Friday, May 06, 2005

Meanwhile back on the ranch...

What was that I wrote yesterday about a total mess of our democracy? Looks like the beat goes on...

Pundits, especially rank amateurs like me, have an extreme tendency to express personal dislike, bordering on hatred for those politicians with whom they disagree. I really can't understand this. Frankly, I wouldn't at all mind inviting Bill Graham, Ralph Goodale, Irwin Cotler, or Stephane Dion to dinner. I wouldn't vote for them but I can appreciate how they are all intelligent, well-meaning types who seem genuinely interested in serving their constituents. I must say though that Tony Valeri--or whoever is pulling his strings--is undoubtedly the greatest unrepentant, clownish jackass Parliament Hill has seen in a long time. First, he was responsible for the lunatic idea of proroguing Parliament until after Gomery, then for cancelling opposition days, and now he has declared that only the government will decide which confidence votes count.

The setup for this declaration is in itself ridiculous. Harper introduced an amendment to a report, which I'll be the first to admit seemed to me like a rather arcane route for a confidence motion but without opposition days or budget votes he really had no other option. Valeri objected to the amendment, in writing, on a variety of grounds with obvious effort and consideration. His objection was not a general "Mr. Speaker this motion is out of order" it was obvious that he considered the motion important and worth fighting. Peter Miliken, the Speaker of the House, and a Liberal MP, ruled Harper's motion in order. Now, Valeri is announcing that he and the PM will disrepect Parliament and the authority of the Speaker by ignoring this confidence vote should they lose.

It isn't quite time to start applying for a license (this is still Canada, after all) to set up a booth selling blue scarves to protestors on Parliament Hill. I admit that there is a good (say 50%) chance that the government will win this vote. And a decent chance (say another 50%, so 25% of the total) that should they lose Martin will realise the lunacy of ignoring Parliament and will do the right thing and call an election. Another quarter of the time we will have a constitutional perfect storm. The House will have voted its lack of confidence in the government and the PM will still try to cling to power. Duceppe says he will then have to talk to the GG, Harper says he would consider doing the same and she would be forced into deciding whether or not to call an election. Oh yeah, and if that isn't enough Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and the HRH The Duke of Edinburgh will be here on a royal visit. Early in April when talk of a spring election began some speculated that it would be uncomfortable for Her Majesty to be in Canada during an election campaign. Well how would she feel about a constitutional crisis? I assume that the royal visit will have to be cancelled soon if at all.

Speaking of constitutional perfect storms: Would the royal presence supercede the authority of the Governor-General in respect to calling an election? Could Harper or Duceppe appeal to Her Majesty if the GG denies their request for an election?

This issue has not come to a head yet, and it won't unless the government loses this vote on May 18. I willingly admit that we are still more likely than not to avoid a showdown but if it happens this will be the perfect opportunity for the monarchy and its faithful representative to prove their importance to the Canadian democracy.

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