supine Liberals who are too broke to fight an election soon and too concerned with leadership issues to mount any real opposition. At most we will have some rhetorical flourishes from Ignatieff and Rae.
Martin speaks of the dysfunctional parliament this election was meant to cure. Doesn't Martin know that it was Harper who claimed the parliament was dysfunctional. Harper was able to push many bills through while the Liberals sat on their hands. Insofar as it was dysfunctional it was Harper's deliberate doing. He had a whole handbook on how to make parliamentary committees dysfunctional.
The most that one can say about Martin's article is that he himself admits his views are dare-to-dream stuff. Martin seems to be taken in by Harper's own posturing. Here is our great Helmsman calling the leaders together again after just going through the motions of consulting them before the election when it was clear he had not intention of not calling an election. What we will have is another snow job but perhaps the other leaders will go along with the game.
Martin may be right that people would like to see the parliament work but the way it will work is that Harper will claim that the people have given him a mandate to pass his program and opposition will be portrayed as being non-cooperative, not nice! But Harper will not need to worry about the Liberals they will play Sitting on Hands Part II.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The voters have spoken: Play nice or else
Don Martin, National Post Published: Wednesday, October 15, 2008
CALGARY -- He's had enough. We all have.
Wearily noting he's been back in politics since 2001 and only been spared a campaign or leadership contest in one of those years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called for a moratorium on writ drops and election-baiting.
So let the next two years pass without even the threat of a confidence vote triggering another trip to the polls. In fact, come to think of it, let's aim for a record-setting four-year olive-branch style of government where everybody plays mostly nice in the parliamentary sandbox instead of constantly kicking sand in each other's faces.
Dream on, right?
But after the nastiest campaign in memory, when slurs, smears and seized-upon gaffes were a daily ritual, the message from apathetically disgusted Canadians was crystal clear: Clean up your act. Make the third consecutive minority work constructively. Or else.
It was a strangely non-combative prime minister who emerged to declare victory yesterday, undoubtedly haunted by the realization his government had all the makings of a majority and he personally blew it with some ill-timed announcements that backfired in Quebec.
He delivered his day-after address in French first, a subtle sign he will not turn his back on a province that turned its back on him when he needed them most.
And if Mr. Harper was tempted to gloat or take advantage of the weakest Official Opposition in history - one reeling from the party's worst electoral showing ever, saddled with debt and about to suffer the loss of about $1.6-million a year in per-vote federal financing - he didn't show it, promising to consult and co-operate with dead-leader-walking Stéphane Dion pending his replacement, probably within six months.
He announced that all party leaders will be summoned to a meeting before the Commons resumes its work next month in an attempt to unblock the dysfunctional Parliament this election was supposed to cure.
And a first minister's meeting on the economy will be held next month, the first official gathering of premiers under Prime Minister Harper.
Perhaps it's dare-to-dream stuff that Mr. Harper's group-hug approach will last or that the parliamentary ritual of baiting, taunting and partisan brinkmanship will go on a prolonged hiatus. Goodwill has a very short lifespan in Canadian politics.
But even Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams was making conciliatory noises to the federal government the day after successfully using his personal clout to vote the Conservatives off his island.
Mr. Harper seems aware that a tweak or two of ideology on arts funding and youth crime likely cost him the majority he wanted in Quebec, where his share of the popular vote dipped and gave his party precisely the same seat count of the 2006 vote.
That's why preliminary agenda items announced yesterday were reasonable non-ideological baby steps that could've been introduced by any party, mostly economic consultations with hints of bank interventions when necessary that won't put billions of taxpayer dollars at risk.
Now let's not get crazy here and think the Prime Minister is suddenly open to any party's schemes and is about to embrace elements of, say, the Liberal's now-dead Green Shift carbon tax scheme. Tory tolerance has its limits.
And note that Mr. Harper didn't go entirely pussycat, vowing to stack the Senate with Conservative pitbulls if that's what it will take to expedite reforms through the chamber of semi-sober second thoughts.
But principled lessons have been learned and the art of compromise apparently embraced.
For example, Mr. Harper announced there would be no more defections or Senate appointments to give cabinet representation to Conservative dead zones. Unlike the 2006 election's aftermath, ministers will have to earn their suites and limos by fighting an election under the Conservative banner.
Only time will tell if Parliament will reinvent itself as place of meaningful legislative progress, but this was an election that humbled every party leader, all falling short of goals or expectations at the dropping of the writ.
Canadians want principled leadership, not somone so doggedly partisan that they refuse to entertain policy input from beyond their party's confines.
If nothing else, this $300-million election should discourage the Conservatives from slapping down bills and daring the other parties to vote them down.
Canadians voted their disgust at the antics of federal politicians by sending the 40th election into the history books as the lowest voter turnout ever.
Perhaps the only cure for an epidemic of opted-out democracy is to ensure Canadians are only subjected to another election when there's an issue or a party worth their vote.
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