Thursday, December 04, 2008

Harper Hangs On

Canada's Tory Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has won a suspension of parliament as he bids to hang on to his job. He's been up against it because of anger from opposition parties about his budget plans, which didn't feature a major package to help the country through the economic crisis, but did include proposals to cut funding for opposition parties. As a result, Mr Harper seemed certain to lose a vote of confidence in parliament next week. That vote now won't happen, because he was able to persuade Canada's Governor General to agree to his request to call the whole thing off until the end of January.

If you think this all sounds like something out of the old days of the British Empire, you're not entirely wrong. It really is up to the Governor General personally to agree to the request to suspend parliament. Just as it would have been up to her to agree to any suggestion from the opposition parties, who've been talking about forming a coalition government in place of Mr Harper's Tory administration. The Governor General is not elected, but is appointed by the Queen. And, er, that's it. The last time there was a vaguely similar crisis in the UK, back in 1963, the Queen herself appointed Alec Douglas-Home as Prime Minister. But that was 45 years ago.

But questions of changing the outdated system must wait for another day. The system that exists is the system the Canadians have got, and they're stuck with it for the duration of this crisis. And despite his political blunders, the odds must still be on Mr Harper's survival. The main opposition party, the Liberals (roughly equivalent to our Labour party) did poorly in the last general election just a couple of months ago, and its leader Stephane Dion said he was going to quit as a result. Any solution that ends up with him as Prime Minister (as the leader of a coalition of opposition parties) would potentially be difficult to stomach for an electorate that so recently rejected both him and his party. It may well come to pass that a new election needs to take place to get out of the crisis. But with polls already showing Mr Harper's Conservatives ahead of the rating they managed in the election, expect him to remain Prime Minister for the foreseeable future.

2 comments:

ng2000 said...

Valuable resource of canadian parliament news summaries: http://www.ng2000.com/blog/2008/12/05/canadian-parliament/

Vancouver real estate agent said...

It's pretty crazy situation here...Harper (and partly the Governor General too..) made many people furious - it seems like Harper is trying to block the basic principles of our democracy. On the other hand, I don't remember government change WITHOUT election - maybe this is often possible in Europe, but in Canada it's something new. Moreover, as you wrote - who should be the leader instead of Harper??
I am afraid there will be new election soon...
Take care
Jay