A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Harper History, Part 2 – In Opposition

June 2004 – Jan 2006

This is the second of a series of monthly articles examining the actions of Stephen Harper and his Party colleagues both before and after his rise to power with particular emphasis upon words and actions that effect our democracy. This period is most notable for Harpers support for the concept of cooperation / coalition between opposition parties a concept which he was later to call undemocratic, the 'in and out scheme' re election funding and the Cadman affair of attempted bribery. It was but a small glimpse of things to come.

The Liberals were re-elected to power on June 20 2004 with a minority government and with the Conservatives becoming the official opposition.

On September 9, 2004, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe signed a letter addressed to then-Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, stating,
We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority.”

At a following news conference, Harper said

"It is the Parliament that's supposed to run the country,
not just the largest party and the single leader of that party. That's a criticism I've had and that we've had and that most Canadians have had for a long, long time now so this is an opportunity to start to change that."

During this time it appeared that an attempt was being made to form a coalition to defeat and supersede the Liberals, whilst Harper denied this saying "This is not a coalition, but this is a co-operative effort." Duceppe later confirmed that it was the intention until Layton walked out on the talks. One month later Mike Duffy, then a TV personality and not a Senator said "It is possible that you could change prime minister without having an election," and that some Conservatives wanted Harper to become prime minister without holding an election. As we now know once in power the notion that “parliament runs the country” quickly fell by the wayside and in fact the PMO now effectively runs the country under Harper's tight control.

In a speech in reaction to Paul Martin's address
to the nation in April Harper said:-
The Conservative Party wants to give this country direction. We want, and we believe you want, to end corruption and restore honest financial management; to have a health-care system that Canadians can count on when they need it; to better use the talents and credentials of new Canadians; to fix the fiscal imbalance plaguing our provinces and municipalities; to act on a made-in-Canada plan for cleaner air, water and land; to help our hard-pressed agricultural community and resource sectors; to give tax relief for Canadian families; and safety and security for our streets and our communities.”
They certainly have kept the safety and security issue at the top of their rhetoric but whether or not Canadian families are any safer from government intrusion is very debatable, they most certainly have 'helped' one particular 'resource sector' with their cuts to environmental regulations and oversight!

He proposed a new kind of federal-provincial dynamic he called “open federalism.” If elected, Harper promised, the Conservatives would act as partners with the provinces not as puppet masters. They would quash the Liberal practice of imposing an agenda through transfers with strings attached, and would bring an end to the bickering that had characterized federal-provincial relations for decades.
Harper vowed that a Tory administration would provide “full co-operation … with all other levels of government, while clarifying the roles and responsibilities of each.”
This from the PM who now refuses to meet with provincial leaders!

In May 2006, Harper announced that the government had lost the "moral authority to govern". Shortly thereafter, the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois united to try and defeat the government on a vote on what the Martin government considered a procedural motion and not a matter of confidence. It was later revealed that during this time two Conservative Party officials offered terminally ill, Independent MP Chuck Cadman a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government. This was a criminal offence but was not proven so no further action was taken. At that time the Liberals and NDP combined had 154 seats and the Conservatives and Bloc 153 with Cadman being the lone independent. Belinda Stronach, who earlier ran against Harper for the Conservative leadership then crossed the floor to the Liberals which temporarily halted the effort to bring down the Liberals.

In August Stephen Harper's chief of staff Phil Murphy resigned this being the 6th aide to quit in recent months all being from the media-relations wing of Harper's office. It would seem that even in opposition Harpers 'media relations' staff were under a great deal of pressure from above or otherwise uncomfortable with what they were asked to do.

On November 24, 2005,
Harper introduced a motion of non-confidence on the Liberal government, telling the House of Commons "that this government has lost the confidence of the House of Commons and needs to be removed." This motion passed and as a result, Parliament was dissolved and a general election was scheduled for January 23, 2006.

The election campaign was dominated by allegations of wrongdoing by the Liberals regarding the 'sponsorship scandal' with Harper pushing his “open federalism.” in a successful effort to win votes in Quebec. It was later to come to light that the Conservatives had deliberately broken election funding rules to fund their attack ad's.

Under this scheme,
the party's national office transferred money to candidates, which is legal, and the candidates immediately transferred the money back to the headquarters to pay for advertising. The ads they paid for were ostensibly local ads, but, in fact, they were central ads with small titles added for all candidates involved.

Next up First Minority, Snap election.

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Owen Gray said...

"Open federalism." This from the man who refuses to meet with the Council of the Federation.

Rural said...

Indeed, the rhetoric never matches the action, Owen