Friday, October 6, 2006

Harper, the imperial PM?

Harper, the imperial PM?
Early on Friday, the Toronto Star's Chantal Hébert wrote in her latest column the Conservatives are quickly losing ground in Québec after winning a surprise ten seats in the January elections. It's not just Harper's opposition to the gun registry, which remains popular in the province and even more so after last month's shooting rampage at Dawson College. It's also the Cons' decision to cut literacy programs just months after Jacques Demers of the Montréal Canadiens admitted to long-time functional illiteracy; as well as the Court Challenges Program which among other things saved the Montford Hospital, Ontario's only primarily French-language health care facility and which was threatened for closure by no less than Tony Clement and Jim Flaherty during their days in the Mike Harris government.

Hébert suggests also the proposed "Defence of Religion Act" may have been the last straw for Québécois, who pride themselves on the strict separation of church and state -- and still have long memories of Maurice Duplessis and his malicious bullying of the Jehovah's Witnesses during the 1940s and 1950s.

It was another story in Thursday's edition, however, that made me curious. It was about the fact that Harper, the head of government, and Governor General Michaëlle Jean, the head of state, have had only one face to face meeting since the PM took power, and that was back in March. They've spoken on the phone a few times, but that's it.

Is this actually normal in a Parliamentary democracy? In the United Kingdom, the Queen meets with the Prime Minister -- technically as well as legally her chief servant -- every Tuesday night when Parliament is in session. In countries with a hybrid system and where the sovereign or President shares power with a Prime Minister, regular communication is not only indicated also essential; especially when opposing parties are sharing the reigns (known in France, for instance, as cohabitation).

So what gives? The role of an impartial head of state is to advise, consult and warn. Does Harper think those are anachronisms and so we should get rid of the GG and make himself President? I'd like to know.

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