The Nine Lives of Stephen Harper
Photo by Kashmera.
In a recent article, we described Canadian democracy as “drunken” and “staggering,” eliciting the image of a bumbling, well-intentioned dullard saddled with an affliction that, for better or worse, is an effect of his or her environment or circumstances but manifest as failure for reasons entirely their own. Today, with news from Ottawa that two opposition parties are going to supportively wedge themselves under Harper’s armpits for a while, we—like others with a shamelessly professed anti-Harper bias—stand by it.
Less than a year after talk of coalitions and right-of-centre screaming about a liberal/socialist/separatist/*insert-ist-here* coup d’etat had Ottawa brimming with prime-time drama, two of those seditious “ists”—the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois, respectively—have reportedly sidled up to the Tories with their support, boosting the Conservative government long enough for its proposed Employment Insurance legislation to pass. Yesterday, the Bloc agreed to support the Conservatives’ ways-and-means vote this Friday, part of the federal budget process and thus a matter of confidence. With the NDP throwing in as well, that confidence vote is all but in the can.
Today’s move by the NDP and the Bloc tips the House’s scales at eighty-six seats versus the Liberals’ seventy-seven, meaning that a Liberal non-confidence motion in early October, as reported by the CBC, is likely doomed to fail. Thomas Muclair, deputy leader of the NDP, told reporters that his party wants to “make sure that the money flows to those families that have already spent that [home renovation tax credit] money in anticipation of its adoption,” adding, “Our first priority is to try to make Parliament work in the interest of the public.”
Stephane Dion, then-leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and NDP Leader Jack Layton on stage at a rally in support of a progressive coalition, December 2008. Photo by Medmoiselle_T.
Which is great, obviously. There are nearly two hundred thousand workers in Canada who need the cozy one billion dollars that the EI plan offers, providing anywhere from five to twenty weeks’ worth of additional benefits based on an individual’s EI eligibility. Friday’s ways-and-means motion, along with navigating the red tape necessary to implement the home renovation tax credit, also reduces trucking tariffs and provides drought and flood relief at a time when too many Canadians need it. It’s not like the opposition parties blew their noses with the ballots of every Canadian claiming a bone to pick with Harper, then ran with squealing, pawing delight to their new, kitty-pettin’, sweater-vested leader. Ours is a representative democracy, after all, and a lot of Canadians have been totally screwed this year.
Where Parliament fell flat on its face this time, however, all sauced on promises and chasing a dangling carrot, was in its surprising trust of a minority government whose history of leadership hasn’t exactly earned it. Praiseworthy as it is to talk of making Parliament work, the opposition parties seem to have momentary amnesia when it comes to the Harper Conservatives’ checkered past, a disquieting three years marked by corruption, censorship, and a systemic abrogation of anything that could be called “accountable.”
The opposition’s strategy is clear, but so is Harper’s: put forward the illusion of progress, soften a rather brutal public image, and ratchet an agenda bit by bit towards a majority, the targeted endgame. No more dealing with socialists, or separatists, or committees, or the threat of liberals in the courts, or tiptoeing on eggshells around the pestering demands of the opposition, not to mention the country they represent. Just the freedom of majority rule, to do and say and implement whatever policies the party wishes in the four years they’ve allowed themselves—should they choose to stand by their own writ this time.
What a day that will be.