Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Confluence of Events

I understand why people feel the coalition won't work, or it'll be bad for Canada because of its neo-socialist agenda. But looking back, I see the current situation as unavoidable.

The sequence of events that has brought us to this point have their roots in Trudeau's alienation of the West. Two things started that day. The first is the slow decline of the LPC from a national party to a regional party. Stephane Dion carries a burden that is the legacy of Trudeau, Chretien and Martin. That legacy haunts the current Liberal party, and overshadows every attempt to assert itself back on the national stage. Add in Chretien's eviscerating of the corporate purse strings leaving the Liberals teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and desperation starts to take hold in the party ranks.

The other event was the eventual rise of the Reform party. Mulroney effectively killed Western support for the PC party as Trudeau killed support for the LPC, and the reaction was the formation of a new party. That party morphed and grew and is the modern Conservative party lead by Stephen Harper. The Conservative party formed out of anger and resentment, and it appears that anger and resentment dictate the tone the party takes in all its discussions. Stephen Harper really had no burdens to shoulder. But he is proving adept at creating his own burdens through his vindictive, abrupt, and high-handed dealings with opposition MPs, the media, government bureaucracies and special interest groups. He does personify all of the worst aspects of today's Conservative party.

Because of these burdens, inherited or self-imposed, neither the Liberals or the Conservatives can win majority support from the Canadian electorate. So in three successive elections, we see three minority parliaments. This shows the deep regional divisions in our country. If we are ever going to close these gaps and heal the rifts; the parties representing us in parliament must find a way to compromise and govern together in some sort of coalition or accord.

But what does Harper do? He refuses to deal in good faith with any other party. The Conservatives instead plan to cripple the opposition by restricting funding even more. This doesn't just threaten the viability of the Liberals, it threatens the NDP and BQ as well. Its this blatant attempt to consolidate power to the Conservative party that offends me most. It is completely understandable that the opposition is proposing a vote of non-confidence. What was the realistic alternative? The opposition is being backed into a corner, and they needed a way out.

Their choices were 3 unpalatable options. Roll over and accede to Harper's every demand, force an election or form a coalition. Option 1 isn't even realistic. So there's only two options left. Either one pisses off a large section of the electorate. Or we have already forgotten that the last election was called "a waste of time and money?" (UPDATE: Andrew Coyne proposes a fourth way. That fourth way requires the opposition to have faith that it will force negotiation with the Conservatives. A non-confidence vote and filibusters have in common the method of confrontation as a means to resolution. A non-confidence vote ends the charade once and for all. Filibusters and procedural motions prolong a divided house. After the last parliament, I can see how the opposition is weary of this method and rejected it.).

The coalition may be a thoroughly unworkable idea, if so, the GG can reject it and force an election. OR we can let the coalition attempt to govern. The deal is only for 18 months. Not enough time to destroy the country. And then we'll most likely have an election.

If Harper were truly smart (which he isn't) he would back off the rhetoric, let the coalition attempt to govern and, given the odds, watch it fall to pieces. In 18 months or less the Conservatives go into a general election well funded, get to point out how horribly the Libs, Dippers and BQ fucked things up, and win a majority government.

I see how the coalition came to be. I understand the desperation of the opposition parties. What I can't understand in any way is Harper's determination to pour gas on the fire. Why is he being such a consistent ass? The only answer to that particular question my friends, is that he is a complete imbecile who acts before he thinks. He can't resist taking everything personally and being an asshole in response.

As entertaining (and educational) as this whole affair is, it appears that its going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. Harper keeps closing the door on all viable exits, and keeps the party indoors while the house burns down around them.


ADHR said...

I disagree with your first premise. Canada is not regionally divided, as such. 40% (ish) of Albertans did not vote Conservative. The problem is our antiquated SMP system of voting. A proportional system would expose the fact that we have four genuinely national parties (Cons, Libs, NDP, Greens) and one regional party (BQ).

Catelli said...

I would agree that our FPTP system exaggerates the regional divide.

But I do stand by the sentiment that there is a lot of deep seated anger in Alberta, and the Conservative party is strongest in Alberta. They did get 64% of the vote, a 10 point spread over the next highest region, which was Saskatchewan. They are the only party to get a majority of the popular vote in any province. And they did it in 2. That does say something.

ADHR said...

Well, once more, the importance of that is exaggerated under SMP. Those two provinces only have 15% (ish) of the population. 64% of the vote, being generous, then amounts to the support of at most 10% of the population.

I'm not suggesting that there's no anger in Alberta. That's crazy talk. But it's over-emphasized, I think, largely due to the vocal minority of idiots who seriously think the West can separate. (If such a thing ever came to pass, I hereby predict it would last as long as it took for BC and Manitoba to figure out the Albertans wanted to put the capital in Calgary.)

Catelli said...

To clarify, my point was that the anger and alienation in the West gave rise to the current Conservative party. Its main base is still in Alberta. The LPC brand was also very weak west of Ontario thanks to Trudeau and Chretien. (the LPC brand is weak everywhere now, thanks to Chretien and Martin).

Where we find ourselves today can be traced back to Western anger at the LPC and then the old PC party.

That is all.

ADHR said...

I took that as your point; I'm just not sure it's right. Reform had trouble electing MPs in Saskatchewan and Manitoba; their base was in BC and Alberta. In 1993, they did a little better in SK, but only just nosed out the NDP; the NDP and the LPC combined had a greater seat total in MB.

In addition, we get a Conservative government now because there are enough old-school Tories in Ontario to support Con MPs.

I suppose my point is that these overarching narratives always come off as a little too pat. Yes, the Cons have a big base in AB and BC. But the NDP and the LPC do have supporters there, just as the Cons have supporters in QC (they almost matched the LPC vote this year). If we voted in a different way, we'd be able to see how pat these narratives really are: there's a concentration of Cons in some areas, LPC in others, NDP and Greens in still others. But no one party owns any given region, save for the BQ (but they pull that off by the expedient of not running candidates in more than one province!).

Catelli said...

Oh I agree that the Conservative government has broader support than just the Alberta base. My point about where we are isn't about the success of the Conservative party. Its that the reactionary anger and discontent that birthed the party still echoes throughout it. We see it in the angry rhetoric of Stephen Harper (Alberta's adopted son), John Baird, and others.

What I liked hearing was Deborah Gray calling out Harper for being an unreasonable ass. Damn I wish she had somehow become leader of the Conservative party. We'd be much better off today.