Thursday, December 04, 2008

I knew I lived in a monarchy, but I never thought I lived in a monarchy ...

Believe it or not, but it is exciting Canadian politics that actually got me back to this blog.

While the world in general and USA more specifically had their full attention on the American presidential election, Canada also held a federal election. Unfortunately, those hoity-toity Conservatives strengthened their hold in the parliament. They didn't get a majority, though, thank goodness.

Harper, the Conservative party leader and the current Canadian prime minister, AKA slimeball, started losing ground some time before the election because he somehow got it in his thick head that Canada is immune to the global economic crisis. He did nothing.

After the election, White Chocolate continued to do nothing. His budgetary proposals are a joke and an insult to Canadians. He squandered the lag time Canada had (still has a bit) before recession hits full force. Instead of acting NOW he chose not to do anything before he proposes a budget at the end of Jan 09.

So the opposition parties formed a coalition. This is what happens in parliamentary systems. It's a common occurrence in many countries with such systems. We don't elect a prime minister. So if parties can create majorities and overthrow the current government through a non-confidence vote to either call an election or form their own government, that's allowed. By law. That's the way our democratic system works. You may think it's flawed, but what system isn't.

Unable to look at Harper without hurling, I was happy that opposition leaders decided to form a coalition and act to stimulate the Canadian economy NOW. I actually felt warm and fuzzy inside to see avowed rivals acting together in an attempt to save us. They put aside more than differences, they put aside hatred, and decided it was important to act.

Harper wasn't that happy. He asked the Queen's representative in Canada -- yes, you read right -- Canada's head of state is actually the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, and she has a vice-regal here, the Governor General. Back to slimey, he asked the GG to prorogue -- that is, suspend -- the parliament!!! until the end of Jan when he presents his budget. This way he can avoid the non-confidence vote scheduled in the House of Commons next week.

He asked, she agreed.

So, I always knew I live in a constitutional monarchy, Canada being part of the Commonwealth realm. As an immigrant, I even swore an oath to Queen and Country when I became Canadian. But I always imagined this was just a cutsey role, that nothing improtant ever really materialized out of it. That it was some lingering romantical attachement and nothing more.

I know, I know. It seems I'm hiding behind "it's the law" when it suits me and condemning it when it doesn't. But I strongly believe this monarchial / dictatorial rule is a remnant that was left in place because no one ever thought it would be used. Like declaring martial law only in the most extreme of circumstances (I know, I lived through one). This is the most dangerous of precedences that would allow future prime ministers to avoid non-confidence and be overthrown in a democratic process. It allows Harper to stay in power even though he doesn't have the support of the parliament. Now, this is unconstitutional in nature, and it is undemocratic!

Meanwhile, the leaders of Canada keep squandering the lag time it had to try and keep the recession away, or at least keep it short and shallow. Canada was holding its own for a while as Canadian banks were the strongest among the G8. But, despite what Harper kept saying, Canada cannot exist -- well -- apart from the US, its biggest trading partner. The Canadian auto industry is the US auto industry. And the saving grace that was high commodity prices has all but disappeared.

I believe Canada can still avert the worst of it, but not if Harper keeps on wasting time. He's inept and his inactivity will cost us. He's got to go! As for the monarchy, I'd rather it stayed in the ceremonial realm.

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radical royalist said...

It is actually the Queen of Canada to whom you swore allegiance, not the Queen of England, nor the Queen of Australia.

I think Mr. Harper did a bit of blackmail to get Parliament sent into a long winter holiday. This conservative is no friend of the Monarchy. I can only hope the coalition parties will stay together and send Mr. Harper on the opposition benches, when parliamentary sessions will re-start at the end of January. Is is useless and as you said, he uses undemocratic methods. Just imagine he was president, what else he could do to stay in power? At least the GG prevents him from assuming the highest position in the country. He is "only" prime mnister.

Cavan said...

Agh! The whole situation is starting to get ridiculous. Pretty much constant protests on Parliament Hill here -- though they all seem to be anti-Coalition.

Funnily enough, I was on the fence about the whole thing until Harper started using the "un-democratic" and "pact with the evil separatists" scare tactics. Now I just want to see him bite it.

Melly said...

Hey Royalist, yes, you're right. But the Queen of England, Australia, Jamaica, Belise and so on and Canada is the same person. Most people in the world know her as the Queen of England. I guess I'm rambling as I'm trying to say this was for the benefit of foreigners.

Cavan, hah! I read your post a couple days back about the "un-democratic" label. It's funny how the pages turned...

thinkingdifference said...

Yes, one has to wonder about the role of the governor general. And about the relation between the sovereign and the parliament. How is this decision democratic? I think the governor should have brought all parties to a discussion, not only listen to the prime minister.

Also, I have a hard time understanding why coalition governments are seen as such a huge problem. They are quite common in other parts of the world.

radical royalist said...

I am in favour of coalition governments. That keeps the hardliners in each party at bay. Think of Mrs. Thatcher, who was a hardliner in the Conservative Party. Had she been forced into a coalition she would have never been able to enforce her radical free market "reforms", now widely blamed for the credit crisis.

The Queen of Canada - and so Her representative in Canada, the Governor General - acts on the advice of the prime minister. That's how it works in a Constitutional Monarchy. And usually that is working quite well. The present situation in Canada is different. The GG acted on the advice of the prime minister, however, it is doubtful that he still has a majority in the parliament. Therefore the GG could have asked him to show that he still has the support of the elected members of parliament before she acted on his advice.

That would have been the proper way. But Mr. Harper knew that he does no longer enjoy the support of the majority and therefore he avoided the vote of confidence.

The Governor General did nothing wrong, it was Mr. Harper who asked for the wrong action.

What happens, when the Monarch (or the Governor General) acts against the wish of the prime minister can been seen in Luxembourg, where the prime minister announced four days ago, that the Grand Duke of Luxembourg should be stripped of his right to sign and en-act laws. Luxembourg has a conservative prime minister as well. What's wrong with today's conservatives that they want to get rid of good old practices that keep the balance of power?

Benjamin Solah said...

They did the same thing in Australia in the 70s. Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam wasn't be right-wing enough so the governor-general sacked him! There were mass protests, but despite the GG clearly being undemocratic, Whitlam didn't want people to lose faith in the system so just told people to go home and vote in the new election. And then he lost.

Just goes to show, for all their posturing about democracy, if it doesn't go the ruling classes way, they'll happily put democracy aside.