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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