Thursday, February 7, 2008

Harper's brinkmanship

I might be able to understand it if PMS decided to call an election over the Afghanistan issue. Actually he doesn't even have to ask Parliament for consent to extend the mission -- national defence falls under the Crown Prerogative. If Harper thinks another vote is going to divide the Liberals again, I believe he's mistaken. Diplomacy and development have been complete failures as we've defended another country. The Liberals are prepared to fight an election over South Asia if that's what Harper wants; but this coming election, whenever it is, will be more than just about Afghanistan.

However, it's Harper's petulant attitude over the omnibus crime bill that continues to be perplexing. The components of the bill -- which amends not just the Criminal Code but also five other Acts of Parliament -- were well on their way to being passed when Harper decided to call a new session. Rather than renumber the prior component bills and pick up where they left off, which the Standing Orders permit, he killed them and introduced this monstrosity. This required "clause by clause" to be commenced all over again. I lamented this move back in October and I'm still pissed off about it. This includes raising the age of consent to sixteen which no one other than NAMBLA and "The Family" could possibly object to.

(My opinion on this remains the same -- the age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual partners should be sixteen; with the exception of two individuals below that age if both offer their unconditional consent, consent as defined under the "no means no" sections of the Code.)

Now it's stalled in the Senate pending a final vote. Harper is saying if the Liberals who have a majority in the Senate don't move on it, he'll consider a matter of non-confidence and he'll ask Governor General Michaëlle Jean to dissolve Parliament and call an election. I hope and pray Her Excellency isn't that stupid.

There may be some Parliamentary democracies where a non-confidence vote may be cast in the upper chamber but the lower chamber must concur in that as well. No such convention exists in Canada. A budget or appropriations bill must be defeated; or a clear statement of non-confidence must be passed. The only place where this can happen is in the House of Commons.

I'm not sure what the specific hold up is in the Senate, but my personal objection to the bill is not getting tough on crime -- actually, I do support a get tough approach. My problem is it doesn't get tough enough on the causes of crime; nor does it begin to consider a "broken windows" approach to fighting it. With this government's philosophy, even if it did, it would not properly fund it; downloading the responsibility on the provinces and territories.

We're sick and tired of unfunded mandates. Health care nearly became one just a few years ago and while we're back up to 25 cent dollars we'll probably never get back to the 50 cent proposition it was in the 1970s.

Of course, PMS can call an election and make it the issue. Canadians are more broad-minded than that, though; and if I was him I'd start looking for an apartment in the non rent control zone that Calgary is. Heck, even oil executives are living in homeless shelters; I'm sure one of them, male, would be more than glad to share his cot.

UPDATE (5:18 PM EST, 2218 GMT): Perhaps to get around the constitutional issues, PMS has introduced a motion in the House demanding the Senate move on the crime bill, and has made that motion a confidence measure. That is uncharted territory that would even make Beauchesne (or however it's spelt) tremble.

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1 comment:

wilson said...

'he'll ask Governor General Michaëlle Jean to dissolve Parliament and call an election. I hope and pray Her Excellency isn't that stupid.'

Minor correction there.
Cons put forth a motion to the House today, a confidence motion, about getting the crime bill out of the Senate and back to the House by March 1.

If the House doesn't pass the motion, govt falls at the hands of the opposition ; if it passes, Senate must obey.