Quick summary: Canada’s conservative government has pissed off the three other parties so bad that they have temporarily banded together to overthrow the government. Before they could vote for the legal coup; however, Prime Minister Stephen Harper sweet-talked the Governor General (read Q-U-E-E-N), into pressing the parliamentary pause button, buying the Government seven weeks to get its act together. This means the Canadian government cannot pass any legislation for SEVEN WEEKS of continuing financial crisis. Below, I’ll explain this further and give six good reasons that this is an epic clusterfuck.
Let’s flesh this out a bit.
Canada has four national parties currently represented in the House: The Conservative Party (socially conservative, fiscally corporatist, in charge), The Liberal Party (socially moderate/fiscally corporatist), The NDP (socialist) and the Bloc Quebecois (separatist; i.e., they want to break up the country). Nobody has more than 50%. Still, in Canada we don’t throw around this bullshit about not having a mandate. Whoever has the most seats in the House is in change, period.
While the US government has been throwing handfuls of cash out the White House windows, ineptly attempting to seem like they’re addressing the financial crises, the Canadian government has had its fingers planted firmly in its ears, holding its breath until the crises agrees to go away and leave it alone.
Needless to say, the Canadian people and business community have not been impressed. Neither have the Liberals, Bloc or NDP. So the three minority parties created a coalition last week and planned to vote Harper’s conservatives out of office today. Inundated by the coppery scent of defeat, Harper appealed to the Governor General to put parliament on hold. The Governor General represents the Queen of England in Canada, a commonwealth country. She’s just a figurehead and has no real power – at least, that’s what they tell you in grade school. It turns out, she has the power to “prorogue” (i.e., suspend) Parliament. Which she did.
Now, with the economy somewhere between the toilet and the busted sewage treatment plant, we have to sit and wait 7 weeks until Parliament resumes and the Conservatives roll out a budget. If the budget passes, the Conservatives maintain power. If it fails, either the coalition takes over or we have another election.
Let me try to explain why this is the most dysfunctional political clusterfuck I’ve ever encountered.
1. Suspending the legislative process to prevent a vote of no confidence undermines our democratic system.
In a Parliamentary democracy, elections don’t happen on a proscribed schedule (as in the U.S.). They happen when the Prime Minister dissolves Parliament, the Parliament votes to give the Prime Minister the boot, or when the Prime Minister hits constitutional term limits. By preventing Parliament from ejecting the Prime Minister via a no-confidence vote, the Governor General has undermined Canada’s political system.
2. Giving important decision authority to a figurehead-representative of a figurehead of another country
The Governor General is not an elected official. She was appointed by the Queen of England, another unelected official, from another country. What business she has affecting Canada’s political situation is beyond me. If I were in charge of this coalition, my first act would be extraditing her and removing her position from the political system.
3. The Conservatives don’t know what the hell they’re doing
Economists have been pretty clear that Canada is heading for a recession. The Conservative government, so far, has done jack shit about it. Furthermore, the Conservative Party isn’t really conservative, but corporatist. As Naomi Klein describes in The Shock Doctrine, Canada’s Conservative Party, like the US Republican Party, embraces free-market principles and fiscal conservatism only insofar as it enriches their corporate bedfellows, and will spend like mad when corporations are hurting or they find an excuse to empty the National treasury into the pockets of big businesses.
4. A coalition of a moderate, a socialist and a separatist will be a fucking nightmare
I don’t support the Conservatives, but I fail to see how this strategy is better. Giving Gilles Duceppe (leader of the Bloc) de facto veto power in a coalition government will only facilitate his let’s-break-up-the-country agenda. Furthermore, while the leaders of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc will cooperate long enough to topple the conservatives, as soon as the coalition takes power, that cooperation is doomed. If history is any guide, there will be nothing but infighting and bickering and nothing will get done.
5. Suspending Parliament in the middle of a looming global depression…
While Barrack Obama holds near-daily press conferences to assure businesses and the American people that help is on the way if they can just hang in there until he takes office, Canada has willfully shut down its legislative assembly, incapacitating any attempt to address the recession. I wonder if public floggings of everybody involved would help matters. Probably not, but it would make me feel better.
6. No economic playbook for response to recession
It is widely believed that World War 2 and The New Deal (big investments in infrastructure) ended the Great Depression in the U.S. by providing “Keynesian stimuli.” However, on closer inspection, this is a myth. Put simply, economists have no clue how to stop a recession. If governments think that cutting corporate takes and spending on infrastructure will magically undo an economic decline, they are confused.
Recessions are caused by our fundamentally flawed economic system, not by corporate taxes and lack of government spending. We have to treat the problem, not the symptoms. Society needs to move away from a free market system that enriches the wealthy, eradicates the middle class and enslaves the poor. More on this in posts to come.