Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Shock and Awe

I suppose like many people, I am still numbed by the results of Election 41, 2011. The Bloc Quebecois was obliterated, and the Liberal Party was decimated. The Conservative party has a solid majority and the NDP is now the official opposition with an unprecedented number of seats. We have returned, in effect, to a two party parliament. Oh yeah, and Elizabeth May won the Green Party’s first elected seat.

It is hard to look forward to the next 5 years and not feel dread. Now that he has his coveted majority, how will Stephen Harper rule us? So many key issues have now been quashed, trampled into the dustbin of history, that the precedents set by the last few parliaments also do not bode well to the future.

What have we lost? The primacy of parliament has been rendered impotent, and with it the idea of a viable, workable minority government. This election has validated the idea that whatever party wins an election, it gets to rule as if it were a majority, confidence of the house be damned. Running roughshod over committees, lying to parliament, whipping independent agencies, etc. etc. have all been justified. The ends justify the means, and no abuses of power will go unchecked. And if you think I’m talking about the next five years of Conservative government, you are sadly mistaken. The problem with setting precedent is; it applies to everyone. For those Conservative supporters saying, “yeah, so what?” imagine an NDP government 10 years form now with all the same powers. The problem with granting absolute power to the PMO, is that once granted, it is very difficult to take away (a problem our American cousins are dealing with). Many joke about it, but the difference between a Mugabe or a Chavez and the Canadian Prime Minister is only a matter of conscience, it isn’t anything enshrined in law. (Not anymore at any rate.) I do not believe that Harper will do that much damage with the power he has obtained, but his successors? All possibilities are now on the table, thanks to the results of this election.

This doesn’t even get into the policy issues of building prisons to deal with a none-existent crime wave, untendered fighter jet contracts, military invention in sovereign states, environmental inaction, (insert your own policy concerns here, etc. On these issues this government will succeed or fail. Shift too hard right, and they will piss off Quebec and will likely resurrect an even stronger sovereignty movement. Stay too soft and they alienate fiscal conservatives. Some things will never change. The NDP vote was more of a protest vote than an NDP policy endorsement, and therefore that vote is volatile. Both Harper and Layton will need to step carefully lest this vote rejects them both.

We will watch learn how this Government is accepted by the Canadian people. All I now know is that the future of Canadian politics is even murkier now then it ever has been; this government may yet get another majority 5 years hence. But eventually Harper and his brand of Conservatism will be replaced by something.

And I think that is what unnerves me the most. Because now any Government of any stripe now has political carte blanche. The precedent has been set, how will be used or abused?

PS Shout to to David Mader for an excellent blog post of his own. Let's hope that starts a trend.


Mader said...

Excellent point re: the long-term impact of democratic failure - i.e. that it's not just what Harper will do with unbridled power, but what his successors, of whatever political stripe, might do. An early test will be the Speaker's race. If Michael Chong runs and wins, there will at least be hope for some sort of democratic reform or revitalization.

Catelli said...

What would he be able to do? The speaker can't introduce reforms unilaterally can he?

Catelli said...

Well scratch that hope anyway: https://twitter.com/#!/kady/status/65483493995585536

Mader said...

Yea, I saw that too. I think a reform-minded speaker could have some impact directly - the speaker has pretty broad authority over the day-to-day functioning of the house, and could ensure that the traditional parliamentary conventions - regarding, for instance, opposition days - are respected. But more importantly, the nomination and election of a reform-minded speaker might indicate some willingness on the part of the new majority to bring about at least some sort of reform. Not saying it's likely, of course.

Marc Bernard said...

Maybe now we'll find out what those prisons are for. Dissident bloggers, maybe? :(

Catelli said...

If that wiretapping without a warrant law passes, then just maybe.

Ken Breadner said...

I'd just like to say that Chretien started us down this path. Harper has just (I hope) perfected his methods. Like you, I hate to see abuse of Parliament, even for causes I support.