Preparing for Harpergeddon
Looking for a suitable theme for Easter weekend isn’t difficult when you have a born-again Christian as prime minister who actually may think he is God. Renaming the Canadian government the Harper Government is just one sign. Surrounding himself with advisors who are truly loopy end-timers who believe government actually defies the will of god is more to the point.
What are you doing to prepare for the coming doom?
Some of my friends are stocking up on food that may not be available after Harper comes to power—hard to know what to get though as he has kept his food enemies list secret until now. But best to get a lot of frozen broccoli as Harper, in deference to his role model George Bush, will almost certainly ban that suspect and liberal vegetable (it has florets—that alone sounds unseemly).
Another friend has organized a brigade to take down street signs in his neighbourhood so that Dimitri Soudas can’t find him after Harper gets his majority. Others are learning various foreign languages—like Swedish (for true social democrats) or Spanish (for old commies who can’t stand the cold and would rather spend their retirement dollars in Cuba anyway).
But what about preparing for another Harper minority?
Getting serious now, there are genuine signs that Harper is planning to create a constitutional crisis should the opposition parties do what every thinking Canadian opposed to Harper hopes they will do: defeat Harper at the first opportunity and form a government that actually represents a majority of the voters (and non-voters, too).
Harper’s arrogance on the issue of who gets to govern is breathtaking and he strongly hints that he will not step down without a very nasty fight, one that could create a constitutional crisis involving every federal institution including the Supreme Court of Canada.
Peter Mansbridge—as expected letting Harper off the hook on a whole truckload of issues—did press the man on one issue at least: he asked repeatedly if it were not true that the Liberals would have the right to govern if Harper lost the confidence of the House of Commons. Harper absolutely refused to confirm any such right and although he also did not deny that right explicitly, his aggressiveness in responding was genuinely alarming—it even alarmed Mansbridge who has done his best over the past five years to help Harper run roughshod over democracy.
What if the situation was reversed and Ignatieff won the most seats but then failed to get the confidence of the House. Would Harper accept a call from the Governor General to try to form a government? No said Harper—fumbling the situation by saying this would just lead to another election—when in fact, as Mansbridge pointed out, refusing to form a government is what would trigger another election.
Harper was busy framing the situation so that Canadians will not accept a situation in which a party that did not win the most seats could possibly form the government. Even though this is clearly a fundamental part of how parliamentary democracy works, Harper is trying to establish political facts on the ground that would, in effect, change the constitutional rules. If he can prepare the ground for a hysterical reaction on the part of his most loyal followers, he may hope to influence the new Governor General.
If the GG did not call on Ignatieff to form a government, forcing another election, Harper may be imagining coming to power on a populist wave of anger against yet another, opposition-forced election.
A number of constitutional experts are already mulling over the possibility of what some refer to as a kind “informal constitutional coup”—Harper refusing to accept the results of a non-confidence vote. According to a Hill Times story quoting University of Ottawa constitutional law expert Errol Mendes, ignoring such a vote “…would amount to a sort of informal constitutional coup. Essentially that position he’s taking is he’s not the Prime Minister shackled by the will of the people, he’s the elected president of Canada.”
Queen’s University professor Ned Franks, stated: “If it’s early in the new Parliament, if it’s a defeat on a vote of confidence, the Governor General is entitled to inquire whether there is another person who would enjoy the confidence of the House.”
But Harper could delay the opening of Parliament, funding the government with special warrants through Order in Council and the Governor General. Running the government in this manner for six or eight months would provide Harper with the argument that the opposition parties were simply conspiring to defeat a government that had been functioning effectively for many months. And he then refuses to go.