What if the GG said no?
It was reported today that Stephen Harper will go to Michaelle Jean on Sunday to ask that Parliament be dissolved and an election be held. But what if Jean said no?
First, take a step back. An editorial in the Toronto Star put it this way yesterday:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is about to pull the plug on the 39th Parliament and plunge the country into an election because, according to his spokesperson, he could find “no area of common ground” with the opposition that would allow the government to move forward with its agenda.
But just what is the Conservative government’s agenda? In his meetings with the opposition leaders over the past week, Harper reportedly played his cards close to his vest. He did not lay out a government agenda for the fall and seek opposition approval to move ahead. Rather, he posed rhetorical questions like (according to Liberal Leader StÃ©phane Dion): “Do we have common ground about the orientation of the country?”
Seems to me that Harper has had it pretty much his way in Parliament. Despite a minority they have been able to pass budgets and other legislation by finding enough support to get through. Yes, the Conservatives have had to compromise, but that is what a minority government is all about.
The Star also speculates on why: what Harper’s hidden agenda might look like:
Unshackled from the requirements of a minority Parliament to temper their policies, would Harper and the Conservatives return to their Reform roots and implement more tax cuts accompanied by deep reductions in government spending, outsource regulatory oversight, privatize the CBC, create a triple-E Senate and even adopt socially conservative stances against abortion and gay marriage?
While Harper has worked hard to moderate his party’s image in recent years, there have been recent glimpses that the old ideas are still kicking around inside the government, including the cuts to arts programs and the shifting of some responsibility for food inspections from the public service to the industry.
Second, the Conservatives made a big show of bringing in a fixed election date for October 2009. There are some great quotes from Conservative MPs about how this would prohibit Prime Ministers from playing political games around the timing of election. Here in BC, we have a fixed election date set for May 2009 and so there is lots of time for both parties to prepare. A minority government is different, to be sure, but it would be sweet if the Conservatives had to live up to their own rhetoric. On the weekend the Globe had a nice photo essay with quotes of Conservative MPs trumpeting the fixed election date legislation (alas I cannot find the link anymore).
Why would I want the Conservatives in power for another year? Because a year from now, he would lost. The economy is turning down. Harper hopes that no one has noticed yet, and wants an election in before the bleeding gets worse. The downturn in the economy also means the federal budget has shifted from a decade of surpluses to a small deficit, and this will mean spending cuts between now and fiscal year end because the Conservatives would never run a deficit and would never revisit their foolish tax cut of a year ago that looted the remaining surplus room handed to them by Paul Martin.
I’m no political scientist, but could not our GG could reject the bid for an election and ask that the Liberals form a government if the Conservatives feel they can no longer govern. Why should the bully-in-chief get his way just because it is convenient?
As an aside, because none of what I’m blathering on about is gonna happen anyway, I’m reminded of a column by Duncan Cameron back when Martin was PM. In it he noted that the PM stays the PM after a minority government is elected until stepping down for the other party to form a new government. That is, even if Harper were to come out with less seats than the Liberals, he can stay Prime Minister as long he thinks he can govern and pass legislation. Would Harper cling to power in such a circumstance?