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MONDAY, JULY 04, 2011
 
The CBC has just announce that "The NDP and Liberals have reached a deal to topple the minority Conservative government and take power themselves in a coalition."1 Apparently the Bloc won't be part of the coalition. The toppling of a prime minister by a coalition without an election taking place is the first for Canada. Who will be the new leader? Although Stephane Dion is a likely answer, many have suggested otherwise and there is no affirmative answer yet. We may even get a completely new leader this very week.
If you voted for the Liberals, NDP and Bloc would you switch to the Conservatives if an election was called and the Coalition was on the platform


The real question is how democratic is the process of toppling the minority government? Our media has focused on a faulty syllogism: 1) Most voters voted for parties other than the Conservative party. 2) Most voters didn't want the Conservatives in power. 3) Therefore, toppling the conservatives represents what the majority wants. However, this logic is inherently flawed. For example, what if a voter who voted for the Liberal party wanted only the Liberals as the dominant party? What if they'd rather have Conservatives than the NDP? Or if they voted for NDP but would rather have Conservatives than Liberals. Although, Canadians may find it intuitively improbable, such voters may exist. The argument on whether anyone does is irrelevant since that's something for an election to determine. That's what elections are for. Canadian democracy is held by votes, not polls nor faulty syllogisms. Only by a proper election can voters truly give their voice. A new election would not be between Conservatives, Liberals, Bloc and the NDP but between the Conservatives Vs. The New Liberal Coalition. Then, if enough Canadians want the coalition, they will be properly voted in. Despite whether you're left or right wing, a new election is the only democratic choice.

The Consequences
Whether you are for or against the coalition, it's important to make sure the process of democracy is still attained. A decade ago, the situation was reversed with the Liberals in power and the Tories divided into minorities: The Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. How would Liberals have reacted if their minority government was toppled by a coalition of conservatives? Unless Liberals can answer that they'd be truly comfortable with such action, then a Liberal coalition must be observed with sceptical eyes.

Here's a letter from Stephen Harper where he suggested for the same thing to happen in 2004 to the Governor General:
"Excellency,
As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister
to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons fail to support some part of the government's program.
We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority.
Your attention to this matter is appreciated.

Sincerely,
Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Leader of the Opposition
Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
Also signed by Duceppe and Layton"


The Legality of a Coalition Vs. The Ethics
Legally, however, a toppling of Harper is what can happen constitutionally. The issue is whether it can be considered ethical in a functioning democracy. Earlier today, the NDP party had "considered legal action" against the recordings of a supposedly private meeting between coalition members. However, if the NDP invited a Tory to the talks, which seems to be the case right now, then the Tories didn't do anything illegal (given the minimal information the public has seen). However, there is little doubt that the ethics behind secretly recording a private conversation and then distributing it to the media is at best questionable. The point is, that legally governments can act in many ways but as voters should we not hold them to the standards of our ethics rather than our laws?

Before any party or law, my allegiance is to the betterment of Canadian democracy. The toppling of a minority government by a coalition government, without elections, has no precedent. The evaluation of the long-term results of proceeding with such action should be taken into account before our first steps towards a carrot dangling on a stick.

Why We Need to Consider What A Coalition Entails
With the Tory coalition from the last decade and the new coalition by the left will we be sacrificing our beloved democracy for a two-party system so swiftly? The consequence of such a system would mean the voice of Elizabeth May would be reduced to that of Ralph Nader's. The third party opposition is a valuable resource that should not be taken for granted. Their benefits of bringing new platform ideas to the table is a fragile one that they risk losing voters for. I compare May with Nader not only as independent third parties but because they both had brought needed platforms to Canada. Global warming and climate change are pressing issues that capitalism has yet to confront. Many forget that when Vice President Al Gore ran for office his platform for "green" policies weren't nearly as emphasized as they are now. It took Ralph Nader's insistence of raising environmental issues, as the Green Party, to bring forth these issues. Indirectly through Nader, Al Gore gained more voter confidence because Gore had a chance to mention his own green policies. Without Nader, the debates Gore had with Bush did not focus on the environment as heavy as they should have. Nader has been credited with "stealing" the votes from Gore (a false idea, which Gore himself denies being true). The horror of having to be in an American situation of "choosing the lesser of two evils" is a government which is much harder to escape than the current situation of Canada. There are other solutions. For example, the Single-Transferrable Vote is one possible solution for proper Canadian representation. There are other solutions to consider as well. However, one must weigh the proper approach when solving the problem. Without doing so democracy will have already lost the battle.
Comments

Hogan

Hogan

Voting doesn't not equal democracy. Democracy is not about "the numbers". Actually, voting is like the last resort - not a first-line defense - of democracy. Voting is like the act of breaking the emergency glass and pulling the lever to sound the alarm: and you only do that after all other options have been exhausted. When you can't reach a consensus through discussion and debate - which is what democracy is really all about (not just ballots) - then you vote, because no compromise or agreement could otherwise be reached. Voting represents a failure of democracy, not its main mechanism. That is, when you can't come to an agreement through discussion (we've all been there) you resort to a vote and settle for the result (a (distant) second best), inevitably leaving up to nearly half of the people totally unsatisfied, whereas a talked-out compromise could have nearly everyone satisfied. "Let's just put it to a vote", we say, when all other options have failed.

And so, when the House cannot even discuss the issues of the country, well, they go to the polls, because the democratic dialogue has reached an absolute stalemate, and an election is the last resort , not the first and best way to get things done. A coaltion would represent a potential triumph for Canadian democracy, not a failure. A coalition would mean dialogue between otherwise bickering parties.

Anyway, I've started writing my own piece about all this, so I'll stop here.

To recap: voting does not equal democracy; and a coalition would be potentially, profoundly democratic.
REPLIES: Alamir

Novy

Novy

I disagree, i voted for NDP but if a coalition government goes forward I will feel robbed of my vote and that's not democracy. None of that mumbo jumbo can alter that, if I could have seen in the futur and I would've seen this coming then maybe I would've voted conservative to help give them a majority instead and maybe many other undecided people like me would have done the same. Bottom line is that this stinks.. Liberals and NDP are the only parties that really represent Canada, bloq only cares about Quebec, but their seats make the difference and this will make the Coalition a hostage to the bloq's agenda...

Alamir

ALAMIR

Replying to Hogan:
Before I go into greater length. Let me clarify what you're saying: What about the MP representing the voter? Isn't that what makes democracy a democracy? The extreme example is if I voted a guy in office and he managed to work out a coalition with some of your policies but sacrificed quite a bit of your stance for the sake of negotiation. Would a good negotiator (one who more or less gets his way) then not make a better MP and if so then he'd be a better representation of your vote? Consider Emerson who was voted in as a Liberal but decided he'd accomplish more on the winning side and switched to Conservative. Sure, the negotiation was greater for anyone who wanted a compromise but the idea that he was not fighting for the right rather than the left makes a misrepresentation of his voter base..is that democratic?

Hogan

Hogan

I don't think Emerson is a good example to use here. He switched parties, which is much different than forming a coalition. We vote for people and the parties they belong to, so the Emerson example, I agree, is not a democratic one, but it doesn't reflect the coalition situation.

We vote for our local representatives, not for our Prime Minister. And we only vote every few years, which means that there's much more to democracy than casting and counting ballots. We expect our elected representatives, once elected, to negotiate, bargain, and compromise. That's why I think the coalition is a good and democratic idea.

The fact that Harper sounds like he's lost his cool is a good sign. Up to now he's been as calm as a robot. The fact that he's now fazed - frightened and embarrassed, actually - shows how much he likes to cling to power, and how scared and reactive he gets when he doesn't get his way. And so he accuses the opposition of what he actually is: undemocratic and power hungry.

Once the House is elected, the MPs can do whatever they want, within established parliamentary procedure, of course, and coalitions seem to be well within that framework. Coalition or not, individual MPs represent their respective ridings, and every bill that's put forward has to secure the votes of several parties to pass - at least with a minority government. A coalition wouldn't change any of this. The only change is that the Conservatives would have less power. I fail to see anything wrong about any of this, let alone anything undemocratic.

Alamir

ALAMIR

The undemocratic part is that the NDP, Bloc, and Liberal party had distinct platforms that we voted for respectively.
Now the parties have negotiated their platforms to incorporate each others. The parties in the coalition, like the Bloc, are now quite possibly given a greater platform than the conservatives. Therefore, since the platform and ideology has been compromised it has altered. And if it has altered then it's not the same party that voters voted for. That's why I compare it to Emerson. Emerson's defence that he still cared for a lot of the issues on his platform wasn't a good enough excuse for switching platforms, for many of his voters.

Hogan

Hogan

So far I don't think that pole is very representative. I'm only vote number three. I guess that makes the margin of error something like +/- 98%.
REPLIES: Alamir

Alamir

ALAMIR

Replying to Hogan:
Yeah I added it way too late to the article.



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