Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How to End Our Current Parliamentary Crisis

A nation requires some “machinery of social consciousness which shall ensure the selection from among the community at large of the “best” and bestowal on them of power – this is the true consummation of democracy.” – Paul Elmer More

“The problem of civilization can be solved only by the heart. By the appearance of a new type of man.” - Robert Musil

Canada is in a self-made political crisis. It was brought on by the failure of our elected representatives to act in the best interests of the people. These same representatives must demonstrate a change of heart and admit to their errors to end it. We need a new type of man in Ottawa.

If they existed, the following statements would be delivered on National television, broadcast in prime time with all speakers present.

Prime Minister Steven Harper:

My fellow Canadians. Last Thursday my government, having had its Throne
Speech passed in the House of Commons, delivered an economic summary paper as a precursor to a full budget scheduled for delivery in February 2009.

It contained a number of proposals directed toward economic stimulus in this time of worldwide financial instability. It also made note of the fact the government had already taken a number of steps to protect Canadians against further economic hardship. My government took the position that until the new administration in the US was installed on January 20th, there were a number of issues that it would be prudent not to address until the actions of the US government was made clear.

As Prime Minister I authorized the inclusion in the summary paper of two proposals that no one had anticipated and that were not essential to the stated objective of the production of the economic summary. While both have fiscal implications and we believe would be supported by the majority of Canadians, the true purpose of their inclusion was to create tension and upheaval within the opposition parties. It was a purely political decision on my part, and I admit to having let my political instincts overcome my good judgment. The inclusion of these two controversial items was inconsistent with my previously stated goal to make this parliament a more functional and bi-partisan one than its predecessor.

I apologize to the opposition and to the Canadian people for this error in judgment. Both items were removed from the motion to introduce the economic summary paper in recognition of this error.

In reaction to the inflammatory nature of my decision to include those items in the economic paper, the three opposition parties, over the past three days and apparently in furtherance of earlier conversations and meetings amongst some of them, have reached an agreement by which they intend to defeat the government on a motion of non-confidence arising out of the economic paper, and propose to the Governor General that the government be turned over to the coalition to be led by the Leader of the Opposition. The NDP will be part of the coalition and will have ¼ of the Cabinet posts. Since the combined membership of the coalition is fewer in number than that of my government, the coalition must rely on a side agreement with the Bloc Quebecois, whereby the latter agree to vote in favour of any confidence motions presented by the coalition.

We believe this proposal is not in the interests of the country, is not in the interests of the electorate that only recently voted for the five official parties. The result was the Conservative Party and its platform elected a clear plurality of members.

The government has tabled its Throne Speech which has been passed by all parties.

In our view the electorate gave us the mandate to govern at least to the point of tabling its first budget. If defeated on its budget, the appropriate outcome we believe would be to return to the voters in order that they should determine which fiscal path, that of the Conservatives in their budget or the Opposition parties in their proposed budgets, they wanted to follow during these unprecedented times.

If the opposition parties persist in seeking to defeat the government not on its budget but on its economic summary paper, we believe it is clear their motivation is purely political and vindictive, in response to the political and vindictive nature of the original summary paper, for which I have now apologized.

I can see no way in which the public interest can be served by creating this upheaval for purely political reasons, given the adverse reaction to the idea of a coalition by the majority of Canadians and of the business community both within and without Canada.

Accordingly, should the coalition proposal not be withdrawn, I will seek to prorogue the House until January 26th, and present our budget on January 27th at which time parliament can determine if the government has the confidence of the House. If the budget is defeated, I will ask the GG to call an election.

I close by reiterating my regrets for having not done my best to ensure that the interests of the citizens of Canada are always to be superior to the political interests of my party or my government whenever decisions affecting the fiscal or other interests of the country are made. It is an embarrassment to me and my government that I failed meet the standard expected of me in this instance. For this I take full responsibility.

I pledge that my government will consult closely with all the opposition parties in the weeks leading up to the tabling of the Budget, in order that we fully understand the key components that they believe such a budget should contain, and that they understand the reasons and rationale behind the fiscal decisions that ultimately we must make.

Steven Harper - PM

The Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Stephane Dion

I wish to thank the many Canadians who have written to my office and to those of all the Members of Parliament in which they have expressed their unhappiness with the performance of all politicians during this crisis.

Upon reflection, it is clear that they are right to think that as a group over the last several days we have not demonstrated the “best” of the democracy we cherish.

I thank Mr. Harper for his frank admission that his error in judgment in resorting to petty politics with the inclusion of two inflammatory items into the economic summary paper is what triggered the reaction of all the opposition parties.

I too wish to admit to the Canadian public that my reaction to Mr. Harper’s actions were political, personal and not first directed to the best interests of the people. While my reaction of anger and resolve to punish Mr. Harper in any way possible was natural in the circumstances, I do not believe Members of Parliament should allow emotions and personal agendas to supercede good judgment.

My party’s defeat in the last election and my party’s loss of confidence in my leadership was a serious blow to me personally. I will be frank and admit to the Canadian people that the opportunity presented by Mr. Harper’s error of judgment, to possibly fulfill my dream to become Prime Minister, clouded my judgment and made the pursuit of that personal goal more important than the pursuit of what would be best for the country.

Upon reflection, I see that there are too many ideological differences between the Liberal Party and the NDP to make a coalition between them one that benefits the country. I also see that it would not be in the interests of the country to have the BQ hold a veto pen to any legislation and to be in a position to pass legislation that favours the narrow interest of the separatist BQ.

The Liberal Party is embarked on a renewal and in May a new leader will be elected. I have concluded it is in the best interests of the country and of the Liberal Party that our focus should be on providing strong and constructive opposition between now and then to continue to provide critical and constructive opposition to the minority Conservative government. Should the government of Mr. Harper fail to produce a budget that satisfies the minimum requirements of the supporters of our party, and of the country as a whole, we will not hesitate to seek to defeat the budget.

If Mr. Harper is true to his word then we are about to embark on a new era of being the best examples of democracy. The Liberal Party will do its part to set such an example. If through a change of heart we can all demonstrate we are new men in the service of our citizens, I expect that we will not see any crisis and confrontations until after the new Liberal Party leader has been elected.

The people of Canada are looking to us to exercise wise leadership and to rise above petty politics. It is my pledge and that of my party to do our best to satisfy the desires of the people who have elected us and to at all times put their interests first.

Stephane Dion – Leader of the Opposition

Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe would make short statements in which they endorse the pledge of Harper and Dion to change their priorities in favour of the people over petty politics.