Thursday, March 31, 2011

Coalition Steve

Fourteen years ago Stephen Harper co-authored a passionate plea for electoral reform and coalitions - including one with the Bloc. . . CBC's Terry Milewski has unearthed a position paper written by Stephen Harper and Tom Flanagan in 1997 on the necessity of forming a coalition of conservative parties in order to overcome the "benign dictatorship" of a century of predominantly Liberal governments. . . .

Well we know how that worked out for the PC Tories - a not very benign coup by the Reform Party. But what's interesting is their acknowledgement of the Bloc/ separatists/ Quebec nationalists as necessary partners in their gaining and maintaining power in the past :
"Brian Mulroney swept to victory in 1984 by allying with Quebec separatists"
and the future :

ALONG THE TRANS-CANADA HIGHWAY FROM CALGARY TO BANFF lies a prominent mountain called The Three Sisters. Legend has it that an Indian chief placed each of his three daughters on a separate peak to keep them away from unworthy suitors. The strategy succeeded so well that the three daughters died up there. Canadian conservatism is also a family of three sisters fated to perish in isolation unless they descend from their mountain tops and embrace more realistic expectations.

After the next federal election, Canadian conservatives may begin to encourage limited cooperation between Reform and the PCs, leading to a system of sister parties.

Both the Reform party and the Bloc Quebecois, or even the PCs, could go on for decades without ever becoming national parties; and through their survival as regional parties they could prevent the emergence of a national conservative party.
The lack of any strategic alliance among the sister parties, argues Steve and Tom, leads to "a war of attrition" among them due to our first-past-the-post system.
In the longer term, however, and assuming that Quebec remains in Canada, the alliance would find it hard to form a stable government without some Quebec support. On that basis, a strategic alliance of Quebec nationalists with conservatives outside Quebec might become possible, and it might be enough to sustain a government.

None of this will be easy or even likely. But experience shows that a monolithic conservative party is unworkable; so conservatives who are unhappy with a one-party-plus system featuring the Liberals as the perpetual governing party may have little choice but to construct an alliance, at least of the two anglophone sisters, and perhaps ultimately including a third sister.

... Quebec nationalism, while not in itself a conservative movement, appeals to the kinds of voters who in other provinces support conservative parties. The Bloc Quebecois is strongest in rural Quebec, among voters who would not be out of place in Red Deer, except that they speak French rather than English.

It may be that the third sister can never be brought back in. In the last century, Quebec nationalists, content with provincial autonomy and cultural preservation, could participate in Sir John A. Macdonald's Liberal-Conservative Party -- a single party in name but a coalition in substance, always with a strong "Quebec lieutenant." But now that Quebec nationalists have discovered sovereignty, they may never again see merit in a conservative coalition."
How to fix this. What follows is a passionate plea for electoral reform and proportional representation like they have in Europe.
Our parliamentary government creates a concentrated power structure out of step with other aspects of society. For Canadian democracy to mature, Canadian citizens must face these facts, as citizens in other countries have, and update our political structures to reflect the diverse political aspirations of our diverse communities.

Only in politics do we still entrust power to a single faction expected to prevail every time over the opposition by sheer force of numbers. Even more anachronistically, we persist in structuring the governing team like a military regiment under a single commander with almost total power to appoint, discipline and expel subordinates.
Some - *cough* - more than others.
Among major democracies, only Great Britain so ruthlessly concentrates power.

In most of the rest of Europe, proportional representation ensures that coalition governments routinely form cabinets. ... In New Zealand, which used to have a Canadian-style system of concentrated power, the voters rebelled against alternating Labour party and National party dictatorships: electoral reform now ensures coalition cabinets.

Modernizing Canadian politics would not only be good for conservatism, it might be the key to Canada's survival as a nation.
It's a fascinating read. And as a bonus - sure to outrage the Con cheerleaders who bought into Steve's current coalition monkey.
Yet I wonder if part of Harper's enraged obsession around "coalitions with separatists" is due to his feeling betrayed by the "third sister" he once envisioned as part of a conservative coalition. . . .

Many thanks to Kev in comments below for the Milewski link.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Harper advocates for coalition


That was old Steve as a right wing lobbyist back in 1997, explaining how parties could form a "coalition" to oust the Liberals even if the Liberals won the "largest number of seats" in the House. . .

New Steve, unsurprisingly, not a fan of coalitions. Today new Steve said that old Steve was only talking about "uniting the right". Somehow, for Steve, a coalition for "uniting the right" is imbued with a certain caché not extended to the other parties that the majority of us voted for in the last election. . .

Excellent crib notes on how the Canadian parliamentary system works from Relentlessly Progressive Political Economy : . 10 basic facts : .

1.) We elect individual candidates who may or may not belong to a political party. .

2.) We do not elect the prime minister, parliaments do. .

3.) Political parties elect their leaders. .

4.) The prime minister is the person who enjoys a majority of the support of the elected members of parliament. .

5.) When a party wins the majority of individual ridings it forms the government with its leader as the prime minister. .

6.) A majority government may change its leader any time the party decides to and continue to rule for the duration of their mandate in virtue of their majority in the house of commons. .

7.) Political parties only have a mandate to govern if they have a majority. If not, they have to coalesce* to form the government. .

8.) There is thus NO SUCH THING AS A MINORITY MANDATE TO GOVERN. Parliamentary tradition says that the incumbent government has the right to try and form the new government. But parliamentary tradition also says that any majority group of MPs can form a government. Why? because we elect individual MPs not political parties to represent us in the House of Commons. .

9.) There is such a thing as a minority parliament which receives a mandate from parliament at each moment there is a vote on major money bill or when the legislation in question is deemed a confidence vote. .

10.) All minority parliaments in this sense are run by coalition governments in that they require the support of other parties to stay in power. .

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another improved EAP! election sign

... this time on a fence. Just a small portion of the $53.2M total in public money Steve is using to advertise his Canada Economic Action Plan to you.

Now far be it from me to suggest peeps go out there and deface public property like this. That would be wrong. Especially if you were to use 1/8" ply, a portable drill, and grind down the heads on the screws. But these are your signs - you paid for them - and charming as they are, they do appear to be a tad thin on content.

H/t to EH! Enough Harper for use of their Conservative Priorities graph. A better look at it all in one piece here. Ceasefire's No Stealth Fighters petition here.

P.S. The government's EAP! website seems to be 404'd at the moment. What rotten luck. Score one for Rick Mercer.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Public Safety Committee Report on the G20

The Public Safety Committee report on the G-20 tabled in the House yesterday calls for an independent inquiry into the decision-making by all levels of government that resulted in the outrageous cost, the unprecedented arrests of over 1100 people including journalists and people on their way home from work, the serious civil liberties violations perpetrated by security forces who appeared to be operating under the mistaken belief that martial law was in effect, the property damage, and the patronage funding. Excerpts :

"the Minister of Public Safety and government witnesses [refused] to identify the person or persons responsible for making the decisions that led to the mass arrests and mass rights violations."

"The Committee finds it difficult to understand why the Toronto Police Force decided to arrest the more than 70 people who were sleeping in the University of Toronto gymnasium rather than arrest the many masked individuals who were in the crowd and were known to police."

Condemns the partisan spending in the Industry Minister’s constituency and asks the Government of Canada to develop a strategy to prevent future vote-buying with public funds.
Strong language but entirely commensurate with the abuses catalogued.

Unmentioned in news articles about the committee's report is the peculiar dissenting supplementary opinion appended to the report by the five Con members of the 11 member multi-party committee.
In eight paragraphs describing the G20 summit as "an unmitigated success", the "Conservative Party of Canada" complains about "the Opposition Coalition" a total of five times.

And just in case you need a reminder of exactly how appalling the behavior of the "Conservative Party of Canada" was in these G20 committee hearings :

Thugs, hooligans and anarchists. Oh my.

Finished with the G20? Not even close.

Inside the Public Safety Committee : G20 preventative arrests

The Cons' contempt for Parliament was just a part of their contempt for all of us.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Oh look - an election lawn sign.

Much whining out there in the Con press about the cost of unnecessary elections. For the same cost as the entirely unnecessary G20 bunfest, we could have had three elections already, two of which would have already happened had Steve not shuttered Parliament to avoid answering to it.

Susan Delacourt : A Parliament of Shutdowns - a recap of the 40th Parliament, and

Ignore what Canadians politicians say about a coalition government
at the kids' table because grownups, "Canada’s leading thinkers on constitutional law and the formation of government", have begun "mapping out an instruction manual to guide the country when and if an election produces an unclear result". Including Tom Flanagan, you say?
"Other countries, such as Britain and New Zealand, have such manuals, and that’s largely why you didn’t see political hysteria in those nations when it came time to hammer out a government out of hung parliaments after their elections."
Well they better get a friggin move on then coz the Con-engineered booga booga coalition hysteria is already heating up.

Looking for something a little more grassroots to go with ?
DAMMIT JANET : Democracy's Future

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Election 2011 gnomenclature

Yes, those are exact quotes from Flaherty's interview with Mansbridge on why Canada should accept the budget and not go to the polls.
I imagine HRH the Queen is probably a bit hacked off - you'd think Jim would have found room in there somewhere to mention the Royal Wedding as a reason not to have an election.
It seems rather rude but it's probably just a gnome thing.

The Harper Government - the record speaks for itself


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So what exactly is "perimeter security"?

As in Steve and Barry's new Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness?

None of our fracking business apparently, says the Public Safety Ministry.
Rather, it's "a matter of cabinet confidence."
Researcher Ken Rubin used federal Access to Information legislation to ask the Public Safety department for documents related to the definition of the term "perimeter security” in the context of the Canada-U.S. border.

Rubin also asked for documents defining the physical geographic borders, analyses that explain the implications of using the term “perimeter security,”and just how the term might be sold to us - but mostly he was just asking for a simple definition.
The department’s response was an unequivocal “no.”

In a letter written March 4, Public Safety officials said: “The records pertaining to your request have been entirely withheld.”

The department said the information could be injurious to international affairs, that it contained information developed for a government institution or minister, that it would provide an account of a government consultation, and that it is a matter of cabinet confidence."

No, it's a matter of public confidence.

Back in the fall Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ officials prepared a 14 page secret strategy for "big business groups and others" to "align supportive stakeholders to speak positively about the announcement" of the Shared Vision they were still keeping under wraps.

Even after a draft of it was leaked to the press in December, Steve still mustered the gall to stand in the House and deny opposition demands for more info by unequivocally denying its existence :
"There is no secret deal" and
"Canada already operates under what is called the Security and Prosperity Partnership with the United States and Mexico, something negotiated by the previous Liberal government."
Notable you should mention the SPP here, Steve, a deal designed to function entirely outside the purview of either Parliament or Congress.

So despite the fact Steve really really wants our input this time :
“We are committed to consulting with Canadians on the implementation of the shared vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness,” said Minister of State Lebel.

... well, up until April 21st anyway ... Rubin wonders how we can possibly respond adequately if they don't want to tell us what perimeter security is.

Fortunately David Emerson has come up with a partial answer for us : "The primary security perimeter should ultimately be continental."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Homeland perimeter security blanket

Up until it was taken down a couple of days ago, this was the front page for the 2011 Ottawa Conference on Defence and Security bunfest.
It was hosted by the Conference of Defence Associations, CDA Institute, described on their website as "a non-partisan, independent, and non-profit organization" ... aka a military lobby group primarily funded by the Department of National Defence.
I found it kind of touching - the way the logos of all the corporate defence contractors are laid out so boldly right under the word "AGENDA" like that.
Some highlights from the first panel group, moderated by CDA/CDFAI deep integrationist Colin Robertson, on loan from DFAIT to direct the Canada-US Project, to which the new SPP Harper Obama perimeter security blanket bears a singular resemblance.
Everyone was very bumfed up about the Harper Obama plan for armouring NAFTA :
Michael Wilson, former Canadian ambassador to the US and Nafta negotiator : "The definition of national security includes energy and the economy."
James Blanchard, former U.S. ambassador to Canada and Nafta negotiator :
"We hear the phrase ‘security trumps trade’ but the fact is energy security is part of security. To suggest they are separate and apart is a lot of baloney.
I don’t think the average person understands how closely we co-operate already on information and technology in the military or people would not be throwing around the word sovereignty so loosely."
Lt.-Gen. Frank Grass, deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, on expanding NORAD to include land and sea:
"We’ve brought NORAD and NorthCom together - the Canadian and US staff below command level are fully integrated. The civil assistance program is already operational. Ready to help RCMP during the Olympics, we prepositioned forces south of the border – another example of the great cooperation we have with CanCom."
A question from the floor from retired diplomat John Noble : "BMD ... ballistic missile defence ...Is the door still open?"
Michael Wilson : "We should have joined the US in BMD. I hope discussions can be reopened."
Yesterday Janet Napolitano addressed the US Senate Committee "Department of Homeland Security Oversight" :

Canada Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews and DHS announced a first of its kind plan to establish a comprehensive cross-border approach to critical infrastructure resilience, focused on sharing information and assessing and managing joint risks.

Moreover, last month, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper signed a landmark "Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness" that sets forth how our two countries will manage our shared homeland and economic security in the 21st century."

Our shared homeland and economic security?
A bit later on she mentions protecting "shared assets and key resources".
It's all about sharing evidently. Lots and lots of sharing.
This deep integration stuff has always been pitched to Canada as : After 9/11, we have to go security for the Americans so they'll continue to buy our stuff. Security vs. trade.
But there is no balancing of opposites going on here really, is there? There's just the one deal - markets and resources wrapped up in a big old homeland perimeter security blanket. With logos.

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