On the Hill – O, Canada

It’s been a week of incredible developments on Parliament Hill, and every federal politician in sight has been clamouring to be heard over the other side’s cries. It would be easy to become confused by all the posturing, but one clear message stands out above the fray, and it exposes the real crisis at hand.

The problem isn’t that we have a prime minister whose word means nothing. First, Harper proclaimed that Bill C-16 (setting fixed federal election dates) would ?prevent governments from calling snap elections for short-term political advantage.? He then called an early election. A confidence vote was set for December 1. When the government’s fiscal update fell short, Harper delayed the vote until December 8. When it became clear he would lose power, he moved to suspend Parliament.

Political advantage indeed. His single-mindedness evokes images of an intoxicated young lady at a party, her bra strap dangling down one arm. If someone sidled up to him and said, ?Pardon me, Stephen, but your arrogance is showing,? It’s doubtful he’d have the presence of mind to care.

Nor is the problem that there is no viable alternative to Harper’s controlling, vengeful style of governance. Is a coalition a sound idea? With its inherent expectations of consensus and cooperation, it could well bring refreshing change to Ottawa. But not the coalition That’s been proposed, one whose leadership would depend on a rudderless party with deep organizational issues of its own, never mind trying to herd the collective cats of other disparate party agendas.

No, the real crisis is this: Canadians are without a functioning government. In a time of worldwide economic frailty, terrorism threats, and serious environmental concerns, Canada is without leadership.

A strong statement, and pardon my cynicism, but let’s take a look at the situation. According to the good folks at the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, to govern is to ?conduct the policy and affairs of? an organization or country. Government, then, is the ?system by which a state or community is governed.?

And by our prime minister’s own admission, Parliament Hill has not been in a position to govern for some time now. In fact, that was the whole point behind the Federal election in October. As Harper told reporters in August, ?In the past few months, and particularly over the summer, we have seen increasing signs that this Parliament . . . is becoming increasingly dysfunctional.? In short, it wouldn’t be able to cooperate long enough to tie its own shoes.

Today, just seven weeks after the election, we don’t even have a sitting Parliament, and the ?policy and affairs? of this country will not be addressed until January 26 at the earliest. After that, it looks likely that we’ll be thrown into another election?a period that prevents the government from passing major legislation. Even with an election, the party leaders are locked in such fierce brinksmanship that it may be months before they dust themselves off, look around, and say, ?Oh, right, we’re supposed to be looking after your interests.?

Good governance or, by definition, governance at all? Not on your royal prerogative.

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