One of my students sent me a column to look over. The writer is a very bright young guy who spent some time on Hillary Clinton's campaign last year. He put most of the blame on the opposition for the political and constitutional crisis brewing in Ottawa. I wrote him a long note in reply, and, since I like to recycle everything I write, I've decided to blog it:
This thing isn't over yet. Looks like the opposition parties are close to a coalition and they're not going to stop.
Here are a few things to consider:
Why did Harper cut party financing without restoring the ability of parties to take large donations from corporations (affecting the Libs) and unions (Bloc and NDP)? Harper knew the Libs borrowed the money from the banks to pay for the last election campaign on the basis that the subsidy money was coming. The change would not only ruin their fundraising, it would destroy their credit.
Why did he take away the public sector right to strike for the next three years just a week after the largest union had made a 4-year deal?
I see this as deliberate provocation of a snap election that the Tories would likely win. Harper believed the Liberals couldn't go into a coalition with Dion as leader, so the only option would be an election. Turns out Chretien and Broadbent have worked something out. As for the Bloc, it's done the biggest climb-down. Supposedly, all it wants is money for the Quebec forestry and manufacturing sector, and no cabinet positions.
There is a story in the Toronto Star today saying Harper, Layton and Duceppe wrote to the GG in the fall of 2004 asking her to consider the same type of coalition when the Martin government was teetering. As well, consider the situation in Ontario in 1985, when the Tories won more seats, met the House and were quickly defeated, with the Liberals and NDP pledging to co-operate. Now, there are important differences between Ontario 1985 and Ottawa 2008. Frank Miller, the Tory leader, did not ask for an election. His party had been freefalling at the end of the campaign and he would have lost if they had gone back to the people. Miller went to the Lieut. Gov. and suggested he invite David Peterson to form a government.
In King-Byng (1925), the GG would not give King a dissolution because the government had not yet been defeated (on a censure motion regarding a corruption scandal, not a confidence motion) just a few months after an election. King spun it into a case of interference by the British-appointed GG, even though it was a completely rational decision by Byng that any GG would likely make now. Don't fall into the same trap on King-Byng that 99% of commentators do.
I expect Harper to do the same thing: run against a power-hungry opposition and the the GG (along with Harper's Culture War opponents -- Eastern Liberals, the press, academia and the rest). Having a black woman leftist CBC Governor-General to bash will come in very handy for Harper.