02 December 2008

Ah, but we are amused!

Here I was thinking that it is about time I get out there with my camera to record and then critique the new crop of posters from our Québec election, and then along came intrigue at the federal level!

Aren't these the people we just didn't vote for? Yes, indeed. The party that managed to capture over 46% of the seats with under 38% of the vote and then promised to be more collaborative this time around came out swinging in a most provocative way. This spurred the parties with the rest of the seats (except for that one independent) to cook up a delightful scheme to propose a coalition of themselves (actually of two of them with the external support of the third) to replace the government. Before we swing off into the land of denouncing the illegitimacy of all that, let's note that the two main partners in this coalition got more than 44% of the vote (yet under 37% of the seats). If you add in the third 'silent' partner, you get a total of 54.41% of the vote and 52.92% of the seats.

So how, exactly, is that anything less than democratic?

The government reacted rather quickly to try to remove all of the objectionable elements of its 'economic update' that had caused all the uproar in the first place. Hands off the political party financing, leaving the public employees' rights in place, speeding up the date of a budget…do you think they might have seen the error of their ways?

Not a chance. They are now back on the attack, and their biggest argument seems to be to vilify that 'silent partner' in the coalition, which just happens to have won close to two-thirds of the seats they contested. And I get to hear person on the street interviews from across the country echoing that vilification of our legitimate democratic choice in Québec. You might question the legitimacy of the party as part of your election strategy, but once we have made our choice, you have to respect it. That is the essence of democracy, whether you like it or not.

Now comes the fun stuff.

Several alternatives are in the offing:

1 - Things could go as the coalition partners planned, with a vote of non-confidence in the government and the Governor General asking the official opposition if it can form a government. The government has already managed to delay by a week the vote that should have taken place yesterday.

2 - The Prime Minister could ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament, essentially saying 'Let's start all over again in a couple of months', which is an odd thing for a government that is less than two months old to do. We might still be in the same situation when they come back, unless the government has a change of attitude in the intervening period.

3 - The Governor General could react to either of these situations in a manner other than what those approaching her are asking. (That's where things get truly undemocratic, but we are still stuck with this last vestige of feudalism.) She could dissolve Parliament and order new elections, refuse to prorogue and offer the chance to the opposition to form a government …anything but order them beheaded, since we did away with that some time ago.

What is certain is that I will continue to get a little steamed that it seems acceptable for people out there — including the Prime Minister — to suggest that some electoral choices are more equal than others. My Member of Parliament, who happens to be the leader of the Bloc Québécois, got 50.2% of the vote in his (my) riding. Some of the members of the cabinet who got less than that: Rob Nicholson (Justice), Peter MacKay (Defence), Diane Finley (Human Resources and Skills Development), John Baird (Transport), Lawrence Cannon (Foreign Affairs), Josée Verner (Intergovernmental Affairs), Christian Paradis (Public Works), Leona Aglukkaq (Health), Lisa Raitt (Natural Resources), Gail Shea (Fisheries), and that's without moving into the more junior positions.

The other thing that is certain is that I will find the time this week to get in my post about the Québec election…


Terry P said...

I find this all rather exciting. I even sent a letter to the editor of the Gazette - and they published it on December 3.

Ken Monteith said...

Excellent letter, Terry. I found it at: