Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Former GG says too much?

In her memoirs, former governor general Adrienne Clarkson said ... she would only have allowed a [Former Prime Minister Paul] Martin request for dissolution if he had been in office six months. "To put the Canadian people through an election before six months would have been irresponsible," she wrote.

The problem with this statement is that it essentially says if opposition forces engineer a confidence vote that brings down the government within six months of an election, there will be no electoral accountability. The statement itself is not problematic so much as what it omits. What it omits is a qualifying clause to the effect that any new government created in the absence of an election should go to the polls for its own mandate within a certain period.

Canadians are currently facing the prospect of two consecutive Prime Ministers, Dion and Ignatieff (or, less likely, Bob Rae), each with a mere quarter of Commons seats held by their party, serving for up to 5 years between the two of them, should NDP and Bloc MPs decline to vote against them during that time period. By convention, that shouldn't happen. But in a constitutional democracy, one would think there should be a constitutional limit to how long a Prime Minister Ignatieff could govern without facing the polls, a limit less than 5 years. The only one who could really impose such a limit on the Prime Minister is the monarch (the GG), and the time do it would be when denying the request of the previous Prime Minister (the one being ousted) for a vote on the newly configured government.

This change of government would likely be easier to swallow for a lot of Canadians if Harper had lost the confidence of federalists in the House. But the fact is that his party's seats outnumber the seats of the Liberals and NDP by a couple dozen. As such, he's the federalist choice for Prime Minister, love it or hate it, and could not be forced out of office but for separatists.

No comments: