Dreadful Coalition

David H. Brett (Tri-City News Online, 2009-10-07) in voicing his support for the Conservatives in the on-going New Westminster — Coquitlam by-election, reeled off a litany of grievances against the NDP. While I’ll leave the NDP to respond as they please, I would like to address the claim that they “…saw their last modicum of credibility slip away with the dreadful coalition.”

The dreadful coalition, indeed. This has become a stock, but tired, wheeze in the Conservative lexicon. They loudly trumpet the coalition as anti-democratic, seditious, even. And we are all urged to be outraged at the very idea that a majority of elected representatives should try to “wrest” government from its minority, but self-proclaimed “rightful,” owners. Talk about feelings of entitlement!

“Canadians elected us to govern!” they claim. But this is quite simply false. Canadians elected 308 Members of Parliament. At no point did we elect a government.

The fact is that in Canada we do not elect our governments. The Prime Minister and every member of Cabinet are all appointed, just like the Senate. In the case of the government, the appointments are based on the Governor General’s expectation that the government thus formed will have the confidence of the House. The confidence of the House is the key and, really, only requirement.

Only so long as Mr. Harper can maintain the confidence of the House has he any claim to remain Prime Minister. The coalition arose because he did not. In the circumstances, a coalition comprised of the two other national parties, and an agreement from the Bloc that they would give such new government at least 18 months to get something done, is a perfectly acceptable and reasonable recourse. This is entirely democratic and correct. It would have, in fact, delivered a far more stable government than we have now.

Mr. Harper’s strident complaints about the coalition were merely self-serving and desperate attempts to cling to the power to which he’d at that time lost any rightful claim. In these circumstances, it was Mr. Harper himself who was the usurper.

By shutting-down Parliament so that the House could not actually meet and explicitly vote their non-confidence, Mr. Harper bought some time. Not bad strategy, but hardly democratic. When Parliament was allowed to resume, the terrain had shifted such that we Liberals again reluctantly gave him our support, on condition. In his smug faithlessness, he’s now (again) lost that support. His government only persists now because of the NDP’s own shot at trying to work with him. Good luck with that.

The inherent dishonesty of these on-going slams at the coalition is further compounded by the fact that Mr. Harper himself, four years earlier, attempted his very own coalition, with the very same NDP, and the very same Bloc. (Apparently it’s proper and democratic to try to supplant a Liberal government in this way, but we hear dark mutterings about sedition or treason if the government is Conservative.)

Every smear and every criticism leveled at the recent coalition, if it has any validity at all, must be leveled in spades against the Conservatives, and Mr. Harper himself. If anyone’s credibility has slipped away here, it would be that of Mr. Harper and his team.

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