Friday, November 28, 2008

Finance Minister's Economic Update Could Trigger Non-Confidence Vote

Opposition Parties Will Oppose the Minority Conservative's Economic Update Proposals and Form New Coalition Majority:

The minority government Conservative's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's Economic "update" package introduced today falls far short of what Canada needs in the form of economic stimulus according to opposition parties. Leaders of the NDP, BLOC and Liberals have voiced their dissatisfaction with the bill, which they say does not go far enough to aid Canada's slumping economy in the face of the looming world wide recession.

As this bill, the first of the new minority government's session in parliament since edging into power on a slim minority, is an economic and finance package, the opposition could trigger a non-confidence vote and defeat the government. Fears of this resulting in a new election, just weeks after the last, are unfounded - the most sensible option is for the opposition parties to propose a coalition government, representing the majority of voters in the country.

Having missed their chance to defeat the throne speech earlier this month, the opposition is now considering this best of all alternatives and an end to minority representation in Canada. The CBC reports that NDP leader Jack Layton has asked the Honourable Mr. Ed Broadbent, to meet with Liberal leader Stephane Dion to discuss the feasability of forming a coalition government. They would still need the support of the BLOC, but BLOC leader Gilles Duceppe is also said to be fuming about the inadequate economic package and will oppose it.

Harper's Conservatives have never won a majority in Canada - in fact during the last election more than 62 percent of Canadians voted against the Conservative Party.

The proposed coalition would benefit Canada greatly. It would finally unite the liberal left and small 'c' conservative majority and represent a real mandate from the Canadian people. It would promote unity by including the BLOC Quebecois in the governance of Canada for the first time. And it would put an end to the high-jacking of Canadian policy and the trampling of ordinary Canadian's rights by the reactionary right-wing Conservative minority.

Coalition now! - defeat the government - restore majority government to Canada. We call on the loyal opposition parties to perform their duty.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Majority Coalition Government for Canada?

Defeat the Throne Speech Next Week!
There is still time to rescue the disenfranchised Canadian electorate. Once again, the Conservatives have come through an election with yet another minority government. Harper's Conservatives have never won a majority in Canada. Yet, Harper continually prattles on about having a mandate from the people. Mandates are based on majority representation - something the Conservatives do not have. The opposition parties - the NDP, The Liberals and the Bloc - have an opportunity to respect the mandate by showing non-confidence in key parliamentary votes and create a new government.

The first opportunity to spurn minority government in Canada arrives next week in the form of the Throne Speech delivered by the Governor General.

" What is the Speech from the Throne? [adapted from the official Canada website ]

The Speech from the Throne officially opens every new session of Parliament. The Speech sets out the broad goals and directions of the government and its strategy to accomplish those goals. The Speech this year will be given by the Governor General, Michaelle Jean. It's called the Speech from the Throne because the Governor General reads it while sitting in the seat in the Senate Chamber reserved for the Head of State or their representative, as the head of Canada’s system of executive government. The Governor General reads the speech to Members of the House of Commons, Senators and others. The speech's actual content is written by the Prime Minister, his cabinet and advisors. The Governor General may contribute introductory material dealing with their own activities and with royal visits.

The Senate and House of Commons cannot open a session by their own authority (hence the Throne Speech) and a number of formalities must accompany the opening of Parliament. After the Speech from the Throne is read, Standing Orders and the rules of the House of Commons require six days of additional debate after the speech is given: Following the speech, two MPs selected by the Prime Minister move and second respectively an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne given by the PM. Then the debate on the Address in Reply continues on the day following the Speech. It is the first of the six additional days.

The Leader of the Opposition makes a speech regarding the government's intentions and moves an amendment to the Address in Reply. The Prime Minister makes a speech elaborating on certain aspects of the Speech from the Throne. The Speech from the Throne and the Prime Minister's speech, therefore, provide the foundation for the government's legislative priorities and agenda for the current session of Parliament. The other opposition parties then enter the debate which continues and closes with votes at end of second, fourth and sixth days of debate, to determine the House's confidence in the government and the programs set out in the Speech".

These votes - of confidence or non-confidence - are the opportunity for the opposition parties to unseat Harper's Conservative minority government. Other traditional "confidence" votes are bills dealing with national defense or finance, but at the occasion of the throne speech, the opposition need not wait for the ruling government to conduct further business. With only a minority of seats in parliament, the Conservatives need the votes of opposition members to gain majority, open this session of parliament and resume power as the ruling government of the day.

Contrary to commonly held belief, a new election is not the only alternative. Harper, minority leader that he always has been, is fond of using the threat of an election call to bolster support for unpopular minority measures. However, rather than an election, representation can also be made to the Governor General by a coalition of elected parliamentarians that represent a majority of seats to form a new government. This is exactly what happened in Ontario on June 18, 1985 to defeat the minority Progressive Conservatives and replace them with a Liberal - NDP coalition under party leaders Peterson and Rae at the request of then Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Scott Baird. (interestingly, it was also Bob Rae, as the NDP Finance critic, who proposed the non-confidence vote that defeated PM Joe Clark's minority Progressive Conservative government in December, 1979 - and Rae now sits as a Liberal member and is a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party).

Here's how the seats in Canada's parliament are apportioned following the election:

Party__________Party standing_____%________Popular vote____%




Bloc Québécois___50______________16.2_________1,379,565_____10.0


It can be seen that, far from having a mandate from the people, more than 62 percent of Canadian voters actually voted against a Conservative government. The opposition parties have a responsibility to the Canadian people to ensure that the majority rules the country. A coalition would satisfy the expectations of the electorate. An NDP-Liberal-Bloc coalition would command 163 seats in the house which would be a majority over the Conservatives 143. (of course the Conservatives could try to strike an accord with any of the opposition parties to gain majority, but that is not likely given Harper's record of disdain for accords and promises - eg. his election call in spite of his own Fixed Election Day Act).

It could well be beneficial to the country as a whole that the proposed coalition would include the Bloc and involve the national interests of Quebec alongside the rest of Canada for the first time in over a decade. In addition, the NDP-Liberal component would unite Canada's left. Ever since the fall of the Progressive Conservative majority in the nineties, Canada has never elected a conservative majority, reflecting a national liberal-left political ideology. The successive minority Conservative governments have ignored the hearts and minds of the Canadian people, even the left of centre "red tories" in their own party.

We call on the loyal opposition parties to unite Canada and Canadians. We appeal to the Governor General to hear the will of the people.
Defeat the Throne Speech Now!

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama - U.S. President Elect

The Canayjun perspective of the historical Presidential election win by Senator Barack Obama...

First, I was interested in the National Post commentary that Obabma's win is not, in fact, an "historic" event. Nov.8,2008 - "...A historic first, a newly minted coin, would be an election in which a candidate’s skin colour is as unremarkable as his or her hair colour. When a candidate’s skin colour passes unnoticed, that will be a historic first for America". I see the reasoning, but still - most would agree that it does pass for what we consider to be a moment that will go down in history. My goal here is to comment on the Canadian perspective and perhaps one of the most remarked differences is the political correctness of headlines in the U.S. as opposed to Canada. Browsing news feeds online on election night, at the first declaration by major news agencies, NBC quickly changed their headline from first black president to first African American president. Whereas most Canadian and international reports refer to the new black president elect. I understand the U.S. media's motivation, where race relation issues run deep, but they sometimes go to extremes: in a recent posting the headline reads "African-American Canadians versus Americans..." and garnered a wave of comments ridiculing the political correctitude - just what is an "African-American Canadian"? American journalists reporting on world news often identify foreign nationals in countries like Europe and elsewhere as "African-American" to indicate their race. Oh well... back to the canayjun view.

What does it mean to Canadians? How will it affect Canada as a nation and people?

The left liberal view in Canada has long been that our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has long cozyed up a little to comfortably to President Geo W Bush's fiscal and foreign policy. It remains to be seen, how the still minority PM, so comfortable with U.S. Republican right wing policies, will adapt to Obama and the Democrats. Small 'l' liberals in Canada including the NDP, Liberals, Greens and surviving Red Tories have historically opposed right wing U.S. politics, often conjuring up that old bogeyman, the religious right, as dangerous and un-democratic. A recent Toronto Star article from Saturday, November 8th, 2008, trumpets the demise of the evangelicals thought to hold too much sway in American government. Similar criticisms have often been aimed at Harper's new Conservative Party of Canada. (although Harper himself went on an anti-religious witch-hunt when he ran against Stockwell Day as the leader of the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance, referring mysteriously to Day's "meetings in church basements" and outspoken evangelical world view).

The real issues though are a select few, as evidenced by the recent Canadian election issues.

  • Economy & Trade
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Defense & Foreign Policy

You would assume that our Conservatives would get along better with Republicans and the Liberals with Democrats, but if we look at recent history between the two nations, supposedly the best of neighbours, the lines aren't as clearly drawn.

On the economic front, and long before the recent worldwide economic crisis triggered by the U.S. financial meltdown, both Obama and his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, made comments about revamping NAFTA - the North American Free Trade Agreement. Initially the recent democratic nomination race comments were seen as a faux pas, as they came at Harper out of left field with no prior discussion. NAFTA is certainly the worst thing to happen to Canada on the economic and trade front. Who negotiated for it and signed it here in Canada? That would be Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (PC) and President George Bush Sr. (Rep), in 1992, a sure case of right meets right. But it survived successive Liberal and Democrat governments. Do we even want it re-negotiated? That remains to be seen and if we are friends, would we have been embroiled in the softwood lumber disputes? The whole Reagan-omics "trickle down" travesty began with Liberals in power here, but strongly influenced succeeding PC policy both federally and provincially (such as the Harris Common Sense Revolution).

What about President Reagan and the Canadian Liberals? On matters of defence, we had the cruise missile issue. The first cruise missile agreement for ten years was signed Feb. 1983 between Pierre Trudeau and Ronald Reagan. Then in 1993 Mulroney and Clinton renegotiated the new 10 year agreement, ( but negotiations had begun under under Geo Bush Sr - see Just Dummies: Cruise Missile Testing in Canada
By John Clearwater ).

On other current defense and foreign policy issues, Obama was on record as far back as the summer of 2007 for having a troop build up in Afghanistan and continued with the same message in the run-up to the election this summer past. This is certainly in line with minority leader Harper's plans, even though the majority of Canadians want to see a withdrawal from the Afghan War. It remains to be seen just how President elect Obama will approach the wars the U.S. has become mired in under Geo W. Bush's War on Terror. Here in Canada, it is not often clear how the Liberal - Democrat - Conservative - Republican relationships will play out. For the second Iraq War, our leaders were Jean Chretien (Lib) and Geo W. Bush (Rep). Chretien's decision not to participate in the Iraq war was popular with a majority of Canadians at the time and garnered sharp criticism from right wing Conservatives. Inexplicably, Chretien sent four times the number of troops to Afghanistan as recommended by the Canadian military staff, setting the stage for Harper's troop build-up and change in mission objectives from peace keeping to active offensive engagement.

There is the issue of Canadian Arctic sovereignty - when it arose back in the 80's (pre-global warming awareness), U.S. icebreakers were traversing the Canadian Arctic Northwest Passage without informing Canadian authorities. That lead to the Arctic Co-operation Agreement signed in 1988 by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The document states that the U.S. would refrain from sending icebreakers through the Northwest Passage without Canada's consent; in turn, Canada would always give consent. ( foreign submarine traffic including American and Russian, continues unmolested). However, the issue of whether the waters were international or Canadian was again left unresolved (if international rules are followed, the waters are all within Canadian coastal control). Harper has been criticized, primarily by NDP leader Jack Layton, as being soft on Arctic sovereignty, but Harper did announce some changes to Canadian oversight and increased military presence in the region recently. Now with the recognition of the true impact of global warming and the environmental sensitivity of the Arctic, we need to know where Obama stands. The only thing we know so far is that Obama is against Arctic drilling, but no specifics on the Northwest Passage as an important trade route. And important it is with the marked reduction of pack ice - The Northwest Passage, for the London - Tokyo trip is 7,000 kilometres shorter than the current shipping route through the Panama Canal and even 5,000 km less than the Suez Canal. Canada needs to take firm action to protect our Arctic territory.

Barack Obama has stated his intentions of revamping health care in the US, including a National Health Care Plan. Canada will no doubt be affected by any changes in the USA, as each country looks at the other's successes, failures and best practices. Harper has already shown disdain for universal health care in Canada and although Obama brings a fresh perspective, remember that the first US investigations were instituted by President Clinton who started the Task Force on National Health Care Reform in 1993 and appointed then First Lady Hillary Clinton. Obama may well call on her to play a similar role now.

The election of Barack Obama will certainly impact Canada and her people. This week Harper has already made overtures to Obama regarding a Canada - US Energy and Climate Change Pact. We must remember, however, that relations between the two countries can not be modelled along simple partisan or idealogical lines. Democrats are not Liberals and Republicans are not Conservatives. We also must be aware and sensitive to the fact that policies which may seem good to the US are not always good for Canada. Canadians are not high on the list of American priorities. After all, we're just neighbors.