Friday, December 05, 2008


Babble on.

When it comes to this parliamentary mess we're in, everyone needs to stop throwing around the phrase "anti-democratic," like it's a clearly defined term that we can all agree upon. We can't.

The coalition parties are playing by the rules - they're working within the parliamentary system to bring a non-confidence vote to the floor of the House of Commons, defeat the government, and provide the Crown with an alternative government that could command the confidence of the House without resorting to another election.

So, as far as it goes, this article is substantively correct.

My problem is that it doesn't go far enough. Specifically, it doesn't address the fact that Harper's move is also playing by the rules. Until his government is defeated on the floor of the House of Commons, he's PM. And as PM, he gets to advise the GG. And his advice to the GG was to prorogue Parliament for a number of weeks. All within the rules.

One of the hallmarks of our democracy is that we play within the rules. Everyone's doing that, although no one wants to admit the other side is too. None of it is "anti-democratic" in the context of how our political system actually works.

Whether or not any of it should be off limits in our democracy is a different matter entirely. Our system of government doesn't match up with our democratic expectations - as I discovered during the Emerson affair. It was set up in a far different time, in a far different societal context, and it hasn't really evolved much over the decades. Maybe it should - maybe it will, now that many of us have seen its flaws exposed by politicians of all stripes pushing the rules to serve their own agendas.

Of course, maybe it will all just blow over as well. I know I'm a lot more sanguine about things this time around, since it's my side that seems to be making out best in all of this ("Yay! We're cream of the crap!"), than I was last time we went through a government not wanting to recognize they'd lost the confidence of the House.

What? You don't remember that? It was only three and a half years ago, people, with many of the same cast of rogues, but with some of the roles reversed. Here's what I had to say at the time:

I think the Liberals are being duplicitous here - surprise, surprise. The votes so far may not have technically been confidence votes, but anyone who's been watching this knows Martin doesn't have the confidence of the House. In a Westminster parliamentary system, tradition plays a big part - there's all sorts of gray areas because a lot of the rules aren't written down, they're just kind of followed by feel. A specific confidence motion is just a way of measuring that feel. But in this case, the government is really pushing the limits, both in terms of time, and in terms of what they will recognize as a confidence vote, and what they won't. And with the gray areas in our system, they can do that.

I think the idiots should have resigned last week when they lost the first vote. The wording may not have been the best, but a committee vote was all the opposition was left with, since the Liberals decided to push back opposition days. The intent was clear - anyone watching the news or reading a paper would have known that. Martin should have either resigned or scheduled an explicit confidence motion immediately. The fact that he didn't shows just what a weasel he really is. There's zero respect for parliamentary tradition - for anything other than staying in power right now. I hope nobody forgets all the tricks Martin pulled to postpone the inevitable as long as he possibly could. I hope they remember it when the candidates start knocking on doors and talking about the 'democratic deficit'. This guy has given up any credibility he might have had.

And if you'll remember, Martin then seduced Belinda Stronach to bail him out. If you'll recall, I talked at that time about the precedent that set, and how it would come back to bite all involved in the ass.

Welcome to the next level of the slippery slope down, folks.

"Anti-democratic?" Things have been getting more and more anti-democratic in Canadian politics for years now, and you and I don't have enough fingers on both hands to point at all those in every single political party who bear some responsibility for that state of affairs.

A pox on them all.

Babble off.


At 12:39 p.m., Blogger RavenTraveller said...

While you and the constitutional experts are technically correct, it is also true that the evolution of our system now sees many if not most people voting for the party and PM rather than the MP or at least with the full knowledge that a victory of that MP's party will result in government and a particular PM. So while the coalition may be constitutional it is still counter to the expectations we have of how our democracy should work. If I understand their system correctly, to my mind this would be similar to the US electoral college not voting based on how their states had intended. Legal but hardly acceptable.

At 1:01 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

And that's one of the points I'm making Raven Traveller: our system hasn't kept pace with our expectations of democracy.


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