(All info gleaned from reading the coverage of the unfolding events in Canada posted by Alan McLeod in his fabulous Gen X At 40 blog and his links to Canadian news sources.)
I’ll admit it. More than once during the Bush Presidency I looked enviously upon our neighbors to the north. I love our annual vacations in Ontario–everyone’s so polite! The towns are clean. The health care is free. It all seemed so idyllic to left-leaners such as myself.
My last whiff of Canadaphilia happened during their last election. The entire process was announced, campaigned and voted upon in a little over one month. Meanwhile, our election campaign was dragging into its second year.
Be careful of what you wish for. The Canadian election did not resolve the minority status of their government–with four major parties, no one had a majority. This seemed to work when everything was going well. Then the American-led credit crisis poured over our borders and infected economies all over the world. Canada, heavily reliant on energy production, was especially vulnerable since oil prices crashed.
The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his bailout plan: no stimulus, spending cutbacks and hefty cuts to the public money that funds each of the political parties. The three other political parties went bat shit. Harper wasn’t a leader, but a pale imitation of George W. Bush–discredited conservative economics paired with heavy-handed partisan bullshit.
In a parliamentary system, if a government loses a vote of consequence, the government is considered to have lost the confidence of the entire legislature and the government falls–prompting new elections. A minority government should be particularly sensitive to this since it must always leverage some other parties’ votes to to pass its bills. So why go out of your way to antagonize the other parties?
In the current Canadian legislature, all three of the other parties would need to form a coalition to have enough votes to defeat the nominal ruling party–The Conservatives. Harper must have thought that this was not going to happen because:
1) It is such a rare thing, the other parties would be too scared to bring down the government in a time of crisis.
2) The other three parties are too different to hash out an agreement to form a coalition.
3) The head of the Liberal Party Stephane Dion is very unpopular, in both his own party and with voters, having been unable to defeat the Conservatives in the election held just a short while ago.
4) One of the parties, the Bloc Quebecois, supports the separation of Quebec from Canada, an issue that rubs Canadians’ skin raw–especially in the western provinces.
But the parties did get together, they did come up with a plan for a coalition and were about to vote the Conservative party down. Harper initially responded to the threat by calling the other parties unCanadian and then exacerbating the tensions with the western provinces’ voters in regard to Quebec separatists.
That didn’t stop the downward momentum, so he played his last card, convincing the representative of Queen Elizabeth, the titular head of the Canadian government, to close the parliament and avoid a vote his party would assuredly lose.
I don’t know what happens now, but all I can say is–thank God I live in a country where we are going to have change we can believe in. ( I’m still looking forward to my August vacation in Ontario, though!)