At least that’s how I am imaging the conversation tomorrow between The Right Honourable Stephen Harper (damn near kills me to write that title, but protocol demands it, even if he hasn’t earned it) and Her Excellency the Governor General, Michaëlle Jean (who, on the other hand well deserves the title as she has demonstrated that she is indeed an excellent representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, our head of state — note to Mr. Harper, check the constitution, the Queen — not you — is our head of state).
Mr. Harper has deluded himself, and unfortunately a large number of my fellow Canadians, into believing that we have a republican form of government with an elected head of state. It’s not.
Most political power is exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet, who advise the Governor General, and who are, in turn, accountable to the democratically elected House of Commons, and through it, to the people.
So, our system of government is parliamentary — which includes ALL the members of the House of Commons. The Governor General then asks the group with the most members who are in accord — conventionally, the political party with the most elected members — to govern the country.
But there’s nothing fundamentally unconstitutional or undemocratic about that group being a coalition of legally elected members who agree to work together for the common good, regardless of which political party they are affiliated with. Indeed, what’s a political party but a coalition of individually elected representatives of the people in each electoral riding?
Guess what — there are now more members from the other parties who are prepared to bring down partisan walls and work together to govern the country than there are Conservatives. Yes, it would have been nice to have elected them all under one label during the last election, but there’s no point in crying over spilt milk.
And what is the current Conservative Party of Canada if not a coalition of the former Reform Party and a few shards of the former Progressive Conservatives? Oh, and it seems that Mr. Harper has a short memory, since according to a letter to the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, the Governor General in 2004, he was more than willing to work with Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton, with whom he had “been in close consultation”. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, as they say.
It’s being touted as likely that Mr. Harper will ask Mme. Jean to prorogue parliament — suspend the House of Commons without actually dissolving it — which would temporarily put off the Conservatives losing a non-confidence vote that would bring down their government. Which would just serve to put off any action to deal with the many issues we face and which urgently need to be addressed by a government with the support of the majority of Canadians — for argument’s sake let’s just say the members elected by the almost 2/3rds of the voters who didn’t vote Conservative.
So all of this smacks to me of a spoiled brat threatening to take his ball and go home if all the other kids won’t play by his rules. Well, Stephen — it’s past the time to grow up and learn to play well with others, so I for one would like you to just stand aside and let a coalition which has agreed to work together get some things done.
Oh, and that previously cited Wikipedia article on the GG goes on to say:
Still, part of the Royal Prerogative, known as the reserve powers, however, remain as the Crown’s final check against a government’s power; as Senator and constitutional expert Eugene Forsey stated: “A Governor General must take all steps necessary to thwart the will of a ruthless prime minister.”
Sound like anyone we know? I hope that Her Excellency is listening…