Our democracy requires …
After almost one week of listening to the saber rattling, debate and commentary about Canada’s constitutional crisis, I am struck by the number of points of view. Some support the Conservatives and view the Liberals and NDP as leftist thugs who (with help of the separatists) wish to overthrow the government. Others think that the Harper Conservatives “have it coming” and deserve to be kicked out. Each and every one of these arguments is rational. No one side can claim victory on the merits. Hence, the time has come to consider the process that is most consistent with our democracy and let the result fall where it may.
Two points seem clear:
- In order for the Coalition group to succeed they must get more than 143 votes. In order to get more than 143 votes, virtually each and every Liberal, NDP and Bloc MP must vote against the Conservatives.
- If the non-confidence motion is successful, the issue will be referred to the Governor General who is a non elected ceremonial official.
Let’s consider the implications of each point.
First, I find it hard to believe that each and every Liberal, NDP and Bloc MP, if given the opportunity to vote their conscience would vote against the Conservatives. For any given member, there are many reasons, why he might or might not, cast a vote in favor of non-confidence.
Although they are elected MPs and have every right to vote, the people of Canada have a right to expect that the individual MP will cast HIS vote and not the vote of the Party Leader. Under current party practice, the parties will “whip” the vote and force the individual MP to “toe the party line”. I suggest that this is totally unacceptable in general and PARTICULARLY unacceptable when the result would create the possibility of a coalition government (which needs the support of the separatists). The party leaders should encourage all MPs to vote their conscience. If party MPs are not allowed a free vote (conscience) then the argument for holding a general election becomes stronger! Vote whipping is something that must stop. As it currently stands, individual MPs are becoming irrelevant.
In fact, the practice of parties “whipping the vote” means that MPs are not responsive to their ridings, but to the party. Vote whipping is the “antithesis” of democracy. If MPs are not allowed to vote their conscience, a general election should follow. The time has come to encourage independent candidates.
Second, the issue of referring a change in government, to the Governor General, who is a non-elected official. Most of the pundits argue that the Governor General has the legal authority to dismiss the Conservatives and install a coalition government. The fact of legality doesn’t make it morally right. The fact of legality doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do for the country.
The Governor General is a lingering vestige of a time when Canada thought of itself as a British Colony. It is absurd for Canada to be governed by England in this day and age. In 1982, as part of the Canada Act, the U.K. can no longer make changes to Canada’s constitution. Although, the Governor General may be a “left over” head of state, Canada should be governed by her people. The people of Canada should have the right, and the obligation to decide on Canada’s government.
The Governor General may have the constitutional authority to decide this issue. That said, for the Governor General to actually decide this issue is the “antithesis” of democracy.
The fact is that Jack, Stephane and Gilles are forcing the MPs under their control to vote the way that they want – non-confidence. After this, the result will be to turn this issue over to a non-elected political appointee who has the legal authority to dismiss the Conservatives and install a coalition government.
The government of Stephan Harper has no right to stay in power.
But, the process of removing him should reflect the principles of our democracy.
First, the individual MPs should be allowed to vote their conscience on this issue (no whipped vote).
Second, if the non-confidence vote is successful, the Governor General should recognize that the approach most consistent with the values of a democracy is to turn the issues over to the voters in the form of an election.
Our democracy depends on it!
Footnote. On December 8, 2008 and Globe and Mail featured an article by Thomas Flanagan where he argued that:
“If, after hearing the pros and cons and knowing what they are voting for, voters give approval to such a coalition, so be it. But the Governor-General, in her role as protector of Canadian democracy, should ensure the people have that opportunity.”
For the complete article see: