Friday, August 29, 2008

Bye bye Byelections

Harper’s reasoning for dissolving Parliament is simply beyond reasoning. His reasons, however are far more obvious. He doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of an Outremont-revisited, in which the Liberal’s leadership under Stephane Dion last year was being called into question. These four by-elections presently underway, were called at a time of maximum political convenience for Stephen Harper, or so he thought at the time. Now he is aborting them through his own manipulations of our Parliamentary system. As his empty rationale, he cites that Parliament is dysfunctional. How plausible is that , given that Parliament isn’t even in session?

No, Stephen Harper is engaged in a form of democratic censorship. Uncomfortable with the message that voters are likely to cast in these four by-elections, three of which are two thirds pregnant at this point.....Harper decides to terminate them in the hopes that he can mask the message that will be obvious to all in their results......which is that Harper has gone stale on the vine.

Let’s hope our Governor General is able to see through this ruse for what it is, and deny Harper his chance to truncate the democratic process that is now underway in Guelph, Westmount-Ville Marie, Saint Lambert and Don Valley West.

This is incumbent on her as the Queen’s representative in see these by-elections through to their final result, whatever that may be...and free of intervention at the highest levels of self interest.


FredM said...

You don't like Harpers reasons but at least there is a reason behind it' Unlike dion who would only pull the plug if he was winning in the polls regardless of reason, pure selfishness. Its funny how Harper is painted as the bad guy for threatening the government yet the liberals have been doing it since they lost 3 years ago.

Dr Mike said...


So how about that fixed election date.

Wasn`t that cool when Mr Harper got up in Parliament & sung it`s praises.

He is now just ignoring it like it was similar to littering.

This guy is the El Supreme being in the country & it seems it allows him to ignore the laws he finds distasteful.

I think the concept is so neat that I may not pay my taxes next year--seems like the right thing to do---they were grossly inconvenient anyway.

Since Mr Harper can get away with it , I should too.

Oooops forgot , he is the El Supreme being , so he gets consideration.

My Bad!!!!

Dr Mike Popovich---former Life-long Conservative ( over 36 years).

Robert Gibbs said...

The party of law and order?
Playing by the rules?
Yeah, right.

Deceivin' Stephen doesn't even follow His own laws.

Errol P. Mendes . Harper Is In A Fix

The prime minister's claim that he can ignore his own fixed election date is legally dubious and morally even worse

The Ottawa Citizen
Errol P. Mendes, Citizen Special
Published: Thursday, August 28, 2008

It now seems almost certain that Stephen Harper will visit the governor general just after Labour Day to seek an early election. This is despite the fixed election date of October 2009 which was established by a law that his own government was eager to pass as a demonstration of political fairness, accountability and transparency. It was also a key Reform party core belief and part of the Conservatives' 2006 election platform.

He will claim the right to do so on two grounds. First, he will claim that he is legally able to do so despite the law he championed. This is because he will claim the law, which is a minor amendment to the Canada Elections Act, still gives the governor general the right to dissolve Parliament on the advice of the prime minister. Some experts claim that the prime minister would only be bound by a constitutional amendment that entrenches a fixed date for elections. The experts could well be wrong.

Much of the powers of the prime minister and the governor general are governed not by the written Constitution, but by constitutional conventions, including who has the right to dissolve Parliament and call for elections. Constitutional convention gives the prime minister only the right to advise the governor general to call for dissolution of Parliament and thereby trigger an election. The governor general has an uncontested residual power to deny a prime minister's request for dissolution.

Constitutional conventions can be both entrenched in and overridden by statute law. That is precisely what the Conservatives did when they decided to constrain the conventional power of the prime minister to seek dissolution whenever he smelled political advantage to do so.

However, the fixed election law does not constrain the residual power of the governor general as it expressly stipulates that "Nothing in this section affects the powers of the governor general, including the power to dissolve Parliament at the governor general's discretion."

Historical precedent demonstrates that the use of the conventional residual power by the governor general contrary to the advice of the prime minister has the potential to cause political controversy and create trouble for the Crown in Canada. In the 1926 King-Byng affair, governor general Lord Byng refused William Lyon Mackenzie King's request to dissolve Parliament after losing a confidence vote and called on the Conservative opposition leader Arthur Meighen to form the government. When Meighen could not gain the confidence of the House, Lord Byng granted dissolution of Parliament and Mackenzie King won a majority government, in part by campaigning against the decision of Lord Byng. This precedent, while not a constitutional convention, would present a serious political hurdle for a governor general to refuse to grant the request of a prime minister for dissolution, no matter how contrived.

Even if the fixed elections law does not constrain the governor general's discretion to grant dissolution of Parliament, one could argue that the law constrains the prime minister's power to ask for one until October 2009. Hiding under the political constraints of the governor general's residual power is nevertheless a violation of a statute. Some aggrieved citizen may even consider seeking court action to stop this legally dubious move.

The imminent violation of the fixed elections law is even more distasteful when one considers the second reason for Mr. Harper's claim to ignore his own law. He claims that he may seek the dissolution because Parliament is dysfunctional and will continue to be so with the next session to start soon after Labour Day.

Ignoring the fact that most of his agenda has passed through Parliament and become law, Mr. Harper and other Conservatives point to the dysfunctional nature of parliamentary committees such as the one examining whether the advertising expenses practices of the Conservatives breached the Elections Act. The parliamentary channel's coverage of the proceedings has revealed that it was primarily the disruptive antics of the Conservative party members on the committee and the failure of Conservative witnesses to appear before the committee that was the cause of the dysfunction of this committee. The secret, 200-page Conservative guidebook to disrupt and manipulate parliamentary committees -- including chairs storming out of meetings -- is proof that it is the Conservatives who are orchestrating the dysfunction in Parliament and then blaming it on the opposition parties.

It is as if this Conservative government is convinced that opposition parties have no right to object and oppose policies and practices that they may find repugnant.

There is also the damning logic of Mr. Harper's own admission that any election will result in another minority government. So why call it now if that is the case? To continue the alleged dysfunctional Parliament with a new minority government at the cost of almost $200 million to the Canadian taxpayer? Or is it to put off more scrutiny on the alleged wrongdoings of the Conservatives that fly in the face of their promise of transparency, honesty and accountability?

If the prime minister does decide to ignore the fixed election date and ask the governor general to dissolve Parliament soon after Labour Day because it is dysfunctional, it would be akin to a person who has blown up his own house asking the rest of us to build him a new one.

If not the rule of law, a most basic sense of political morality should make the prime minister think twice about breaking his own law.

Errol P. Mendes is a professor of international, constitutional and human rights law at the University of Ottawa and editor-in-chief of the National Journal of Constitutional Law.

Robert Gibbs said...

Walkerton Mayor Calls For Public Inquiry On Listeria Outbreak

“There are currently three federal Conservative cabinet ministers shaping policy for the [Stephen] Harper government who also sat around the Mike Harris cabinet table when decisions were made to cut programs, privatize and regulate.”

Globe and Mail Update
August 29, 2008 at 7:18 PM EDT

OTTAWA — The Mayor of Walkerton, Ont. is calling for a public inquiry into the outbreak of listeria, saying he cannot believe lessons failed to be learned from the tainted water tragedy that killed seven people in May 2000.

Mayor Charlie Bagnato released a statement today decrying the current outbreak as “outrageous” and noting that some of the cabinet ministers who were in the Ontario government in 2000 are now in the federal cabinet.

“There are currently three federal Conservative cabinet ministers shaping policy for the [Stephen] Harper government who also sat around the Mike Harris cabinet table when decisions were made to cut programs, privatize and regulate,” the statement reads.

Those three federal ministers are Health minister Tony Clement, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Environment minister John Baird.

“Governments should have learned from the mistakes that led to the tragedy in Walkerton. I am completely shocked that Mr. Harper has opted to make the same mistakes nationally that led to our disaster. Food security should never be placed on the chopping block in the name of cost cutting.”

Mr. Bagnato, who has been mayor since 2003, is calling for a public inquiry similar to the one that investigated the tainted water outbreak in Walkerton that left 2,300 people ill.

That inquiry led by Justice Dennis O'Connor reported in 2002 that both the man who ran the town waterworks and the provincial Progressive Conservative government were to blame for the tragedy.

Reached at his office, Mr. Bagnato said local Conservatives have called accusing him of playing politics with the upcoming federal election.

The Mayor said he "couldn't care less" about the election and that the millions spent on a campaign would be better spent on infrastructure.

Robert Gibbs said...

So, Harper's had the 'fix' in for months, according to this article by weasel Jane Taber.
Why Harper Decided To Take Control Of Election Timing

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
August 29, 2008 at 9:37 PM EDT

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several of his most powerful cabinet ministers met last week at historic Willson House, on a promontory overlooking Meech Lake in Quebec's Gatineau Park, and decided they must call a federal election before three by-elections set for Sept. 8, according to a senior Conservative insider.

“I know for certain P and P [cabinet's influential planning and priorities committee] was told last week,” the insider said.

“They had a political discussion and during that political discussion they concluded that, all things being equal, they would like to go before the eighth.

“Obviously at that point there were some outstanding issues, how to respond to the opposition leaders … but it was agreed that they would go before the eighth, if at all possible, and this fall for sure.”

For the Prime Minister, this was the culmination of a high-stakes strategy he had set in motion at the end of July at the Conservative caucus meeting in Quebec, when he challenged Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion to “fish or cut bait.”

Rather than waiting for Mr. Dion, who had been musing all summer about defeating the government this fall, Mr. Harper decided to take matters into his own hands. He would take control of the election timing, pull the plug on his own government and let the chips fall where they may, another Conservative strategist said.

Never mind that he and his government had passed legislation to set a fixed election date for October, 2009.

The Tory insider said that Mr. Harper and his strategists looked at the landscape – the economy possibly getting worse and Mr. Dion possibly getting better over the next few months – and decided that they had to go to the polls this fall.

“All those factors outweighed the grief they were going to take for breaking their own legislation,” the insider said. “If you let the by-elections take place and you do super well in the by-elections, then it looks like you are an opportunist. If you don't do so well as people expect in the by-elections, you look like the momentum has gone.

“And if you're determined to go … it looks like this is what you do.”

Having made his decision, Mr. Harper never looked back, upping the ante for a fall election every chance he got: Parliament is dysfunctional, he said. The opposition was refusing to pass his legislation. Committees were acting like a “kangaroo court.”

And so in less than four weeks, Mr. Harper and his strategists moved dramatically and swiftly from insisting they wanted to govern until October, 2009 – the fixed-election date – to a probable general election this fall. How did this happen?

“It's trademark Harper in that he's making an unexpected decision and, once he makes it, he's going to pursue it full steam ahead and take the gamble,” said Tom Flanagan, a Harper mentor, former chief of staff and now a professor at the University of Calgary. “This is what he lives for, this sort of high-stakes politics. This is what galvanizes him, really gets him excited. This is when he's at his best.”

Several strategists, including Prof. Flanagan, say that Mr. Harper's decision was a result of wanting to control the election timing.

“You'd rather have control of events yourself rather than waiting for other people to act,” he said. “This allows Harper to control the timing rather than sit passively and wait for Dion to make up his mind.”

Another senior Conservative strategist said the Harper gamble was also based on the fact that there had been no movement on a key policy: “Harper cares about Senate reform and Senate reform is the one issue where this Parliament hasn't made any progress on the government's agenda.”

Prof. Flanagan said Mr. Harper is also fed up with the behaviour in the House of Commons.

“He always told me that he wanted to keep governing and he thought he gained by governing, demonstrating … being able to govern and I think he was sincere in that for a couple of years,” Prof. Flanagan said. “But Parliament has become such a circus that just being part of it isn't really helping him much any more. It's so degrading all the stuff that is happening. I don't think it bolsters him any longer. I think the situation has changed.”

The Tories, according to another key strategist, have been “100 per cent ready” to go to the polls since they released their budget last spring.

The PMO has been on election footing for months, expecting with every confidence vote, starting with last fall's Speech from the Throne, that their government would fall. Much to their surprise it never happened.

What did finally happen, however, was that just before the Tory caucus in Quebec, Mr. Dion began musing again, this time very seriously or at least the Tories felt, about taking down the government in the fall.

“That created the consensus, certainly within the PMO, where it suddenly dawned on us, ‘Okay, we're going to go in the fall,'” the key strategist said.

“When it was clear that we were not going to survive until October, 2009, if the opposition had their way, then it was just a matter of … who should control the timing? Should it be us or should it be them?”

In the last two weeks, calls have been going out from party headquarters to strategists who will be involved in the campaign; there has also been an increase in campaign strategy meetings.

In addition, Mr. Harper and his strategists are beginning to try to frame the ballot question, making it about leadership as new television ads are shifting the emphasis from “Dion is not a leader” to “Stéphane Dion is not worth the risk,” the key strategist said.

Bob Plamondon, a public policy specialist, political author and former Conservative candidate, knows Mr. Harper and the people around him.

“His focus is on winning, not just on governing,” Mr. Plamondon said.

“You know, he's ahead of us. He's plotting it out.”

CAITI said...

Where in Bill C-16 does it say you can call a general election whilst four by-elections are days from being concluded?