Saturday, November 29, 2008

Destination: Coalition?

More than six weeks after the Canadian federal election (the results of which were highly disappointing), politics remains my second most blogged about topic. Stephane Dion currently rounds off the list at number five. With the Liberal leadership race gearing up and Dion gearing down, I had expected this label to gradually fall to the depths of obscurity. But it is not so - Dion is ready for one last dust-off.

With Harper's second minority government still fresh in its mandate, with words like "cooperation" dripping from its lips - the political landscape is poised to change yet again. The cause? A non-confidence motion being tabled by the opposition to bring down the government and form a coalition between the Liberals and the NDP. If such a coalition succeeds, Stephane Dion would replace Stephen Harper as the Prime Minster of Canada.

The catalyst? Stephen Harper's plan to axe public funding from official political parties. Public funding of political parties was something introduced under the Chretien government to level the playing field and reduce corporate and interest group donations (which could unduly influence the political process). The Harper government has tabled the cuts as a responsible "belt tightening" for government. However, the truth is that the government has yet to take any solid action on the current economic crisis. The cuts to party funding would save the government a paltry $30 million - peanuts at the level of the federal government (essentially $1 per person). What the cuts would do is give the Conservative party and enormous advantage - their own coffers full from independent donations. They would also cripple the opposition, who might find themselves distressingly incapable of running in future elections due to lack of funds. It's not difficult to see why it is difficult for the opposition to stomach such actions.

What this amounts to is more Harper bullying. In the previous parliament, Harper bullied his way through all sorts of unpalatable legislation while the Liberal opposition, unprepared for an election, abstained and let him have his way. This time around, the Liberals made clear that the free ride was over. Harper kept pushing anyways, and now he's reaping the reward. My sister giggled at the prospect that Harper could go down in history as the "Prime Minister who was defeated over $30 million."

A coalition government could indeed be a positive change for the country. For starters, it would provide a government that has committed to take action on the troubled economy. Secondly, it would loosely unite the centre-left, but would require a balance so as to offset some of the more radical ideas proposed by each party. Thirdly, it would put Stephane Dion in power. I still believe Dion to be a man with the right ideas, just not the ability to sell them. A coalition government would forgo the need for an election, and therefore to sell. Fourthly, if Stephane Dion does become Prime Minister at the head of a coalition, it will become more difficult for the Liberals to run a leadership race. Dion has integrity, and to be honest, the current prospects for the Liberal party post-Dion make me sick to my stomach and leave my heart yearning for better representation. I hope Dion can stick around until either he proves himself or the Liberal party finds some new blood to steer the ship (and I do not mean Justin Trudeau, yuck!). Of course, the Liberal party could still try to pick a new leader anyways, which would only prove how dysfunctional they have truly become.

There are of course some issues with the coalition government idea. The intrinsic problem is of course the trouble involved with getting the opposition parties to agree with one another (heck, to get the Liberal party to agree with itself even...). The extrinsic problem lies with the Canadian people who elected Harper in the first place. Sure 60% of Canada didn't... but the fact of the matter is that when it comes to politics, Canada is disappointingly disinterested, uninformed, and easily manipulated. The synthesis of parties may not sit well with either NDP or Liberal supporters. As for Alberta, who gave themselves mind, body, and soul to the Conservatives... who knows what they would do in response to a coalition government of NDP and Liberals? Canada could end up looking a lot like the game board for Risk 2210.

But for now, the coalition is only a vague threat buzzing around Stephen Harper's ear. Only time will tell how far it gets and how it pans out.

While shopping for a friend's birthday present, I stumbled upon these interesting items: Stress Chest! There's something unpleasantly awkward about the prospect of using a disconnected breast as a stressball. It also uncomfortably reminds me of anatomy prosections.

[Edit: My camera-phone photo of this item in-store was removed for violating PhotoBucket's terms of use. You can see the item online here.]


Anonymous said...

I agree that the political party subsidy system is essential, but I don't think its purpose is to "level the playing field" to balance out the "corporate and interest group donations" like you said. The contribution-limit rule does that. Everyone is limited in how much they can contribute to a campaign. With the current subsidy system, the more vote you get, the more money you get. Essentially then, the Conservatives would have gotten a lot more subsidy.

I think the subsidy system is more about helping out the opposition party, which ever it is. So I agree, this system preserves the democracy, because it ensures the survival of an oppositional party.

The reason why Conservatives want to cut the subsidy now is because Harper wants to destroy the Liberals once and for all. Purely politically motivated to axe the subsidy at this time when support for Liberals is so low - cutting government spending definitely not the major reason.

But I don't agree that Dion would be a good leader. The party was/ still is all fragmented under his leadership. I think one editorial in the Globe and Mail called Dion a "lone wolf" - not really a team player. He may have all the ideal qualities like you mentioned, but he just doesn't project a strong image. Liberals need a new leader. People actually voted in some survey that Justin Trudeau would be the right image. Too bad he has no experience.

a_ndy said...

I could be mistaken, but to my understanding the subsidy system and contribution-limits were introduced together. So, while you're correct, I would say that they function together to indeed "level the playing field", shifting funding emphasis from large corporate donations to more proportional public subsidy.

As for Mr. Dion, he's certainly made mistakes in management. But I think in terms of problem solving he's very intelligent, and he has integrity (which I'm not so sure about Michael Ignatieff). True he failed to pull the party together, but the party also bears responsibility for failing to support their leader at least for the duration of his leadership. I think given a chance to actually act rather than simply try to woo the public, he could demonstrate aptitude - and if so, that would probably be enough to turn public image around on its own.

Justin Trudeau is certainly popular, but you hit the nail on the head when you said he has no experience. There is no way he is prepared to run for party leader, and that will likely remain so for some time to come.

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know I do read your responses. Thanks.

a_ndy said...

Great, I actually was wondering about that. Thanks for reading and for leaving comments. :)